Bishop Media Sports Network

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Revamping NIL In Florida

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Less than three years after Florida enacted a law to help athletes and universities get a head start in the profitable NIL space, now the legislature is ramping up efforts to make sure those groups don’t get left behind.

When the State House and Senate convene next week for a two-week session, one of the main topics tackled will be revamping Florida’s existing NIL law.

“In 2020, Florida was proactive in creating legislation which governs how college athletes can be compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses,” House Speaker Paul Renner wrote in a Friday memo to House members and staff.

“However, the recent enactment of NCAA regulations regarding athlete compensation has put many states with such laws at a disadvantage, causing a need for Florida to revisit our current law. We recognize the need to address this issue in a timely manner so our collegiate teams can remain competitive.”

The 2020 Florida law made it permissible for college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness, but it prohibited coaches, staff and other representatives of universities from being part of the process.

That became an issue when the NCAA subsequently ruled that all athletes could earn money from NIL deals as long as they followed their state laws, which meant those in Florida and a handful of other states would actually be at a disadvantage.

Several states promptly repealed their state laws once that happened, but two bills in Florida stalled during the 2022 session.

The new House legislation will be referred to the Education and Employment Committee, according to Renner’s memo. The Senate version will go to the Post-Secondary Education Committee.

Virtually, all college coaches claim it has led to widespread tampering and even more illegal recruiting than usual, and many programs worry about the effect it is having on locker room chemistry.

At the same time, people also believe it is long overdue that college athletes have the right to earn money through marketing agreements and other above-board business opportunities.

The proposal by Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, would align Florida law with those in other states with schools that compete with Florida universities, which generated $1.1 billion dollars in revenue last year, according to a House analysis.

This Bill would allow schools to set up space on campus for NIL entities to meet athletes and for university employees to introduce athletes to companies willing to pay them to use their name and likeness.

When the NCAA issued new NIL guidelines last October to allow schools to have a more active role in connecting athletes with NIL entities, Florida schools — such as the University of Florida, University of Central Florida and Florida State University — suddenly found themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

The Bill specifically states that a school is not required to identify or facilitate NIL opportunities for students, or that an NIL deal qualifies a student as a university employee.

Also, they amended the proposal shielding schools and coaches from liability related to damages resulting from routine decisions — like benching a player — because schools have sovereign immunity.

The proposal has two more committee stops before it is introduced to the House floor.

As always, the unintended consequences could be problematic. On its face, it’s much better they are in charge of managing the brand and not relying on outside or non-auditable parties.

You have to assume that this will lead to some sort of mutually agreed salary cap by conferences at some point down the road.

I believe this will have universities explaining why they are not using new TV revenues and other income sources to pony up for 5 stars, rather than asking their alumni/booster base to take on the additional burden of NIL.

Former Love

By: Steve Norris

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I used to love college basketball.

Wait…let me change that. I used to REALLY love college basketball.

My passion for it began in the 80’s when Georgia had their magical run to the Final Four in 1983.

Unfortunately, that was the last year Georgia would ever get that far. In fact, other than a Sweet 16 run in 1996, Georgia hoops has been in the desert of college basketball.

Since that Sweet 16 appearance, Georgia hasn’t won another NCAA Tournament game. That’s hard to do, much less considering they let in 68 participants to the tournament now.

While my allegiance has always been to UGA first, I grew fond of the Georgia Tech basketball teams in the 80’s.

Tech’s 1985 and 1986 teams were good enough to win the national championship. They were loaded with players like Mark Price, John Salley, Duane Ferrell, and Bruce Dalrymple.

However, just like Georgia, Tech always seemed to find a way to blow it come tournament time.

It was in 1989 during the NCAA Tournament that I found my new team to follow, and that was the Duke Blue Devils.

It was March 26th, 1989. Duke was playing Georgetown in the Elite Eight. Georgia Tech had lost in the first round to Texas and Georgia didn’t make the tournament.

At the time, Georgetown and their head coach John Thompson were a big deal. They had won the 1984 national championship and had barely lost the 1985 national championship to Villanova.

Personally, I hated Georgetown. In my opinion, Thompson was a bully, who whined incessantly during games and off the court. I was sick of his act. They had a freshman named Alonzo Mourning who ESPN and the other sports media regularly hyped up every week.

I thought he was good but he wasn’t THAT good. I was ready for someone to shut him down and knock Georgetown down a peg.

Enter freshman Christian Laettner. That fateful day, Laettner put the clamps on Mourning, holding him to 11 points and five rebounds, while scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds in a 85-77 victory that sent the Blue Devils to the Final Four.

Georgetown would go on to make the Sweet Sixteen a couple more times after that season but were never the same under Thompson until he retired after the 1997-98 season.

Duke would lose the next week to Seton Hall in the Final Four but my loyalty had been earned.

The next season, my all-time favorite player came along…Bobby Hurley. Hurley, along with Laettner and Grant Hill, would go on to lead the Blue Devils to two national championships. He also set the all-time assist record with 1076 assists; a record he still holds to this day.

For me, these were the golden years of college basketball. The 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s were the years when you could count on players normally staying all four years, no matter what their star status was. It was easy to follow teams from year to year. Even Shaquille O’Neal, stayed three years at LSU before heading to the NBA in 1992.

Then came the “one and done”. Duke’s first “one and done” was after the 1999 season when Corey Maggette bolted for the pros after helping Duke to the national championship game.

That wasn’t a surprise at the time as Duke was loaded with players like Elton Brand and Shane Battier. Duke wouldn’t have another one-year player until many years later, so for a while it seemed Maggette was just a one-off.

Unfortunately, the “one and one” would go on to become normal for college basketball.

It was around 2010 that my love of college basketball began to wane. That year, Duke barely squeaked by Butler University to win the national championship. I was excited that Duke won but I wasn’t quite as elated as I had been after the 1991, 1992, and 2001 championships that Duke had won.

After that season, I didn’t plan my nights around watching college basketball anymore.

My passion for it had left town and has never come back. I think the reason was because I began to realize that the product had become watered down. The top high school players no longer cared about being great in college.

They just wanted to showcase their talent at some school for a year and then leave. It also didn’t help that the regular season has become an afterthought.

Now that the NCAA Tournament lets in 68 teams, you have to really be bad to not make it in. Plus, most conferences have tournaments at the end of the season, and the winner is considered the conference champion.

That never made sense to me as winning the regular season is much harder. Why reward a bad team who just happens to get hot for a week?

Due to my loyalty to all things UGA, I still find myself turning on a Georgia basketball game now and then. And, sure, I turned on the Duke-UNC game for a few minutes and smiled a little when Duke won.

But going forward, my only hope of ever loving college basketball again depends on if Georgia ever begins to take it as seriously as it does football.

Head Coach Mike White seems to be the right coach at the right time, but he has a tall task in front of him.

Let’s hope he can get it done because I’d really love to get that passion back again and Georgia is the only school I care about anymore.

 

Shuffling The Deck

By: Garrison Ryfun

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the ACC going division-less in 2023, the championship will now be played by the top two teams in the conference, instead of the winners of each division.

Since the conference is going division-less, teams will now play what is described as a 3-5-5 schedule.

This means that from at least 2023 to 2026, ACC teams will have three primary opponents and a rotation of the other ten teams in the conference.

The ACC guarantees that through this new scheduling format, each team will have a home and away game against all 13 other teams in this four-year window.

Though not all that common, this will prevent a championship game played by a 7-5 or 6-6 winner of either the Coastal or Atlantic division.

Once again, the divisions will not exist anymore but every team will be locked into three specific opponents.

Here are the primary opponents for each team in the ACC:

Boston College: Miami (FL), Pittsburgh, and Syracuse

Clemson: Florida State, Georgia Tech, and NC State

Duke: North Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest

Florida State: Clemson, Miami, and Syracuse

Georgia Tech: Clemson, Louisville, and Wake Forest

Louisville: Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), and Virginia

Miami (FL): Boston College, Florida State, and Louisville

North Carolina: Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia

NC State: Clemson, Duke, and North Carolina

Pittsburgh: Boston College, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech

Syracuse: Boston College, Florida State, and Pittsburgh

Virginia: Louisville, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech: Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Wake Forest

Wake Forest: Duke, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech

Notre Dame, though not an official member of the conference for football, will still play their contractually obligated five ACC opponents under this new system.

This move just makes sense for the health of the conference.

In the upcoming age of super conferences, with Texas and Oklahoma moving to the SEC and USC and UCLA making their move to the Big Ten, having the two best teams in your conference title game will only help with national perception for the top of your conference.

It will already be hard enough to convince teams like Florida State and Clemson to not look elsewhere during this era. Super conferences will only create more revenue, especially in the television space for their member teams.

This is a step forward, albeit small, for the conference, and could give fans some fun in-season rematches in the championship game for years to come.

The biggest problem the ACC has left is figuring out how to navigate college football in this upcoming era.

Convincing Notre Dame, whose contract with NBC expires in 2025, and another high-profile team to join the conference is the next big step the ACC has to take to remain relevant in the football space.

That Familiar Feeling

By: Steve Norris

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For those of us who have been Atlanta Braves fans for over 40 years, we have been through some good times, some bad times, and then some really, really bad times.

There were a few Braves teams in the 80’s that were inexplicably bad. Many times, as the Braves were headed towards yet another loss, legendary Braves announcer Skip Caray would quip, “Well, Folks…you can’t win ‘em all or it would get boring.”

Well, believe me, some of those 80’s teams went out of their way to save us from that boredom.

Then in 1990, things began to turn around. John Schuerholz took over as General Manager and Bobby Cox came back as Manager (he managed the Braves from 1978-1981).

The team finally started making intelligent decisions and good things began to happen. For me, the biggest thing that came along was David Justice.

Now, I realize a lot of people are going to disagree with me here. They’ll say that it was the Braves’ pitching that made them what they were in the 90’s, and I’m not saying they’re necessarily wrong. But every great team has a leader. And Justice was it. Here’s how I know.

I was lucky enough to get to cover the Braves from 1994-1996 while working for 13WMAZ in Macon, GA. I covered somewhere around 20-25 games in that time, and for a guy in his 20’s who had grown up loving the Braves, it was like a day at Six Flags for me.

I got to interview the players on the field while they were taking batting practice, sit in the press box to watch the game, and then go in the locker room after the game to do interviews.

The locker room at that time was full of future Hall-of-Famers that everyone remembers. Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jon Smoltz, and Fred McGriff were all present.

However, there was one player the media always went to like a moth to a bug light. And that was David Justice. He had a commanding presence that couldn’t be denied and wasn’t afraid in the least to say exactly what was on his mind. He also didn’t suffer fools when it came to the reporters.

If somebody asked a dumb question, Justice called them out on it. His mouth did get him in trouble with the fans in 1995 when he went on a rant before Game 6 on the World Series, claiming that the fans would hate the team if they didn’t win the series.

However, he still went out and hit the biggest home run in Braves history to win the series that night.

The following year, Justice only played in 40 games of the 1996 season due to a shoulder injury. He wasn’t available for the World Series against the Yankees, and it led to the biggest collapse in Braves history.

After getting out to 2-0 lead in the series on the road and headed back home, the Braves managed to lose four games in a row, dropping the series 4-2.

As a Braves fan, I’m still not over that World Series loss. I couldn’t sleep for a week. David Justice was my favorite player and it frustrated me that he wasn’t able to be in the lineup to help keep that loss from happening. Still, I was looking forward to the 1997 season when he’d be back healthy and the team would be even stronger.

Then, for me and many other Braves fans, the worst trade in Braves history happened.

On March 25th, 1997, in a salary-cutting move, the Braves traded David Justice and Marquis Grissom (my second favorite Braves player) to the Cleveland Indians for Kenny Lofton and left-handed relief pitcher Alan Embree.

As a Braves fan, I was devastated. I had seen how clutch Justice could be when they needed him. I had seen what his presence meant in the clubhouse when he kept reporters away from other players who preferred not to be interviewed (like Grissom, Maddux, and McGriff). I felt like Justice was “the straw that stirred the drink” as the saying goes.

He went on that year to lead Cleveland to the World Series while Kenny Lofton was a problem child who never really wanted to be in Atlanta, lasting one year before re-signing with Cleveland the next year.

Embree was basically an average pitcher at best, who didn’t bring much value.

Meanwhile, the Braves went on to lose in the National League Championship Series to the underdog Florida Marlins 4-2, in what is still another playoff loss I’ve never really gotten over.

Which brings me to my point…there is no substitute for chemistry on a team, and some players are way more important than others.

After dealing Justice, the Braves never made it to the promised land again with Cox as manager. While eventually winning 14 straight division titles, they only played in one more World Series; in 1999, getting blown out 4-0 by the Yankees.

Now, here we are in 2023 and I’m afraid history is repeating itself. After the exhilarating and unexpected World Series win in 2021, the Braves let the biggest part of their chemistry go by not signing Freddie Freeman to another contract. And what happened?

A shameful first round playoff loss to the Phillies where Freeman’s leadership was sorely missed.

It’s hard for me to criticize Braves General Manager Alex Anthopolous for losing Freddie. After all, it was Anthopolous who made the moves halfway through the 2021 season that led to the World Series win.

But I’m getting that old feeling again. That while the Braves will be loaded with talent and most likely playoff-bound for several seasons to come, they’ll still find a way to blow it now that the chemistry has been irreversibly changed. I really hope I’m wrong.

Checking All The Boxes

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Kirby Smart, arguably, is the most popular man in the state of Georgia currently.

The Georgia Bulldogs just won the 2022 National Championship to back up the one they won in 2021.

In seven full seasons in Athens, Smart has led his Dawgs to an 81-15 overall record with two SEC titles to go along with the national titles.

Many UGA fans are saying the 2023 team could be better than the current National Champions. I’m thinking how do you get better than 15-0 and a 65-7 rout in the title game?

It is called recruiting. Kirby Smart and Nick Saban are the best recruiters in college football. Year after year of top three recruiting classes allows a program to stockpile talent.

To Smart’s credit he recruits athletes that respond to hard coaching. Players get coached up hard at UGA. The results are stockpiling also.

Fifteen players were drafted by the NFL in 2022, which included 5 first rounders on the defensive side of the ball. Early projections for 2023 predict that UGA could have as many as 10 players drafted.

If Jalen Carter is the first player selected by the Chicago Bears, then UGA could have players in back-to-back drafts selected as the number one overall pick. Travon Walker was first overall by Jacksonville in 2022.

Kirby Smart develops his football players and gets them ready for the next level or ready for life.

It starts with practice. Nobody works harder than the Georgia Bulldogs under Kirby Smart. His teams are prepared physically and mentally for any opponent they face. The foundation of that is demanding work.

When you have four- and five-star talent that is willing to work and be pushed constantly you see the results start mounting. Look at the practice leading up to the TCU game.

Gunner Stockton took off the non-contact jersey at QB and replicated Max Duggan for TCU and took live hits from the best defense in the country to get them ready for TCU.

Kirby said this about his QB room after the title game:

“We got one that took a black (non-contact) jersey off and took hits all week so he could be Max (Duggan). “Gunner Stockton said, ‘Coach, take my shirt off. I’ll take the hits.’ ”

That is called total 100% buy-in folks. The is what Kirby demands and his roster year in and year old responds to it.

Kirby is already creating a narrative for the 2023 season: “The disease that creeps into your program is called entitlement. I’ve seen it firsthand,” Smart said. “If you can stomp it out with leadership, then you can stay hungry. And we have a saying around our place: We eat off the floor. And if you’re willing to eat off the floor, you can be special.”

Talking about leading by example just 48 hours after returning from the west coast title Kirby and staff were dropping in via helicopter on high schools all over the state of Georgia, and then heading out all over the country recruiting national recruits.

Kirby has turned UGA into a national brand now, and UGA has become a pipeline to the NFL. These are glorious times UGA fans. Enjoy this run while it lasts.

UGA has 13-14 starters returning for the 2023 season with a recruiting class that was ranked #2 nationally coming in.

Georgia signed seven of the top 20 recruits in the state of Florida. Florida signed none.

Kirby Smart is checking all the boxes in Athens, Georgia.

War Chief

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Most Florida State fans and media expected to see improvement from the FSU football team in 2022; few could have honestly predicted that the Seminoles would go 10-3 with wins over the likes of Florida, Miami, LSU and Oklahoma after their lackluster 2021.

Coming into the 2022 season, it would be Jordan Travis’ first year as a full-time starter but his third year in the system. On top of that, it would be Travis’ first opportunity to be the unquestioned leader of the Seminoles’ offense, which comes with large potential upside.

Travis not only emerged as Florida State’s best starting quarterback since Jameis Winston, but one of the very best in the country.

In leading the Seminoles to a 10-3 record, Travis completed 226 of 353 passes (64.0 percent) for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also rushed for 417 yards and five touchdowns and even hauled in a touchdown catch.

Travis was named second-team All-ACC. He showed great improvement as a passer and appeared completely confident in his third season in Norvell’s offense.

Since the Seminoles didn’t have a proven backup, some worried that the season could be derailed at any moment.

Fortunately for FSU, backup QB Tate Rodemaker showed great composure and led the Seminoles to a 35-31 win over Louisville.

Rodemaker’s stellar performance in a hostile environment, along with Travis’ ability to rebound quickly from injury is what alleviated most of those concerns.

After Travis’s start against Boston College, it turned out he would remain healthy for the rest of the year, and play in all 13 games.

Based on Travis’ performance and Rodemaker’s improvement as a redshirt sophomore, the Seminoles discovered one of the best quarterback situations in college football by the end of the season.

Travis didn’t waste much time in announcing that he would return and he already is appearing on some early Heisman predictions. Rodemaker and AJ Duffy are also expected to be back, and the Seminoles also will bring in freshman Brock Glenn, a four-star prospect from Memphis.

Travis not only led Florida State to its first 10-win season since 2016, but according to Pro Football Focus, he was the best Power 5 quarterback in the nation.

The way Jordan Travis played in the second half of this season, and with the moves the Seminoles are making in player retention and in the transfer takes, I think Florida State is poised to take another big step next season.

Out Of No Where

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

If you had told me a year ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be two games away from the Super Bowl, I would have laughed.

Heartily. Out loud, full body laughter.

After the Urban Meyer era (or should we say “error”) of Jacksonville football, Jaguar nation was particularly disheartened…and that’s saying something, considering the soul-sucking levels of angst & frustration this fan base has had to endure since the Titans went 3-0 against us while we were undefeated against the rest of the league back in 1999.

From the barstool boogie incident to the disgraceful treatment of a beloved kicker, Coach Meyer proved above and beyond that he was 100% not ready for prime time. My OSU friends warned me. Oh, how I hoped they were wrong.

Spoiler alert; they weren’t.

The performance of rookie signal caller Trevor Lawrence didn’t help the cause. Heralded as a generational talent coming out of Clemson, his less-than-lackluster performance had more than one prognosticator questioning whether everyone was wrong about “Sunshine.”

Then came the long, drawn-out offseason. The seemingly unending wait for a replacement head coach, the cries of the Jaguars faithful to hire Teal & Black alum Byron Leftwich away from the Buccaneers, the in-the-moment questionable free-agent signings of Christian Kirk, Zayn Jones, and Even Engram.

All of these had many in the Jaguars fanbase to call for GM Trent Baalke’s head on a platter, and saw dozens – nay, hundreds – of Twitter profiles change their picture to the clown emoji sporting the distinctive Shad Khan handlebar moustache.

And yes, mine was one of them.

My, my, my, how the tables have turned.

Enter Doug Pederson. A head coach with not only pro experience but a Lombardi Trophy on his resume.

While the hire was not as flashy as what the Leftwich hire would have been, it’s obvious in hindsight how the results were superior.

Pederson brought the Jags their second winning season and playoff appearance in the last 15 years.

He coached the team to a six-game win streak to end the season, including an instantly canonized come-from-behind victory over the San Diego – I mean Los Angeles Falcons – I mean Chargers.

Trevor Lawrence showed not only flashes, but blindingly bright moments that showed that yes, Baalke made the right decision in drafting him. Kirk, Zayn, and Engram proved to be extraordinarily productive weapons, and Travis Etienne got the bounce back sophomore season we all hoped was in store.

The much-discussed selection of UGA’s Travon Walker as the team’s second straight #1 overall pick got some sideways looks, and while his performance has been…shall we say “unpolished” at times this year, it’s easy to see why he and Josh Allen (no, not *that* Josh Allen) will be cornerstones of the “Jacksvillians” defense for years to come.

Then there’s the trade deadline acquisition of suspended WR Calvin Ridley. If he’s even a shadow of the player he was before the suspension (which came, ironically enough, for betting *against* the Jags), he will go down as an all-time free agent steal. That’s some next-level management right there by any metric.

I made it official earlier, but I’ll reiterate it here; I hereby formally apologize for doubting Trent Baalke.

Byron Leftwich, on the other hand, was fired.

For once, Jaguar fans can say they dodged a bullet, and aren’t dismissed as delusional when we say “just wait til next year.”

Farewell, George

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s been an incredible time of ups and downs recently.

This world has lost some fine people; Vince Dooley, Charley Trippi, Mike Leach, Devin Willock, and Chandler LeCroy all in just the last 3 months. Just a crazy time.

But to me, this one hurt worse than anything. We recently lost the great George Rose.

Not only was he one of the top athletes to come out of South Georgia EVER, but he was one of the nicest and most genuine people you would ever want to meet.

Throughout our latter time together whenever we saw each other it was……….” Hey Coach!!!!!”  “Hey Joe!! How’s Kim doing?” The guy was just solid gold.

When I learned of his passing it brought tears to my eyes. He was my coach but through everything he was my friend.

If you know anything about Glynn Academy Red Terror football, then you know who George Rose was. I’m not going to list everything here that he accomplished as a player at Glynn, Auburn and the NFL. It would take up the whole column and more.

Just a few superlatives were, he was a team captain at Glynn, and Auburn. He was the 34th overall pick in the NFL draft and played for Minnesota, New Orleans and San Francisco. He gave up ONE pass completion in his senior year at Auburn as a defensive back, ONE! He was that damn good and just purely fast as hell.

After the pros he came back to Glynn County and coached the Red Terrors during my senior year. I played QB that year for the first time and the truth be told I was pretty good and terrible. George got handed a mediocre bunch of Jimmys and Joes with a few good players sprinkled in that year.

But we worked hard and had a lot of fun. I remember one day at the end of practice we were doing extra passing drills and were all needling coach about playing DB and got him to go over and cover a couple of guys.

We were all laughing and having a good time and I went over to the receivers’ line and got lined up with George and he started laughing. I said come on Coach I’m gonna burn you! Well, I looked over at Coach Hudson, who was throwing and nodded my head. Coach Hudson goes “HUT ONE” and I take off……. huh wait a second……. I take one step and all of a sudden, I’m looking at the sky on my back. I don’t think they called it bump and run back then but I guess I’d call it bump and dump because I didn’t run anywhere!

Next thing I know George is looking down at me laughing, Coach Hudson is about to fall out laughing and next thing you know I’m laughing with everyone else.

I’d love to say we won all the close games and had a great year, but we didn’t. But what we did do was get better. Our last game of the year was against Brunswick High and they were the sub region champs and everyone from Murray Poole to my 12-year-old little brother said they were going to beat the snot out of us. And probably badly.

Well, between George, Marvin Hurst, Herman Hudson and the other coaches, they got us ready.

We beat the Pirates 26-21 at old Lanier Field in front of a standing room only crowd, coming from behind in the fourth quarter. We were the city champs.

After the game I went over to George and hugged him and told him thanks for everything he had done for us that year. He looked me straight in the eyes, smiled and said “Joe you played your best game tonight.” I’ll never forget that……. It brought tears to my eyes then……….and it brings tears to my eyes now.

God bless you coach, War Damn Eagle! Rest easy.

 

 

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