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Auburn tree 'hug' on way

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn fans have received an outpouring of support, even from Alabama football coach Nick Saban, since news broke that the Toomer's Corner oak trees had been poisoned and likely would perish.

A Facebook page titled "Toomer's Tree Hug" is touting an event at the site this afternoon for fans to show support for the iconic trees, which are rolled with toilet paper after football victories. As of Friday evening, nearly 8,000 people had responded to say they would attend, though horticulture experts said the fewer people trampling the area, the better. No actual "hug" is planned.

The lawyer representing the suspect in the poisoning asked to be removed from the case, saying his ties to the university create a conflict of interest.

Lee County District Court Judge Russell K. Bush appointed Jerry W. Hauser to represent Harvey Updyke, 62, whom police say poured a tree-killing herbicide on the oaks, believed to be at least 130 years old.

Updyke's original court-appointed lawyer, Philip O. Tyler, is a former part-time professor at Auburn.

Updyke of Dadeville, Ala., was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of criminal mischief, a Class C felony. He was released from jail late Friday after making bail, which was set at $50,000. Updyke could face one to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register reported that a person who identified himself as Updyke's son, Manny, said family members are getting death threats. He said his father, a Texas trooper for 18 years, has a pacemaker and suffers from kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes.

As the news went national, more people have condemned the action. Saban weighed in.

"We are truly saddened by this destructive behavior from an individual who certainly does not represent our institution, our program or our fans in any way," he said in a statement.

Knights lose assistant: UCF running backs coach George Godsey, a former Jesuit High and Georgia Tech quarterback who also played with the Storm in the Arena League, is leaving to join the New England Patriots' staff.

No. 1 Gators top Bulls 7-2 in baseball opener

GAINESVILLE — Former Plant High standout Preston Tucker went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs as No. 1-ranked Florida beat USF 7-2 in front of 5,157 at McKethan Stadium in the season opener for both schools.

Tucker, a junior, attributed his hot start to spending the past month in the batters' box against his team's pitching.

"Any guy that we have on our team is as good as any guy out there," said Tucker, who doubled, had an RBI single and hit a two-run homer. "It gives us a lot of confidence that if we can hit our pitching, we can have success against any guy."

USF's Randy Fontanez allowed six earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings to take the loss. Bulls rightfielder James Ramsay homered.

Elsewhere, Sean Gilmartin threw seven scoreless innings as host FSU routed Virginia Military Institute 12-0, the Seminoles' first opening day shutout win since 1985.

Basketball

Men's No. 16 Louisville 71, No. 13 UConn 58: Peyton Siva scored 15, and Gorgui Dieng posted a double double of 13 points and 12 rebounds as the host Cardinals (20-7, 9-5 Big East) rolled by the Huskies (20-6, 8-6), who got only 16 points from star Kemba Walker.

Women's No. 3 Stanford 78, USC 64: Jeanette Pohlen led the visiting Cardinal (23-2, 14-0 Pac-10) with 19 points in their win.

Women's No. 9 UCLA 63, Cal 48: Rebekah Gardner scored 16 as the host Bruins (22-2, 12-1 Pac-10) won their seventh straight.

Women's No. 24 Marist 60, Manhattan 42: Brandy Gang scored 19 and the host Red Foxes (24-2, 15-0 Metro Atlantic) got their 20th straight victory.

Times correspondent Tyler Jett contributed to this report.

Auburn tree 'hug' on way 02/18/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 19, 2011 12:28am]

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