I’m back from a few days off, during which Georgia got a fresh face as a new baseball coach, a familiar face as a new assistant basketball coach, the SEC sports information directors predicted UGA again will win the East, single-game tickets were put on sale for the North Texas and Kentucky games as well as a few single season tickets, the post-spring depth chart showed John Theus still has some work to do, and Mark Richt reminded us that whether Josh Harvey-Clemons played or not, the Dogs were going to start a very inexperienced secondary against Clemson. Oh, and he also let us know that the “Gurshall” nickname is so last year.
Now that we’re up to date, let’s get to some of the Junkyard Mail that has stacked up in my absence …
Don Joel writes: Now, Bill, I know you are a homer and that’s fine. But, please. [Greg] McGarity isn’t sensitive to the needs of Athens. Why? Because scheduling North Texas and Appalachian State means fewer fans show up in Athens for those games. Fewer fans, less in revenue. And that hurts Athens and its merchants. So, have one such game and do a five-star with the other slot. The Tech game means a lot of folks come to see the game that don’t stay in Athens for the weekend. Can you imagine the excitement that a UGA-Michigan home game would engender? [SEC Commissioner Mike] Slive is right about the cupcakes issue and I’ve detested it for years. Only thing it does is insure a meaningless win (we played a bunch of those types in the past years) and create a false impression of how good we really are or aren’t. In addition, it exposes players to injury in a meaningless contest.
Aaron Murray got well playing the likes of Buffalo and Florida Atlantic. And, it was a down year in the Eastern Division, too. The two best teams were SC and UF and we got killed by SC and we won out over Florida. So I’m not as sanguine as most folks, especially the scribes, about our chances in 2013. I’d love to be. We lost a lot of folks from that defense who couldn’t hold an 11-point lead against Bama twice, if memory serves. We’re replacing those guys with lesser lights. And, if Clemson’s offense is as good as the press says (never a reliable source about things like that), then we are headed for big trouble in South Carolina on Aug. 31. My feeling is that this game is a standoff. Clemson’s not as good as advertised. We aren’t, either. Game won or lost on defense.
The Dogs have a pretty loyal following in us homers. We might grumble and, true, some folks tend to skip the games against the lesser opponents with directional names (or give their tickets away to friends or neighbors), so all 92,746 seats aren’t filled. But while exact attendance figures (as opposed to tickets sold) haven’t been released for the cupcake games in Athens, my eyes tell me the stadium is still pretty full on those days, not counting the upper reaches of the student section (which is a problem even for good games). More importantly from an Athens perspective, the parking lots I pass on the way to the stadium are still full (though you do see fewer folks tailgating along Lumpkin for a noonish game) and Athens itself seems pretty busy on even lesser game days. So, I think if you gave the merchants of the Classic City a choice between having any home game, no matter who it is, and having one fewer game in Athens while the Dogs fulfill the second half of a home-and-away deal with a major school, they’d choose Western Whoever in Athens.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Georgia play a school like Michigan or Texas. Or, really, I’d like to see the Dogs play Clemson more often. But unless Slive gets the conference to mandate tougher nonconference opponents, that’s not going to happen if the SEC goes to nine conference games. And, let’s be honest, just because it’s an SEC opponent doesn’t make it an attractive matchup. I’ve seen empty seats at games against the conference bottom-feeders, though, granted, not as many as at the cupcake games. As for “meaningless” wins, in this day and age, with TV revenue and your better teams jockeying for postseason position, I don’t think any win is ever considered meaningless. And, as McGarity has pointed out in the past, those games help develop depth as the coaches get to empty the benches and give little-used team members more playing time.
As for the 2013 outlook, you’re right that Georgia’s defense lost a lot of folks, but while their replacements are less experienced (no matter who starts, as Mark Richt noted this week), I don’t think it’s fair to characterize them as “lesser lights.” There’s a lot of talent on this team, and if they prove more motivated than last year’s defense, which apparently thought it could coast on its reputation at times, the 2013 defense could turn out to be an improvement. As I’ve said before, I think Clemson will be able to put up points, but so will Georgia. And I tend to like the Dogs in a shootout.
Jim P. writes: Bill, When I read about the financial budgets and projects being doled out every spring from Athletic Association meetings, I often wonder: How about a project to increase the seating capacity of Sanford Stadium to most in the SEC or possibly even the nation? We’re practically at 100,000 now. I admit this would largely be a Bulldog Pride thing. But the additional seats can also serve the new Young Alumni seating program. Plus, more seats, more revenue. I understand it’s tough enough at times to fill seats during the cupcake games. And the current crop of students are helter skelter on attending games. But three points: 1) All the current seats are sold (for the most part) regardless of whether people show up, meaning the market/demand is there. 2) UGA is addressing the students’ lack of attendance through the above mentioned Young Alumni program. 3) It appears to be inevitable the SEC is going to add a ninth conference game. That eliminates one cupcake game and increases ticket demand. Also, there are architectural integrity and design issues to deal with, but they almost always seem to be overcome by the brightest architectural minds. I did want to make clear that I would like this without enclosing the end zone by the bridge. Looking out of that part of stadium is part of its charm and it should never, ever be enclosed. Any thoughts?
It’s true that Georgia was second in the conference last year (after Alabama) in average attendance, with 92,703, and that the decline at Sanford Stadium (from an average of 92,746 in 2008) was much less than the drops suffered by other schools, including Tennessee and Florida. But while Texas A&M plans to add 20,000 seats to its stadium, making it the largest in the conference and third-largest in the country, the Aggies also have 31,000 of their 50,000 students attending their games, so seats are at a premium there. Still, the attendance trend in college football argues against most schools, including Georgia, undertaking a major seating expansion any time soon. And with the SEC so alarmed by dropping attendance that it’s got a group studying how to compete with the comforts of home (where fans have easy access to large-screen TVs, WiFi and cheap food and drink), a case can be made that schools like UGA would be better off revamping their stadiums to have nicer, larger seats (which would mean decreasing the number of seats overall). As MrSEC argued recently, creating “impact” seating, upgrading food and adding in-game apps that can only be used inside the stadium might be the best way to make game day more attractive to fans. They’d probably have to charge more, of course, but I imagine there’d still be plenty of folks willing to pay for a more enjoyable game experience.
Chris Pugh writes: Bill, I’ve been a UGA fan since 2nd grade. I’m only 25 years old, so the whole history I’m not too sure of. I’ve always heard about this feud with [Vince] Dooley and [outgoing UGA President Michael] Adams but I’ve never been able to find out what it was about. I know Dooley wanted some more years as athletic director and didn’t get it, but I wanna know the whole story. I love studying about UGA’s past. Could you please explain it to me or give me a link to something that explains it to me?
Chris, a whole book could be written on the situation between Adams and Dooley — and, in fact, the late Rich Whitt, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, did just that in “Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics at the University of Georgia,” published in 2009. You can read from it here, but to boil down the Dooley-Adams imbroglio for you, there just wasn’t enough room in the UGA athletics spotlight for the two of them. Adams came to Athens determined to play a very active role in overseeing athletics at UGA, and he did so for better (forcing Dooley to fire Jim Donnan, resulting in the hiring of Richt) and worse (pressuring Dooley to hire the ethically challenged Jim Harrick, resulting in an eventual meltdown of the UGA basketball program). You can read what Dooley wrote about Adams in his book “History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia” (which you’d probably enjoy in general). Whether you believe Adams was right in wanting to hold Dooley to his previously agreed departure date or that he was an egotistical meddler who couldn’t stand having a strong athletic director, the bottom line is that the transition was handled horribly and hurt the school. It probably cost Adams a shot at being NCAA president, too. Of course, you can’t really judge Adams’ time at UGA solely by the Dooley affair and, much as some Bulldog backers hate to admit it, the president has done a lot of good things for the university. But his handling of the situation with the legendary coach certainly wasn’t one of them.
Jackie Bowers writes: Bill, I was very disappointed by the lack of support among other SEC schools for having a conference-wide policy on how to handle drug use by athletes. But I guess I wasn’t really surprised, since the lax policies some schools operate under (I’m thinking Florida and LSU, in particular) no doubt gives them a competitive advantage over UGA. What do you think it’s going to take to get the playing field leveled on this?
One thing I’m pretty certain of, Jackie: UGA won’t relax its policy. As for the other schools, whether it’s to maintain a competitive advantage or because some athletic directors and presidents really believe the conference shouldn’t be telling individual members how to deal with drug use by athletes, Georgia’s proposal for a uniform conference policy basically garnered no traction at all this year. And I doubt that’s going to change unless Mike Slive either comes around to Greg McGarity’s way of thinking on the issue or, more likely, comes to the conclusion that it would be to the conference’s long-term benefit to have everyone on the same page. Slive can make it happen. If he chooses not to, it probably won’t.
Connor Kelly writes: Hi Bill, Just wanted to bring this exciting news to your attention: The UGA ice hockey team is attempting to do what I long considered impossible: bring an ice rink to Athens. I am a 2010 graduate of UGA, and a rabid football fan. I also played on the club ice hockey team during my days as a student. The team is mostly made up of transplants from the North (I am from Michigan) with a few local Georgia boys as well. The team is quite competitive, and a few current members even had NCAA opportunities but chose to play for Georgia on the HOPE scholarship instead.
The team has actually been around since 1987, and plays in an annual tournament in Savannah called the Savannah Tire Hockey Classic, which is currently the biggest sporting event Savannah hosts every year. UGA, GT, UF and FSU compete in this tournament annually, which is held in the 5,000-seat MLK civic center. We sell it out every year, and Uga is always in attendance as well. The Dawgs are the 2013 defending champs.
Home games, however, are not nearly as glamorous. The team currently commutes over 50 miles each way to play in Duluth. Players pay to play, and help offset costs with merchandise sales and fundraisers. Dues typically approach $2,000 per season. The drive is so far, the only fans tend to be parents, with a few students as well. This is why the team has launched a grassroots effort to build an ice rink in Athens. Now, ice rinks are not cheap, but if enough students and Athens residents get behind it, it could become a reality. Here is a link to a survey currently being done to gauge support for an ice rink in Athens. And another for non-Facebook users. Beyond UGA home games, it could be used for public skating, youth hockey and Greek events. Just wanted to see if you could help spread the word to the Bulldog fan base so we can make this a reality. An ice rink would just be another feather in the cap of the already dynamic Classic City. Go Dawgs!
Connor, I wish you and the Ice Dogs lots of luck in this endeavor. I imagine some sort of feasibility study is in the works, to determine whether the Athens area really could financially support such a facility. Perhaps a good approach would be to convince the powers that be at UGA that a skating rink would be a great addition to the school’s recreational facilities — for use by the student body and public as well as for hockey. Please keep us updated on how this progresses.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg