Let’s put Damon Evans’ Thursday comments on the state of Bulldogs athletics into some perspective:
It wasn’t a particularly satisfying year in terms of performance for many of UGA’s higher profile teams. Anyone who follows football, basketball, baseball and gymnastics already knew that.
But when it comes to the factor that basically drives big-time college athletics these days — the financial bottom line — it was another great year for the Dogs. So much so that the athletic association could afford to give the financially beleaguered university another $2 million gift on top of the $6 million pledged last year.
Although UGA finished second in the race for the SEC’s All-Sports Trophy, Evans wasn’t pleased overall. “We are not where we want to be nationally. I think our program should be much higher than it is,” he told the UGA Athletics Association’s Board of Directors.
What apparently was driving Evans’ public breast-beating was the fact that UGA currently sits 25th in the national standings for the Director’s Cup. And he already wasn’t thrilled with last year’s final showing of 18th, which was the lowest UGA had finished since it was 28th in 1997. He wants Georgia in the Top 10 of the Director’s Cup, where it finished regularly earlier in the decade.
But as I noted here last year, where UGA finishes in the Director’s Cup standings matters a lot more to Evans than it does to most fans in the Bulldog Nation. After all, the cup routinely is won by Stanford on the basis of its many championships and nationally ranked finishes in nonrevenue sports such as rowing, volleyball, water polo and so on.
I’d wager that if most UGA fans were given the choice between a year in which the Dogs made the Director’s Cup Top 10 and one in which the football team won the SEC championship, the latter would be the top choice by a wide margin.
More to the point, while many of us in the Bulldog Nation are immensely pleased and proud about national championships in women’s gymnastics and such, an awful lot of the folks who contribute financially to UGA athletics, whether through donations or ticket or merchandise purchases, are really only concerned with one sport: the one coached by Mark Richt.
Football and those packed houses at Sanford Stadium on fall Saturdays drive the success that resulted in $84.8 million in athletics revenue for the 2010 fiscal year and allowed Evans to make that donation to the university and still bank about $5 million, making for a tidy reserve fund of $65 million.
UGA might rank 25th nationally in how its total sports programs are doing so far this year, but from October through December it was No. 5 nationally in licensed merchandise sales, behind only Texas, Florida, Alabama and LSU. And there’s no secret which sport is the engine behind that success.
Yes, it matters how all the other sports at UGA do, particularly the revenue sports. But if Richt can get his program back where it was five years ago, I don’t think anyone’s going to be complaining very loudly about the state of UGA athletics.
And while we’re on the subject of all-sports finishes, I got a kick out of MrSEC.com’s observation about Evans’ comments: “When an SEC AD is so vocal about his school’s lack of success … and that school finished second best in the conference … it leaves 10 other athletic directors to wonder what the heck they need to be saying about their shoddy programs.”
See, perspective is everything.