Man arrested in Toomer’s Corner tree poisonings

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An Alabama man has been arrested in connection to the poisoning of Auburn’s famed Toomer’s Corner oak trees, WTVM in Auburn is reporting.

According to the television station, 62-year-old Harvey Almorn Updyke of Dadeville, Ala., was arrested Wednesday night and has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief, a Class C felony that carries a punishment of one to 10 years.

Updyke is currently being held on a $50,000 bond.

Police were first alerted to the possibility that the Toomer oaks had been poisoned when a caller to the Finebaum Show claimed he had spread a herbicide on the soil around the trees a week after Auburn’s Iron Bowl win over Alabama last year.  The caller gave his name as “Al from Dadeville” and ended his call with “Roll Damn Tide”.

Auburn police began the initial investigation in late January, and were later joined by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department.  At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson refused to confirm that the Finebaum caller prompted the probe, and warned fans against exacting revenge for the act of a lone nut case.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize the investigation and I don’t want to fuel the fires even further,” Dawson said. “I want to caution all the Auburn fans to act with the class we always act with.

“This is the exception rather than the rule. This is a person who obviously has problems to do something like this. So we want to use caution and let the justice system takes its course.”

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had already decried the desecration of his rival school’s sacred landmark.

“It’s an awful act, a terrible thing to do,” Moore said in a statement Wednesday. “A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer’s Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable.”

University experts, with the help of officials from several different agencies — for example, soil samples were tested at Mississippi State — are doing everything in their power to save the 130-year-old trees, although all evidence points to them fighting a losing battle.

“Spike 80 is an herbicide that is usually used for total vegetation control,” said Stephen Enloe, an assistant professor of agronomy and soil at Auburn. “It’s very good at what it does and that is kill all plants. This herbicide is really active on plants that are actively growing.”

Police believe Updyke acted alone and are not actively seeking any additional suspects. To view the reactions of the act, CLICK HERE.

UPDATED 6:37 p.m. ET: The kind folks at NBC would like us to pass this video along for you all. Judging by the comment thread on this story, this is a pretty big deal.

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Ex-UCLA head coach Terry Donahue recovering from surgery following cancer diagnosis

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One of the greatest UCLA football head coaches of all-time is the latest to battle one of the most insidious diseases in the history of mankind.

UCLA has confirmed that Terry Donahue was recently diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer and underwent surgery this past Friday.  The 74-year-old Donahue was released from the hospital Tuesday morning and is set to begin chemotherapy.

“The Donahue family appreciates everyone’s well wishes but requests privacy at this time,” the football program wrote in its release.

Donahue, who played his college football for the Bruins in the mid-sixties, served as the offensive line coach at his alma mater from 1971-75 before replacing Dick Vermeil, who left to take the same job with the Philadelphia Eagles, and taking over as head coach in 1976.

In 20 seasons leading UCLA, Donahue led the Bruins to a school-record 151 wins.  From 1976-95, Donahue captured five Pac-12 championships and two conference Coach of the Year honors. He was the first coach in NCAA history to win a bowl game in seven consecutive seasons, and had a 10-9-1 record against crosstown rival USC.

In 2000, Donahue was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Southern Miss, Troy schedule 4-game series

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Southern Miss and Troy on Tuesday jointly announced a four-game series to be spread across the next decade.

Troy will visit Hattiesburg on Sept. 18, 2021, but Southern Miss will not make a return visit until Sept. 14, 2024. The teams will then take the next three years off before resuming in Troy again on Sept. 16, 2028, and the series will conclude on Sept. 1, 2029 in Hattiesburg.

“We are excited to announce these future games for our football program,” Southern Miss AD Jeremy McClain said. “Our scheduling philosophy moving forward will continue to include regionally based opponents that provide great opportunities for fans to enjoy Golden Eagle football.”

Southern Miss and Troy have met nine times previously, first in 1937 and most recently 2016. The Trojans won both of those games, while Southern Miss took the seven in between.

As of today, Southern Miss has its entire 2021 non-conference slate lined up against teams from the state of Alabama. The Golden Eagles open at South Alabama, then visit Tuscaloosa a week after hosting Troy. The Trojans stand as USM’s only non-conference opponent on the books for the 2024, ’28 and ’29 seasons.

Troy, meanwhile, hosts Liberty on Sept. 11, 2021, and visits South Carolina a week after the trip to Hattiesburg. The Trojans will visit Memphis a week before hosting USM in 2024, and have no other games scheduled in 2028 or ’29.

 

Former USC, Tennessee assistant Willie Mack Garza joins Wyoming staff

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Wyoming has hired Willie Mack Garza as the club’s safeties coach, the program announced Tuesday.

Garza is a new name to Cowboys fans but not new to head coach Craig Bohl. Garza worked for Bohl at North Dakota State from 2005-08. That stint led him to join Lane Kiffin‘s staffs at Tennessee (2009) and USC (’10). At Tennessee, Garza committed a show-cause penalty for violating a recruiting rule.

“I do want to make one thing clear, Willie Mack has acknowledged a mistake he made 10 years ago that resulted in him being disciplined by the NCAA for a recruiting violation,” Bohl said. “Since then, he has been reinstated by the NCAA.  We have a reputation of holding ourselves to high ethical standards here at the University of Wyoming, and I expect Coach Garza to follow those high standards.”

Garza spent the past two seasons at Dixie State, a Division II school in Utah, including one as defensive coordinator. He left Dixie State earlier this year to become the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Texas A&M-Commerce, another Division II school.

“First and foremost this is a blessing that Coach (Craig) Bohl and the University of Wyoming Athletics Department has provided me this opportunity to come coach here,” said Garza.  “I love coaching.  It is in my blood.  I love being around the players and the other coaches, going into the WAR Room and preparing.  This is also an opportunity for me to provide a platform for young men to be successful on and off the football field in the four to five years that they are here and for the rest of their lives.”

With Garza aboard, Cowboys defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will now transition to linebackers coach in addition to his coordinator duties.

At least nine players have now left South Carolina this offseason

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The transfer train has made frequent stops in Columbia throughout the offseason, and the month of May has been no exception.

Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network was the first to report Monday that the name of safety Jonathan Gipson is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.  Additionally, 247Sports.com is reporting that wide receiver-turned-running back Joe Thomas has entered the portal as well.

After coming to the Gamecocks as a three-star 2018 signee, Gipson played in two games as a true freshman.  Because he played in fewer than four games, Gipson can take a redshirt for 2018, which would leave him with four years of eligibility.  However, barring something unexpected, Gipson would have to sit out the 2019 season if he moves on to another FBS program, meaning he’d have three years to play three seasons beginning in 2020.

Thomas, a walk-on, played in two games this past season as well.

Gipson and Thomas are at least the eighth and ninth players to transfer from the Gamecocks this offseason, joining, among others, defensive end Shameik Blackshear (HERE), linebacker Zay Brown (HERE), quarterback Darius Douglas (HERE) and running back Ty’Son Williams (HERE).