Let’s go straight to the Junkyard Mail. …
Brian Stewart writes: I see a lot of gripe/debate going on about the SEC’s 6-1-1 schedule choice. I am all for preserving the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, but I also am a bit torn on whether or not I would be more in favor a 9-game conference schedule. On the one side, it would probably compare a lot better than this year’s home slate of games, replacing a Georgia Southern or Buffalo with another SEC team. On the other side, 9 conference games plus the rivalry with Tech would leave us very little wiggle room to fit in a tune-up during the season, and would pretty much destroy any hope of ever scheduling compelling out-of-conference games, like we tried to do with Ohio State. I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on these subjects?
My view on a nine-game conference schedule has been evolving, as someone once said. Originally, I was supportive of the stance the SEC coaches and athletic directors take: that adding a ninth game in what’s already college football’s toughest conference would be a strain on players and coaches and make it tougher to compete for the national championship. Plus it would mean in alternating years teams would have to play five of their nine conference games on the road. It also would be a problem for the three schools — Georgia, Florida and South Caroline — who have in-state nonconference rivals from BCS conferences. As long as the rivalry with Auburn was protected, I wasn’t too concerned with how often the Dogs saw other SEC West teams in Athens — which will be every 12 years under the eight-game (6-1-1) plan adopted by the conference this week. But I’m coming around to the arguments in favor of a nine-game schedule, namely that it would produce a more attractive overall schedule for the fans (one less cupcake), it would provide a stronger inventory of games for television (which should pay off financially) and it would put the conference in a stronger position if strength-of-schedule winds up figuring into how playoff teams are selected. With the eight-game schedule, the SEC is likely to come up short in that latter category. Of course, in big-time sports, the bottom line is usually the bottom line, and many observers think the SEC eventually will be forced to cave and overrule its coaches on playing a ninth game simply because the conference’s TV partners will demand it.
Walter Davison writes: Do you think Derrick Henry will honor his commitment and remain a Bulldog, or do you think he will sign with Alabama?
Well, Henry’s been a UGA commitment for nearly a year, but it’s not looking good. Alabama has put on a big recruiting push trying to flip him, and Henry’s comments have indicated he’s seriously looking at playing in Tuscaloosa. With Nick Saban’s success there, can you really blame him? I think perhaps the increasingly crowded tailback corps at Georgia, with the addition of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley in addition to Isaiah Crowell, might be a factor in Henry reconsidering whether he wants to go to UGA.
Gerry Pinkston writes: I was surprised to read this week that Hines Ward had signed with NBC as a sportscaster. I thought the reason he was hanging out in Athens with Mike Bobo this spring was because he was thinking about a coaching career. I was really hoping Hines would wind up on the UGA staff. Our players could really use someone with his work ethic as a role model. What happened?
Ward may still be considering a coaching career, but he indicated all along that it was likely to be at least a couple of years down the road and that he’d probably wind up on TV first. Thanks to last year’s “Dancing With the Stars” victory and his upcoming appearance in “The Dark Knight Rises” Batman film (check out his latest action figure, decked out as one of the Gotham Rogues in the movie), Hines is a hot media commodity right now, and you can’t expect him not to explore that fully. If he does eventually decide that coaching is what he wants to do, UGA is likely to have a good shot at getting him.
Jim Weber writes: Hi Bill. As a Bulldog I am extremely upset by the contract offered to Mark [Richt]. Mark is one, if not the best, of the coaches in the SEC, but paid as the 6th highest best coach in the league. I am unhappy that the university decided to save the money knowing Mark and his family wanted to stay and decided they could extend his contract by adding years and incentives, but not real annual dollars. They are lucky that Mark is not a dollar-motivated individual. … Give Mark what he is worth — he should be at least the 4th highest paid coach in the SEC. … If you want a great coach, you better treat him as a great coach. Go Dawgs.
I don’t think anyone questions that Richt is a good man. But as I noted last week, Richt’s 2011 record, coming off a losing season, was good enough to get him off the hot seat and won him the much-needed contract extension, but wasn’t really good enough to win a pay raise. However, should Georgia live up to its advance billing this season, I’m sure the question of Richt’s compensation will be revisited.
David Harvey writes: As a huge Bulldog fan living in Louisville, KY, I just want to thank you for your Blawg. It keeps me up to date on all the happenings down there. Just one question: Our special teams have been horrible over the past few years, it’s cost us a few games. Just want to know are we ever gonna get one coach to coach these guys? The committee thing just seems to be not working. Again, thanks for all you do.
I appreciate it, David. Richt has indicated he’s not likely to add a full-time special teams coach as long as current NCAA limits on coaches remain in place. As the coach said last fall, “I looked at it. But what happens is, if you have a guy that does only special teams, all of the sudden you’re robbing a position from the offense or defense. You’d be shorthanded on one or the other. So I decided to continue on with what we’ve done since I’ve been here, splitting up the roles.” Richt has indicated, however, that much more emphasis is being put on special teams play this season and a lot more starters are going to wind up playing kickoffs and punts. But if special teams play continues to be a disaster this year, you’ve got to wonder whether Richt might not think again about changing how he approaches that aspect of the game.
On the subject of student tickets, I heard from a couple of seniors this week who aren’t happy with the decision to give freshmen priority at getting seats in order to try and fill some of those thousands of empty seats in the UGA student section at home games. Micah Shue writes: Hi Bill, I love the Blawg!! As a current senior at UGA I have gotten home season tickets for my first three years and haven’t missed a game yet. I love the Dawgs and cannot imagine skipping a home game. I have read some articles about freshmen now getting priority for tickets. Will this really happen? Is that really fair to seniors like me? I know that the student section is not full at most games, but I would be extremely angered if some freshman got full home tickets and I only got half.
And on the same subject, Shane Ward writes: Hello Mr. King, I’m soon to be a senior at the fine University of Georgia. I recently read over the new provisions the athletic department is proposing for student ticketing and frankly, I find the system to be completely unnecessary and unfair. Coming in in 2009, I’ve seen most of the changes that [UGA President Michael] Adams has implemented come into play and muck up my opportunity to enjoy my football experience to its fullest. Firstly, the suspension of tailgating on North Campus after my first year was effective, but I believe was too much (including the new addendum to the rules from this year). Simple fixes were never considered or voted on by the student body who should have had some sort of say on the decision. This brings me to my next point, the new ticketing policy proposed by the athletic board. It is simply too complicated and unfair to the seniors who have waited years just for a chance to get to go to all the games. This will be the first year where I will (hopefully) be able to get a Florida and SEC championship game. The new rules make it seem as though freshmen, being of new faces and more excited (which I don’t believe if you have met my friends), will show up to every game. This will not be the case as we will see next year. Simple fix, as I’ve seen mentioned on the AJC before, is go back to hard tickets. I understand there is the possibility of students profiting on tickets, but why does that matter so much to the athletic department? I am sorry this turned into a rant, but one last question. Is there anyway to contact the athletic department or [Greg] McGarity to have our voices heard or are we screwed?
As you’ve correctly noted, the thinking 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. And I agree with you that a return to hard tickets would solve most of the attendance problems. I also can certainly understand seniors being concerned about what this will do to their seniority. The plan, as outlined in The Red and Black, is pretty complicated and includes priority for post-season tickets being based on attendance at previous games and then on seniority. So the best thing seniors can do is make sure they attend every game they get a ticket for. In the meantime, if you want to let the athletic association know what you think, the main phone number is 706-542-9036 and you can email McGarity at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Shirey Sr. writes: Several years ago, before I decided to stop contributing to the economy of Jacksonville each year, I was paired by the starter at a golf course in Jacksonville with the director of the UGA Band. In conversation I questioned him on the rationale for the band playing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as an intro for the team. He responded that is was the selection of Jim Donnan. I asked him if Donnan was aware of the fact that the Valkyries were the handmaidens that escorted the “fallen warriors” to Vahalla in Wagner’s Operas? His response was that he didn’t debate many things with Donnan since the coach also wanted to move the band to that section that was used by the visiting bands because the visiting band could be heard better throughout the stadium. It intrigued me that a coach had the time to concern himself with the acoustics of Sanford Stadium (that may have been Donnan’s problem). It is true that the location of the visiting band (Section 101) is more desirable because it doesn’t have to travel over an open area to circle the stadium. The west end zone allows the music from the UGA band location to leave the stadium as it circles around but it really only affects those sitting in the visitor’s section. I applaud the movement of the band back to the student section if it does become a fact.
“Ride of the Valkyries”? This must be one of those repressed memories from the Donnan era that refuses to resurface for me. They must not have played that very long, because I don’t remember it and I asked half a dozen other veteran fans, including one former Redcoat, and they don’t remember it, either! As to your point about the band’s location, I think the move to the west end one wasn’t the best choice because of the proximity of the visiting band, but a return to the old spot in the student section isn’t great, either, because the band can’t be heard very well in much of the stadium. I think putting the Redcoats in the middle of the student section that’s in the east end zone would be the best solution.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg