Originally created 09/05/97

College notes: Kirtsey heads to Middle Tennessee

Torin Kirtsey has found a home in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The embattled tailback, who left Georgia after last season, is enrolled in classes at Middle Tennessee State, Blue Raiders coach Boots Donnelly said Wednesday.

Donnelly said Kirtsey, a Jacksonville native who was Georgia's leading rusher in 1995, has been at MTSU since the start of fall semester on Aug. 21, and he intends to stay.

"Right now, he's in school, and at the present time, he's doing well," Donnelly said.

A month ago, at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., South Carolina coach Brad Scott said that Kirtsey would transfer to his school. But a day later, Scott backed off, saying that Kirtsey was no longer welcome in Columbia due to disciplinary problems that led to Kirtsey's departure from Georgia.

According to Georgia police reports, Kirtsey struck a teammate in the head with a "large club or stick" outside McWhorter Hall in May 1996. Battery charges against Kirtsey were dropped a few days later when the unidentified victim decided not to press charges. According to Georgia's Department of University Housing, Kirtsey cut wires to a smoke detector in his McWhorter dorm room in December 1996.

Scott said at the time that he was not aware of these incidents when he initially said Kirtsey would transfer to South Carolina. Georgia head coach Jim Donnan said Wednesday that one reason Scott and his staff might not have known about those incidents was that they didn't ask.

"Nobody from South Carolina ever contacted me about him before they said he was going there," Donnan said, adding: "I'm happy that Torin was able to get relocated."

Despite Kirtsey's past difficulties, Donnelly said he believes the running back deserves another opportunity.

"Hopefully, we will be able to give him that chance to right himself, to make sure those things don't happen again," the 20th-year head coach said. "I can't get anything but a good impression right now. He comes out, he works hard for us. He does exactly what we ask him to do. Right now, unless he changes dramatically, I'm very happy with what I've seen from him."

Kirtsey must sit out this year under NCAA transfer rules, but would be eligible next season. MTSU, which plays in the Division I-AA Ohio Valley Conference, went 6-5 last year, tying for fourth. The team is planning to move to Division I-A in 1999.

SOLD OUT: Need two tickets for South Carolina-Central Florida on Saturday? Sorry, you're too late.

How about Oct. 4 against Auburn? No can do. Oct. 11 vs. Kentucky, maybe behind a post? Forget it. And don't even think about Vanderbilt (Oct. 25), Florida (Nov. 15) or Clemson (Nov. 22).

For the first time in 104 years of Gamecock football, every home game is sold out before the season even begins.

"It's pretty awesome," ticket manager Chris Massaro said Thursday. "The phones keep ringing here, but there's not a lot we can tell them."

The only way to snag a pair anywhere in Williams-Brice Stadium is to see how many tickets, if any, are returned by students or opponents.

Central Florida gave back about 200 or so for Saturday's opener. They lasted only a couple of hours, Massaro said.

South Carolina sold out once before, in 1985, off the strength of a 10-2 season the year before, but the final tickets weren't snapped up until midway through the schedule, Massaro said.

Season tickets cost $125 each. The school sold about 51,000 season tickets, about 2,000 more than in 1996, he said.

The Gamecocks finished last year seventh nationally in attendance with an average of 79,535 fans for six games. The previous two seasons, the athletic department built more seats that pushed capacity from 72,400 to 80,250.

The Palmetto State is no stranger to jam-packed stadiums. Clemson's Death Valley has a capacity of 81,474 but can fit more than 85,000 fans. Clemson has finished in the top 20 in attendance the past 14 seasons. In 1988, the Tigers averaged 81,750 fans for six home games.

Earlier this summer, Clemson ticket manager Van Hildebrand said season tickets would run about 50,000.

ADJUSTMENT: Johnny Majors' life has taken a strange turn. With plenty of time to golf now that he's retired from coaching football, his handicap has gone up.

"I think I've got too much time to think about myself and too much time to play," he said.

Last Saturday, when Pittsburgh opened its season under new coach Walt Harris, Majors was in the stands to watch his former team. It is the first time in 40 years he has not been either coaching or playing.

"I've been on the practice field virtually every day of my life, starting in 1944 when my dad was head coach down there at Lynchburg," the 62-year-old Majors said Thursday by car telephone while driving to - where else? - the golf course. "I never felt like football was work. It was a labor of love, if that's not an overused term."

The man who starred at Tennessee and later coached his alma mater for 16 years makes no secret of missing some aspects of his life's vocation.

"I miss the anticipation, the excitement, the highs, the involvement with a team atmosphere and a team organization," he said. "I miss the excitement quite a bit, to be frank with you."

Majors said he won't miss "the bad ballgames when you get your ears pinned back," but the adjustment to being away from the game has been substantial.

"Other than family and friends, football has been my life," he said. "I've had other activities, but coaching is all I've ever done since I left college."

He still has a job at Pittsburgh, which he led to the 1976 national championship and to which he returned after his unceremonious ouster at Tennessee during the 1992 season.

He said he does public relations, fund-raising, various personal appearances and speeches in his new role. He and wife, Mary Lynn, are buying a house in Pittsburgh, he said, and their 10-year-old grandson Brandon is living with them.

That gives Majors three teams to follow; the Panthers, the Steelers and the Vikings, Brandon's peewee team.

The University of Tennessee remains a taboo subject with him.

"I don't spend any time on them," he said of the Volunteer football team. "I follow Pittsburgh and the Steelers and Brandon's team, but I don't have any idea who's playing for them except that (Peyton) Manning's a great quarterback."

But his rancorous feelings toward his old employer don't encompass everything in his home state.

"I keep up with my family and friends in Tennessee. I've got lifelong relationships in Tennessee I'll have as long as I live," he said. "I get down there three or four times a year."

He accepts an invitation from Harris - one of his assistants at Tennessee from 1983-88 - to attend practice every now and then, but doesn't get involved.

"I don't stick my nose in his business. I wouldn't appreciate it if I was in his position," Majors said.

All in all, he says, he's coping OK.

"I'd rather be busier, frankly, but I plan to make the most of it. I'm having a lot of fun. I've got a lot of reward with my grandchild, my family and friends in Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

"I miss the everyday excitement and challenge of coaching, but I've got too much to be thankful for to be down in the doldrums."


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