I’m always grateful for another chance to see the Dogs play football, but it appears a lot of UGA fans are having some trouble getting excited about this week’s Liberty Bowl match with Central Florida.
Only 4,800 tickets have been sold so far, despite Memphis being a definite step up in bowl destination from last year. (At least the Dogs didn’t find out, like Tech did, that if there’s anything worse than playing a bowl game in Shreveport, it’s losing a bowl game in Shreveport!)
Still, a bowl game, any bowl game, is a plus for any season, right?
Well, not in the eyes of my pal Scott, with whom I had an interesting discussion last week. Scott said he is “philosophically opposed to playing in this bowl.” He takes the point of view that UGA should refuse to participate in lower rank bowls in order to make the point to the players that they’re serious about setting a higher standard in Athens.
Scott says that if Mark Richt “really wants to hammer home the ‘this is uncceptable’ theme, a money-losing bowl in an underachieving, nonwinning season should be the place to start. I don’t go for the ’seniors reward’ line — reward for what? Going 6-6?”
I told Scott I certainly could understand that viewpoint, but a big factor in favor of accepting a bowl bid was getting another month of practice, which gives a program a headstart on the next season. Scott didn’t buy that argument.
“How much did running the scout team for 14 extra days in preparation for Shreveport play into Aaron Murray’s development last year? Not much, I bet, compared to finally working with real players in spring/fall camps. I think any benefit derived from 2-3 weeks of practice is less than proving you are serious when you say ‘this is unacceptable.’ To me, it’s just more lip service along the lines of what we’ve heard last year.
“Cam Newton didn’t get any extra practice with Auburn during last year’s bowl, but he seemed to pick up the offense OK without it. I think the ‘we need the practice’ argument is voiced by all coaches as part of their natural controlling nature. All coaches think they need more practice in any sport. But bowl practices are way too far removed from next season to have any real bearing on improved play. I think you get players’ attention more by saying We’re Not Going Anywhere Until We All Step It Up.”
I agreed with Scott that setting higher standards is a good thing, but I noted that the conference might balk at Georgia turning down a bowl since everyone splits the take.
“But that’s also somewhat of a mirage,” Scott said. “We will lose money going to Memphis. Did you see the Sports Illustrated story on bowl finances a few months ago? Ohio State lost $79,000 going to the Rose Bowl last year despite a payout of $18 million; the Big 10 has the same pooling plan as the SEC. The real factor is if an SEC team turns down any bid from a Shreveport or Memphis, the bowl will drop affiliation for fear of getting burned in future. And the SEC doesn’t want that (or even the reputation for it) so they go along with the it’s-better-to-accept myth. It’s the tail wagging the dog.”
But, Scott said, “Imagine if UGA became the first SEC school to announce, henceforth, only winning teams will accept bowl bids. You don’t think that would create a little aura for the program? Heck, even if Vandy made that statement you’d have to respect them more. And it also would show coaches/players/recruits that UGA is serious about having ‘acceptable’ standards for success.
“Instead we have a lose-lose situation vs. George O’Leary and Central Florida, where Murray gets three extra weeks of practice throwing to receivers who won’t be here next fall, while Washaun Ealey practices running behind an offensive line that is looking at a likely overhaul this spring. How is any of this going to help in 2011?
“I’ll tell you one thing — bowl practice in 2009 didn’t seem to do much for the 2010 season. And, oh yeah, our only national championship in the last 50 years came after a nonbowl practice season. I don’t think a couple of extra weeks of Donnie McMickens and Carnie Norris getting some practice reps would have allowed them to keep the job over Herschel Walker.”
OK, I’ll concede that point. But in the end I’m still in favor of Georgia accepting the Liberty Bowl despite a 6-6 record for one big reason: It kept the Dogs’ bowl streak intact. I would have hated to see our streak broken while Tech kept theirs going.
Still, Scott makes an interesting argument about what it takes to raise the standard of an acceptable season for the Dogs. What do you think? Should a 6-6 Georgia team be in a bowl? Should any 6-6 team be in a bowl?
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