The Bulldog Nation seems a bit preoccupied lately with trying to read the signs and smoke signals and determine who’s going where on college football’s national signing day this coming Wednesday.
It’s like an old-fashioned cliff-hanger: Will a “confused” Laremy Tunsil escape the evil clutches of Hugh Freeze and return safely to the fold in Athens? (And just what kind of Kool-Aid is Freeze serving in Oxford these days?) Can Mark Richt lure Alvin Kamara away from “Nicky Satan” and his deer-antler spray?
Compelling storylines, all. But I’m not and never have been a recruitnik. I just can’t get too enthused about constantly following and fretting over the whims and mood swings of a bunch of 18-year-olds who are prone to change their minds every day or so.
I prefer to wait until we know how Richt and his staff actually did. So drop by after we find out Wednesday who the Dogs have signed, and we’ll talk a bit of recruiting.
In the meantime, let’s dig into some Junkyard Mail. …
Paul Angle writes: Bill, I heard some talk on sports radio recently that Greg McGarity and the athletic board are likely to give Mark Richt a pay raise soon. I’ll grant you that the past two seasons have been a great improvement over the malaise that had enveloped Georgia football since 2008, but I’m just not convinced UGA should be rewarding a head coach who hasn’t won the conference since 2005 and still doesn’t have a BCS title. Especially considering that the 2012 season was probably Georgia’s best shot for a while at getting to the national championship game, and Richt still didn’t get it done. What do you think, does he deserve a raise?
Short answer: Yes. First, let me say that the compensation of college football coaches in general has gotten insanely out of proportion over the past decade, but that’s unfortunately the system we have right now. Last year, Richt was the fifth best-paid coach in the SEC and if he doesn’t get a raise this year he’ll slip down to sixth. The top three are, not surprisingly, Nick Saban, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier. But without a raise Richt also will trail newcomers Bret Bielema at Arkansas and Butch Jones at Tennessee and be just barely ahead of Missouri’s Gary Pinkel! Judged on the basis of what his team has achieved the past two years, winning the SEC East and coming a whisker away from a spot in the BCS national championship game, Richt certainly deserves to be on a par with Spurrier and ahead of the new guys. As for complaints about what Richt has managed to accomplish at UGA, I like how Chris Low of ESPN put it recently: “He was one tipped pass from playing for the national title this season. He’s been to the SEC championship game each of the past two years. So he’s obviously swimming in the right waters. To win championships, the breaks have to go your way. But you also have to get there, and Georgia has done that the past two years under Richt.”
Several letter writers have had Georgia’s troubled men’s basketball program on their minds. Steve Yearta is representative of them when he writes: Bill, Things only seem to be getting worse for the basketball Dogs. With the abundant basketball talent in this state I don’t see why Georgia can’t at least be competitive in the SEC year in and year out. Do you think that Greg McGarity will look to make a coaching change at the end of the season if, to borrow a phrase, there’s no “significant improvement”?
While three wins in the past four conference games and some winnable matches coming up in an off-year for the SEC have the season not looking quite as dire for Mark Fox’s team as it did a couple of weeks ago, there’s no denying UGA basketball isn’t very good right now. The problem isn’t that Fox doesn’t know how to coach basketball, but he hasn’t had much recruiting success since Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left early to join the pros. Because of injury problems, some players not developing as quickly as anticipated and recruiting whiffs, the Dogs right now are basically a one-man team: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He’s a top-flight talent and was a major signing for Fox. But he’s not enough. Overall, the Dogs don’t shoot well, can’t hold a lead and can’t consistently make free-throws. Even some of Georgia’s wins have been pretty ugly, but that’s not surprising considering how many young players are getting substantial minutes on the court. “These guys need time. I’ve got a freshman, sophomore and freshman on the perimeter,” Fox noted recently. Unfortunately, the UGA basketball fan base typically only turns out for a winner that’s tournament-worthy, so crowds at the Steg are looking kind of sparse these days. Still, I don’t think a coaching change is likely this year. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has said he feels “really good about what Mark’s doing” in terms of “not taking any shortcuts.” So I think Fox will get another season to try to get KCP some help on the court. As Fox said, “We need a guy that can finish plays. We need a good player.” Bottom line: Fox needs to find a way to get some recruiting juice in Athens.
Jim P. writes: Bill, I don’t know who this Jason Aldean guy is, but he better be a Bulldog fan to have the honor of first crack at a Sanford Stadium concert in history! Honestly, I have mixed thoughts about concerts there. To me and many others Sanford Stadium is sacred, hallowed ground. After all, football is a religion here in the South! Yet, I can’t believe we said no to [Bruce] Springsteen. I hope concerts in the future are reserved only for singers/bands of such a high scale and regard.
Aldean, one of the biggest stars in country music, is indeed a lifelong Georgia Bulldog fan. The Macon native’s first game in Athens was Clemson in 2002, for which he had a sideline pass. He told ESPN a while back: “It was like going to church. I didn’t think it was possible, but I became an even bigger fan after that. Experiencing the players running by you and petting Uga … it was surreal. It was spiritual.” By the way, UGA is in good company playing host to one of the stadium dates on Aldean’s Night Train tour. The others: Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. As for future concerts, considering you’re talking acts that would need to sell at least 66,000 tickets, I don’t think anyone but a big name is likely to be considered for a show Between the Hedges.
Barry Clinton writes: Hi Bill. I was wondering what your take is on the planned four-team playoff. The BCS system is broken in my view and should be totally abandoned, but does this move toward a playoff really inprove on the flaws that clearly exist in the ranking mechanisms? For example, how in God’s name does Notre Dame still get a ranking of No.1 by one of the computer rankings? Talk about misrepresenting reality. Anyway, your take on this would be appreciated, and thanks again for the opportunities you provide through your blog.
Thanks, Barry. I think a four-team playoff will be an improvement over the BCS format but certainly won’t solve all the problems in determining a national champion or eliminate deserving teams getting left out. Generally, the thinking of college football gurus is that an eight-team playoff would be the best way to determine the final No. 1 team, but there’s not yet enough support for that. As for computer rankings, I’ve never been a fan of them and the recent case of the Colley Matrix, one of six computer systems used by the BCS, still ranking the Fighting Irish No. 1 even after they’d been demolished by Alabama in the BCS title game just showed how flawed they are.
Marie Doolittle writes: Bill, I really enjoy your Blawg and your devotion to the Dawgs. I’m also a lifelong Bulldogs fan and also a big fan of the SEC in general. I wasn’t crazy about the conference expanding to 14 teams and I’m still not sure Missouri is SEC-worthy, but it’s fun having Johnny Football in the conference. I’m not sure I want the conference to expand any further, though, and yet I keep reading that the Big 10 might make a move to trigger another round of conference expansions. If that happens and the SEC feels it must add schools, who would you like to see Mike Slive go after?
I’m with you, Marie, in that I really hope the SEC doesn’t grow beyond 14 teams any time soon. But if the dominoes start falling, the conference might not have a choice if it wants to stay competitive for TV money. As for who to go after, Florida State would be a marquee addition, but the Gators aren’t crazy about the idea and the general feeling is that if FSU bolts the ACC, they’re more likely to go to the Big 12. Virginia Tech is another program that would fit in well, especially in terms of football culture. But the scenario that I find most interesting would see the SEC going after North Carolina and Duke to bolster both its basketball and academic standing, in addition to adding the North Carolina, Virginia and District of Columbia TV markets. Virginia also would be a possibility. If the conference must expand, any of those schools would be good additions.
Steve Upshaw writes: Bill, Our fans are so very boring. Alabama, Auburn, Mizzou and most others acknowledge every first down. Bama yells “Roll Tide,” Vandy yells “First down Dores” after a first down. Missouri spells “MIZ-ZOU.” You get the point. We don’t acknowledge first downs at all. We need to do this by screaming “Go Dogs!” after each first down. Not doing/saying something is embarrassing.
Sounds like a pretty good idea to me, but something like that is only going to catch on if pretty much the entire student section takes it up. Maybe if someone involved with the cheerleading program reads your idea, they might give it a try.
That’s it for now. One last note: The 8th-ranked Gym Dogs return home at 4 p.m. Saturday to face their old nemesis, No. 5 Alabama, at Stegeman Coliseum. In addition to the meet itself, which should be a good one, it will be “alumni night,” with a celebration of past Gym Dog greats and the 1993 and 1998 national championship teams honored. Sounds like a fun way to spend a Saturday in Athens.
Got something you want to discuss about UGA athletics? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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