Say whatever you want about Georgia baseball coach David Perno but one thing I’ve always liked about him is his penchant for telling it like it is. Take this new business about his Bulldogs being ranked No. 1 in the land.
When I asked him about it, Perno didn’t jump into cliché-ridden coachspeak about how “it’s early in the season” and “the only poll the matters is the last one.” He didn’t say, “We don’t look at polls.”
What he did say was: “I completely embrace it. Our players, our program, our former players, we all embrace it. It’s awesome.”
Now I know and you know the Diamond Dogs haven’t exactly been taking on the New York Yankees in pre-conference play. They have feasted on the likes of Youngstown State, Presbyterian, Wofford and Quinnipiac in building a school-record-setting 12-0 ledger. There was the trip to Tucson for three games against a rebuilding Arizona squad so we have to give them credit for that. But the key word therein is “feasted.” It hasn’t even been close. Last time I checked Georgia has not trailed at the end of an inning ALL YEAR [late edit note: The streak ended at 101 innings vs. Quinnipiac]. That’s crazy!
So after starting the season scattered all over the rankings, the Bulldogs on Monday landed on top of two of the polls. They’re now No. 1 according to Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. We could go on forever about whether Georgia deserves to be ranked No. 1. To start with there are way too many polls, four main ones and a slew of others (FWIW, the Bulldogs are 8 by Baseball America and 2 by ESPN/USA Today/Coaches). So that just could never be resolved and that’s not my point anyway.
My point is how Georgia is handling its ranking. Perno went on to say that the Bulldogs might have been more wary of such a distinction in years past but that this one is a result of what Georgia has done in recent years — it was College World Series runner-up last year and has played in three of the last five — as well as what this year’s team is doing. So it’s a program thing. And be sure, he believes his is a great program.
“I trust our players. They realize they need to keep it in perspective,” Perno said. “A lot of these guys were in the national championship game, so they know perspective. That wasn’t that long ago. But this is as much about ‘04, ‘06 and ‘08 as it is about ‘09. We appreciate that recognition and we feel like we can handle it.”
There are some that will label Perno as brash or cocky, and maybe he is. But this isn’t like Lane Kiffin who hasn’t done anything yet. If you haven’t been paying attention Perno has a good bit about which to be confident.
He is one of only 12 men in NCAA history to take three teams to the CWS in his first seven years. Georgia has won just three SEC Championships since 1955 (six overall) and Perno managed Georgia to two of them (’04, ‘08) and was an assistant for the other (’01 under Ron Polk). Suddenly first-, second- and third-round draft picks are not only signing with Georgia but actually showing up as freshmen and coming back for their senior seasons. Lest we forget, these things are always about players.
As for Perno, he’s enjoying the limelight. Besides, he feels peer pressure.
“You have to be ranked No. 1 just to keep up with the coaches at Georgia,” Perno quipped. “Suzanne (Yoculan) in gymnastics, Mark (Richt) in football, Jack (Bauerle) in swimming, men’s and women’s tennis and golf. I’m just trying to do my part.”
And he’s not shying away from it.