Remember when Mike Bobo used to be Bulldog Nation’s favorite whipping boy? Then the Georgia offense went stratospheric under the former-quarterback-turned-offensive-coordinator (with a hand from Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley) … and Todd Grantham came along.
More and more Bobo’s contribution to Mark Richt’s program is being appreciated. Last year, Bobo signed a new three-year deal that gave him a decent raise to a salary of $575,000 after years of lagging on the list of SEC coordinators’ pay. And now, after managing to overcome a catastrophic run of injuries last season to still have one of the nation’s best offenses, Bobo has been rewarded by having another year tacked on to that contract, which now runs through the 2016 football season and its bowl games.
Athletic director Greg McGarity said Richt wanted Bobo and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to be “on the same page as far as the duration of their contracts.”
However, they’re not on the same page as far as compensation, with Pruitt making $850,000 annually, as did his late, unlamented predecessor.
Frankly, I believe Bobo deserved another raise in addition to a contract extension, considering what Georgia pays its defensive coordinators. Anyone who thinks Bobo isn’t every bit as important to the program as the defensive coach should look at the past two seasons, when the offense basically has carried the team.
SPEAKING OF CONTRACT EXTENSIONS
A couple of months ago, as Mark Fox’s basketball Bulldogs entered conference play with a disappointing 6-6 nonconference record and Fox widely considered to be coaching for his job, I don’t know anyone who expected Georgia to finish the season tied with Kentucky for second place in the SEC and getting a double-bye in the conference tournament because of its No. 3 seeding. After all, Georgia had been pegged in preseason to finish 11th in the SEC.
The fact that Fox managed to turn his team into the one other coaches in the conference say they don’t want to face as the Dogs approach a quarter-final game Friday night in the SEC tournament is pretty amazing. Georgia (18-12, 12-6 SEC) had its best SEC finish since it went 13-5 and won the league championship in 1990.
What’s even more amazing is that Fox did this with, at best, a modestly talented team. All along, we’ve known that Fox was a good game coach and an admirable steward of the program, taking care of his players and seeing them graduate. The knock on him as been his inability to land a big-name recruit other than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was SEC player of the year but left Athens early for the NBA after last season.
And yet, despite losing KCP and having a team whose best player, Charles Mann, only made second-team all-SEC, Fox guided his players to 12 conference wins, which tied for the second most in the program’s 81-year SEC history and included four tough victories on the road. If it hadn’t been for Billy Donovan’s Gators going 18-0, Fox might well have been been named SEC Coach of the Year.
As Kentucky’s John Calipari told Monday’s SEC basketball coach teleconference of Fox, “what he’s done and how they’ve played, and to go on the road and win a game that matters [at LSU last weekend to lock up the third seed] it just tells a lot. … They struggled early, but it’s a sign of a coach that keeps his team together and keeps them moving in the right direction. And right now they believe as much as anybody in our league that they have a chance to win this thing.”
South Carolina’s Frank Martin was right when he said that Fox “doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. … We’re in a business where everyone wants that instant gratification. Let me tell you something — Mark has built a program there. Mark has a system in place. He’s got young kids that are becoming grownups as we watch them and I think he’s the essence of the strength of our league.”
Yes, the bad early losses likely mean the only way Georgia can make it to this year’s NCAA tournament is to get the automatic bid that comes to the SEC tournament champion, which probably would require beating the high-flying Gators. But already the Dogs are considered a likely NIT team, and considering where they were at the end of December, that’s quite an accomplishment. Plus, Fox has a young team, which means Georgia’s prospects for next season look good in a conference that, after Florida, is middling at best.
Despite this season’s turnaround, however, UGA’s athletic director is still playing it coy about Fox’s future at Georgia. “Let’s wait until the season is over,” McGarity said Monday when asked about the basketball coach’s status.
Let’s say it plainly here: Not only does Mark Fox deserve to stay on as Georgia’s basketball coach, but with just two years remaining on his contract, McGarity needs to take away a negative recruiting tool for other programs by rewarding Fox with a contract extension.
Fox has earned such a vote of confidence.
Despite the loss of record-breaker Murray, voters in a recent ESPN SportsNation poll apparently don’t expect the football Dogs’ passing game to be any less productive in 2014 than it was last year.
With more than 8,500 votes cast in the poll, Murray’s replacement at quarterback, Hutson Mason, got 32 percent of the vote on who’s likely to throw the most touchdown passes in the SEC this coming season. South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson was next with 27 percent of the vote, followed by Auburn’s Nick Marshall with 19 percent and Bo Wallace of Ole Miss with 16 percent.
As ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff said, “It’s hard to argue with this one because Mason isn’t just talented; he has some quality receivers coming back. … from guys such as Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Oh, and he can just hand the ball off to a stable of running backs — starting with workhorse Todd Gurley — when he wants to give his arm a break.”
Obviously, a lot of folks think Mason is up to the challenge and can handle the pressure of following Murray … and that Bobo’s offense looks to have another good year.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg