Like many of you, I’m headed over to Athens Saturday for the annual G-Day Game.
As was the case last year, we’ll see one team with the first-string offense and second-string defense and the other team with the first-string defense and second-string offense. At this writing, rosters hadn’t been announced, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will coach one team and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will coach the other.
Admission to the 1 p.m. game at Sanford Stadium is free, though the UGA Athletic Association is teaming up again with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia and is encouraging fans to donate a bag of canned food at the game. Fans are asked to drop their bags of donated canned goods into the receptacles upon entering Sanford Stadium. Bins will be located at the Main Gate and Gates 2, 4, 6 and 9.
The game will be preceded by the lettermen’s flag football game featuring Bulldog names from the past at 11 a.m. Also, the Student Alumni Association is holding a tailgate at 10:30 a.m. on Tate Plaza with popcorn, face-painting, games and appearances by Hairy Dawg, the Recoats and more. And former Dog Rennie Curran will sign his new book “Free Agent” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the UGA Bookstore.
If you can’t make it to Athens, Saturday’s game will be televised live by CSS.
Now, let’s get to some Junkyard Mail …
Ben Gibson writes: Seems like every spring there’s a player whose performance gets everyone excited, and this year it seems to be early enrollee Tray Matthews, who looks like he could wind up as a starter despite being a true freshman. What do you think of him, Bill, and is there anything else you’ve heard out of spring practice that’s got you excited?
Like everyone else of the Red and Black persuasion, I’m anxious to see Matthews in action. Both coaches and players have been raving about him and the big hits he’s been delivering this spring at safety. I’m hopeful that he brings more than just big hits to the secondary, as we’ve seen in the past some players who concentrated more on delivering the boom than on their pass coverage. Speaking of passes, another spring development that’s got me excited is the apparent plan to get star tailback Todd Gurley more involved in catching them. Gurley said recently that he’s “been in on a lot of the pass stuff” during drills and that he hopes to improve on last season, when he caught 11 balls for 117 yards. Let’s hope the idea of getting the ball to Gurley in the open field when he’s already running full-speed is as enticing to Mike Bobo as it is to those of us in the stands!
JD, who has a son in high school going through the college baseball recruiting process, writes: My take on the UGA baseball disaster: Scouts have told me UGA has the second worst facilities in the SEC. It does not seem the [athletic] department cares about baseball. This hurts [coach David] Perno’s recruiting. Most of the top Atlanta area talent signs with Tech. UGA gets the outside Atlanta talent. Guess where all the talent is, year in year out. UGA should be able to be competitive utilizing the HOPE to effectively add a number of scholarships not available to most out of state schools. I have no idea of the solution. Perno seems to be a pleasant guy who knows baseball, but the program is not headed in the right direction. Since the runner-up finish [in the College World Series], we’ve been on a steady downhill trend. Is it recruiting? Facilities? Support from the athletic department? Inquiring minds want to know.
I don’t have any easy answers either, JD, but I think you’ve nicely framed the problem. While Greg McGarity may well decide at the conclusion of this season that coaching is part of the problem, I think the facilities/recruiting issue looms large.
Foley Field, built in 1966 and refurbished in 1990, seats an official capacity of 3,291 (all chairback seats since 2011), which makes it the second smallest baseball field in the SEC. Only the University of Kentucky’s is smaller. In comparison, South Carolina, which won back-to-back national titles in baseball in 2010 and 2011, spent $36 million a couple of years before that building a deluxe stadium that holds 8,200 (6,600 seated). The conference’s traditional baseball powers have the biggest stadiums: 10,150 for LSU and 15,000 for Mississippi State.
Is a bigger facility needed? On the one hand, UGA ranked 32nd in Division 1 baseball attendance last year, averaging 2,050 per home game, but that was with a mediocre team. When the team is good, bigger crowds than the capacity have been drawn by the Diamond Dogs, with the record being 4,461 for a regular season game against Mississippi State in 2009. Still, it’s a fact of life on the current college sports scene that facilities do matter in recruiting.
As for whether UGA’s athletic department cares about baseball, I’d say the answer is a qualified yes. What’s envisioned as a $10 million program of upgrades to Foley is under way, though most of the initial renovations are cosmetic (new scoreboard with HD video, better sound system, planting trees). They’re still raising funds and studying what to do beyond that besides a nicer main entrance and fan plaza out front and a wider concourse and new restrooms inside. Plans also call for improvements to the dugouts, the home locker room and team lounge, training room and batting cages. All of those improvements might help in recruiting, but capacity is still something that impresses high school kids.
What about drastically expanding Foley or building a new stadium? Part of the problem is that there isn’t much room for expansion at the landlocked current location of Foley Field. One option, of course, would be to build a brand new stadium out near the softball and soccer stadiums on Milledge Avenue. That would most likely require a lot of money, though, and I kind of like the idea of the baseball field being on the main campus.
A few years back, two designs were unveiled for revamping Foley Field at its current location. One would involve a completely new structure, with the field rotated so that home plate would be in what is now right field. The other (presumably less expensive) plan would simply add seating all the way down the outfield lines of the existing stadium.
I think the latter sounds doable, plus I don’t see why the tiny section of bleachers currently situated at the base of Kudzu Hill (where university officials no longer allow the baseball team’s rowdy equivalent of the old Sanford Stadium tracks crowd to gather) couldn’t be expanded considerably into a proper grandstand. Combined with the already planned upgrades, such an expansion would turn cozy Foley Field into a venue that could be pretty intimidating — and might well turn the heads of more of those high school prospects.
David Scott writes: Hey I have a question related to the uniforms, Why in the —– have we heard people talking about the gray britches versus silver for several years and then we hear [Greg] McGarity say he would like us to get back to that (yippee) and the Dallas Cowboys being Nike and having the silver … so why can’t we do it now, what takes so freaking long? Why hasn’t someone asked Nike to give us the correct pants 2 years ago?
You’re referring to comments McGarity made to the Macon Telegraph after announcing UGA’s uniform tweaks this week. He said that the pants the football team wears could eventually be a more obvious silver, rather than the more grayish ones they’ve been wearing in recent seasons since they went to a different fabric from the one with the sheen seen in earlier years.
“As new technology comes up, as new fabric becomes available, you’ll see that morph into maybe more [like] our silver britches,” McGarity said. “It all has to do with what kind of fabric and color these people do. You know, kind of like the [Dallas] Cowboys wear? That’s the kind of silver you’d like to get, which is kind of like what we used to have, which had kind of a shine to them. It just depends on how fast they can get that material. That’d be the goal, to get it back to the silver britches. That’s the overall goal. And Nike’s one of the few that can do that, because they’ve got some of it in the NFL now.”
Of course, McGarity’s comment raises the excellent question you ask, David as to why Nike doesn’t go ahead and provide the new fabric Georgia wants with a sheen now instead of having to “morph” into it, as McGarity said. It’ll be interesting to see how long that takes.
On a related note, Janice Bowen writes: Bill, I’m dismayed by that “secondary” Bulldog logo unveiled this week along with the new uniforms. Ugh! I can’t believe they actually paid somebody for that design. And why do we need a new logo anyway? What’s wrong with the traditional logo of the Bulldog head with the cap and spiked collar? Or the traditional standing Bulldog? I don’t understand why they’re constantly trying to mess with traditions at UGA. What do you think of the new logo?
You’re not alone, Janice, in not being too thrilled with the new secondary logo. Most fans I’ve heard from don’t think much of it, and I have to agree it looks rather like the generic bulldog logos that companies who haven’t paid UGA a licensing fee usually come up with.
This isn’t the first time, though, that the school has come up with a new secondary logo. Remember the mod-looking standing bulldog introduced in the 1990s? It never caught on and you rarely see it these days, and I have a feeling that’s going to be the outcome with this new logo.
Meanwhile, UGA will continue to license the traditional logos, so you’ll still be able to get T-shirts, etc. with the classic look.
Lastly, here’s a post-script to last week’s report on the Band Bowl IV football game between the UGA and Georgia Tech bands. Tony Floyd of the Redcoats tells me the Redcoats won 35-7. He adds that the Redcoats will be playing Georgia State University’s band April 27 in Athens and he’ll send along more details about location and time later. Thanks, Tony. And go Redcoats!
Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or maybe a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg