It’s been a while since we’ve checked out the Junkyard Mail, so let’s get right to some of your letters. …
Jackie Logan writes: So, Bill, if all this talk about Florida State and/or Clemson jumping to the Big 12 comes to pass, what do you think are the chances the SEC decides to expand again to 16 teams? And if so, who should the conference go after besides Virginia Tech?
I’m hoping the SEC doesn’t have to expand again, because I frankly don’t think even the addition of Virginia Tech to the conference would increase the TV revenue enough to make up for it having to be split 16 ways. You’re right, though, that the Hokies are the natural target for the SEC, should it come to that. In fact, I thought they would have been a better 14th team instead of Missouri. When it comes to a 16th team, if you take Clemson out of it (and, frankly, I think they’d be much more comfortable in the SEC than in the Big 12), the choices aren’t that great. Many observers figure that if FSU, Clemson and Virginia Tech were all departing the ACC would fall apart and the SEC likely would take the best of what’s left there. Matt Hayes of the Sporting News thinks the SEC would go after VaTech and North Carolina. While the Tarheels wouldn’t add much to the conference in terms of football, they certainly would be a major upgrade for the SEC in basketball. I’m not sure UNC would want to make that move, however, unless the ACC was completely falling apart.
Dodge Dawg writes: Bill, what did you make of the lack of a salary increase in Mark Richt’s new contract? And what’s up with the continuing delays in getting it hammered out?
Richt’s 10-win 2011 record, coming off a losing season, was good enough to get him off the hot seat and win him a contract extension, which was an absolute necessity for recruiting. But a year that saw the Dawgs lose to the four best teams they played wasn’t good enough for a ringing endorsement, which is what a pay-raise would have constituted. He got what was necessary, not an atta-boy. And if I had to hazard a guess about the “nitpick lawyering” that Michael Adams referred to as holding up the contract, I’d say it’s over the language of the buy-out clause, which Greg McGarity indicated will be adjusted. A buy-out clause is designed to make a coach think just a bit harder about leaving of his own volition. The higher the buy-out, the more the school wants to keep him. Frankly, I don’t see UGA agreeing to pay Richt any more than he was already guaranteed as a buyout. As for the doubling of the performance incentives McGarity mentioned, I think that’s mainly a PR ploy aimed at the Bulldog Nation, allowing UGA to say, “We’re not satisfied until we win championships.” I don’t think it’s really aimed at prodding Richt into doing better. This isn’t a man who seems driven by financial incentives. He gives money away to charity in huge chunks. He has paid staffers out of his own pocket when he thought the athletic association wasn’t fairly providing for them. And Richt already is a competitor. The idea that he’d try harder to win a championship just to double his incentive money is laughable.
Andrew Smith writes: Hey Bill, I just watched ESPN’s Top 20 Roundtable discussion of UGA. The defense was praised with mentions of Jarvis, Kwame, John, and Alec. The offensive line and Aaron Murray were praised for potential but had their consistency questioned. The “weak” schedule was mentioned as an opportunity to make a run. These were all topics that you and others have alluded to often; however, the major standout for me was the question of whether this talented group of Bulldawgs will get out of their own way. After years of paranoid Munson mantra filled the airwaves I can’t help but wonder will the initial suspensions be all there are? Is Crowell really a different guy, tough enough to handle more than one offensive series a quarter? Intrinsic attributes are key!
The “College Football Live” discussion of Georgia’s 2012 prospects, which can be seen here, was overall pretty much on the mark and fair. They noted all the returning starters, the stout defense, Aaron Murray’s experience and the soft schedule, but also discussed the challenge of rebuilding the offensive line and Murray’s tendency to struggle when he’s under pressure. David Pollack also brought up Georgia’s offense being “a little bit dated” at times and the need to play even more uptempo than last year. But you’re right, I think Mark Schlabach and Todd Blackledge touched on the major question about this Georgia team in the face of starters missing games on suspension because of various infractions: getting out of their own way. The Dawgs have shown an alarming tendency to shoot themselves in the foot in recent years. Blackledge also makes a good point that it’s time for Murray to step up and be the leader this team needs.
Suzanne Copeland writes: In reading about the UGA athletic board’s discussion this week of what to do about empty student seats at home football games, I was surprised to see talk of taking priority away from fifth-year seniors and giving it to freshmen. Why would they want to do that? Doesn’t seniority count for anything any more?
The idea is that freshmen, who in recent years haven’t been able to get tickets to all home games, are likely to be more enthusiastic about actually attending the games than upperclassmen. Plus, if you get them in the habit of attending games from the start of their days at UGA, perhaps they’ll be better about continuing to show up in future seasons than the current upperclassmen. Basically, though, I think the only real solution is to return to hard tickets, instead of electronic tickets on student ID cards, and remove restrictions from students reselling their tickets. Until that’s done, you’re going to continue to see empty seats in the student section.
Scott Cooper writes: Hey Bill. I have been trying to get people persuaded that the uniforms that we wore back in the ’80s were the best looking uniform in college football. What would it take for us to get back to this clean and classic look? It’s a pretty good look wouldn’t you agree? And a lotta good teams wore them. We are not far off. Just want those 3 stripes back on the shoulders. Can you pull some strings and get them back?
If I had those kind of strings, I’d probably pull them in some areas other than uniforms, but I agree that the white road jerseys from the Herschel Walker era have a more classic look than what Nike currently has the Dawgs wearing. Perhaps they’ll show up again if Georgia plays a road game against a team that wants to go “retro” for the day. I think that would be pretty cool.
Jeremiah Johnson writes: Always love the Blawg! I’ve been catching wind of [Alabama coach Nick] Saban engaging some of Georgia’s commits, first Brice Ramsey and now Derrick Henry. I won’t lie, I kind of like this. It says something about the status of the program I think. If we lose one, I’d be willing for it to be Derrick Henry because the backfield is beginning to look a bit full. Your thoughts? Also, what do you think of the new Durante hire?
Hmmm, I suppose taking pride in Saban trying to poach UGA’s commitments is sort of like a guy who gets a kick out of other men hitting on his wife. You’re right that it does show Georgia is going after blue-chip players. I have to disagree with you, though, about losing Henry to Bama. In the SEC, you can never have enough top running backs. As for Danna Durante replacing Jay Clark as coach of the Gym Dogs, I don’t think it’s a move that is likely to wow many folks in the gymnastics world. Most of her experience is at Nebraska, a middling program, and her one year as head coach at California didn’t go that well. So I’d rate this hire as a wait-and-see. She’s coming into a difficult situation, with the legendary Suzanne Yoculan’s success still looming over the program.
Haden Mullinax writes: Hello Bill, I know there is a lot of serious concern about injuries during kickoff returns in football at most levels. I was wondering if the kickoff was made a flag football play? The runners would still be able to show their talents as a returner and the defenders could also continue to go all out to remove that flag. I would hope that would take away the dangerous contact without taking away a very important and exciting aspect of football. I have tried to get this suggestion to CMR at UGA but have not had any success. I know he considering alternatives. I would welcome your thoughts on this.
I’ll say this for your idea, it’s the most unique suggestion about making kickoffs safer that I’ve run across. Honestly, though, if the concerns over injuries/concussions gets to the point where they’re seriously considering altering or doing away with kickoffs in college football, as Mark Richt would like to do, I think treating it like a touchback is a more likely consideration. As Richt put it last year when discussing kickoffs, “I would just place the ball at the 23-yard line or whatever the average has been.” But, Richt noted, he doesn’t think the kickoff is going away any time soon.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg