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GOLF, THE COACH AND URBAN MEYER

The Gulf Gate Executive Golf Club in Sarasota has something to brag about.

Urban Meyer plays golf there. Has for years.

"I enjoy it," Meyer said this week.

How can a man who essentially is leading two college football programs at once find time to talk about golf?

Well, he can't. This is a different Urban Meyer.

This Meyer is a 79-year-old retired plumber from Missouri. He retired to Sarasota 16 years ago. And he just happens to share a name with the hottest coach in college football.

"Better ask him about having the same name as me," he retorts to the comparison.

Sarasota's Meyer is no relation to the coach but has followed his career since he was an assistant at Notre Dame. You don't see many Urban Meyers after all. Sarasota's Meyer is aware of only three: himself, the coach and a guy from Chicago.

Meyer believes his name comes from a string of Catholic popes named Urban, the most recent in the 1600s.

He played football at a small high school and attended St. Louis Cardinals NFL games for 26 years. After coming to Florida, he became a fan of the Bucs and . . . uhh . . . Florida State. But the new Gator coach might turn him around.

"I hope he does well," he said. "I was not a Florida fan, but I think I will be."

_ MIKE STEPHENSON, Times staff writer

THE HALF-MILLION-DOLLAR MAN

Outback Bowl president and chief executive Jim McVay is the highest-paid bowl leader in the industry at $498,336.

That's more than $150,000 more than second-place John Junker, who runs two bowls, the Fiesta and Insight. It's more than the heads of larger nonprofits such as Goodwill Industries International, the American Heart Association, United Jewish Communities and the American Red Cross.

Still, McVay, in his 17th year, says he's worth it. He said he saved the organization about $450,000 in consulting fees by negotiating the TV deal with ESPN, which pays an annual rights fee of $2.1-million.

"It's a specialized job with a certain skill set," McVay told the New York Times. "We're saving money the way we do it. The other guys don't do the same thing."

BY THE NUMBERS

425-million

Estimated number of people in more than 100 countries who watch the Rose Parade each year.

164-million

Estimated number who watch the game.

$26-million

Rights fee paid last year by ABC to the Rose Bowl.

$3.4-million

Revenue generated last year by Outback Bowl ticket sales.

$1-million

Annual rights fee paid by Outback Steakhouse to put its name on the bowl.

$30,000

Value of Waterford crystal football awarded to the BCS champion.

BOWLS AND BLING BLING

The NCAA spends a lot of time mandating what recruits and players cannot receive. Remember when former Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus got in trouble for buying players pizza at a restaurant?

Well, during bowl week the rules are different. Bowls can give players up to $350 worth of gifts, and the perks are getting better each year:

+ Florida and Miami players in the Peach Bowl received Xboxes and a watch from Fossil, a maker of collectibles and accessories.

+ USC and Oklahoma players in the Orange Bowl get Sony digital cameras.

+ Sugar Bowl teams Auburn and Virginia Tech get Weber Baby Q gas grills.

+ The Outback Bowl provides Georgia and Wisconsin players GPX CD players, silver Nautica watches and gold rings with blue stones and faux diamonds, valued at $185 each.

FEAST OR FAMINE

When injuries forced Wisconsin to use 270-pound fullback Matt Bernstein at tailback against Penn State, nobody knew what to expect. But the junior produced a career-best 123 yards (he rushed for 120 all of 2003) and the Badgers won 16-3.

That's only part of the story.

Bernstein, a native of Scarsdale, N.Y., fasted for 24 hours starting at 5 p.m. that Friday in observance of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Bernstein began his fast two hours early so he could play, because the game kicked off at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday. He skipped warmups that day, had a pregame IV and ate oranges and slices of turkey.

VOICE OF THE DOGS

Legendary sports broadcaster Larry Munson, who has covered Georgia games since 1966, will be announcing play-by-play from the Raymond James Stadium press box during today's Outback Bowl. The 82-year-old Munson, whose dramatic flair and gravelly voice have charmed generations of Bulldogs fans, is known for several famous calls such as one during Buck Belue's touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott against Florida in the 1980 Georgia-Florida game: "Run Lindsay! 25, 20, 15, 10 Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!"

Dubbed the "Voice of the Dogs" by Georgia fans, Munson has covered a wide range of sporting events since age 20, and has even been the voice of a dog, literally. He lent his familiar vocals for the newly-released documentary on Georgia's mascot, Damn Good Dog, in which Munson provides the voice of Uga, the English bulldog.

MUM'S THE WORD

Using public-records laws, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sought the Dec. 5 ballots of the 55 coaches at public universities who participate in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' Top 25. Texas leapfrogged California in the BCS standings and earned a Rose Bowl bid by gaining votes _ but remaining one spot behind No. 4 Cal _ in the final Associated Press and coaches polls. Here is a look at some of the responses from university officials:

Clemson: Tommy Bowden threw away his vote but voted Auburn No. 1.

Colorado: "We do not feel that this particular document comes under the scope of the Colorado Open Records and Freedom of Information Act. . . . All that being said, Gary Barnett has given me approval to indicate that his top five were the same five that appeared in the final regular-season poll." A sports information director said he used his own pen, paper and cell phone or home phone to record Barnett's votes to avoid producing any public record.

Florida State: "Bobby Bowden's office maintains no such document(s). . . . While Coach Bowden reportedly did make notes to himself to assist in calling in his Top 25 selections, these notes were not shared with anyone else and were disposed of following the call-in."

Georgia: Mark Richt's ballot was called in, so there are no records.

South Florida: No record of Jim Leavitt's ballot exists.

Texas: "Mack Brown does not submit a paper ballot: He submits his votes via telephone."

Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez threw his ballot away after calling in his votes.

QUOTABLE

"I've got a lot of kin that would probably like to see us get beat 2-0. That way, we'd play great defense and still get beat. It would make everybody happy."

_ Texas A&M defensive coordinator and Knoxville, Tenn., native Carl Torbush on taking on Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl.

FIVE THINGS

1. One hundred and sixty sailors from the USS West Virginia and their families received free tickets to the Gator Bowl from the university. The nuclear-powered submarine's home port is Kings Bay, Ga., about 30 miles north of Jacksonville.

2. Senior fullback Kevin Dudley has made 19 career starts for Michigan. He has carried the ball three times _ in his career. "It doesn't bother me at all," Dudley said. "I know my role on the team. Our main goal is to win." And Dudley's goal is to flatten opposing linebackers and clear the way for freshman tailback Michael Hart, who ran for 1,396 yards this season. That's 1,383

more than Dudley amassed in four years.

3. Beating Iowa in the Capital One Bowl would give LSU consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins for the first time and mark the 49th victory in Nick Saban's tenure, capping the most successful five-year stretch in school history.

4. If bowl games were named for the graduation rates of the participants, the Continental Tire would be the Brain Bowl, and the Fiesta the Dunce Bowl. Boston College (78 percent graduation rate) and North Carolina (53 percent) played Thursday in the Continental, and Pittsburgh (31 percent) goes against Utah (41 percent) today in the Fiesta.

5. In Dennis Franchione's first six college head-coaching stops, his teams improved by an average of 2{ wins in his second season. Texas A&M proved no different. A&M is 7-4 with a chance at another victory, against Tennessee in today's Cotton Bowl, after going 4-8 in Franchione's debut season.

_ Information from Times staff writers Keith Neibuhr and Emily Nipps, the Associated Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cox News Service, Dallas Morning News, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, New York Times and San Gabriel Valley Tribune was used in this report.

Up next:COTTON BOWL

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