ATHENS — What about Frank Sinkwich? What about Charley Trippi? What about outstanding individual athletes in Georgia’s 14 sports other than football.
That’s the problem Greg McGarity has with the “Herschel Walker Statue Project.”
Is the Heisman Trophy winner and star player on the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship team deserving of a statue? Absolutely, McGarity says.
But are not those aforementioned individuals also?
“You have to look at the program as a whole, with all sports,” McGarity said Friday. “Once you make a decision to single out certain individuals for accomplishments, then what is the domino effect? We have 14 other sports here that have had some tremendous accomplishments from certain individuals. There are just so many moving pieces that it just has to be an institutional decision. Right now there has been no discussion about that.”
Rob Saye, a freelance photographer, UGA alumnus and Bulldogs fan extraordinaire, decided earlier this week to create a Facebook Page – aptly named “Herschel Walker Statue Project” — calling on Georgia fans to get behind the idea of erecting a statue of the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner somewhere on campus. The reaction, as might be expected, has been passionate.
McGarity has listened politely, but it doesn’t sound as if it’s something that is going to happen any time soon.
“What I’ve told people is we’ll consider it at the right time, but the right time is not right now,” McGarity said. “You basically have to have an institutional philosophy on something like that for every sport and how the university handles such things in general.”
Generally, UGA hasn’t been big on statues. Just last fall it erected a statue of Abraham Baldwin, the university’s founding father, on North Campus. There’s a life-size bronze sculpture of benefactor Bernard Ramsey sitting on a bench, also on North Campus. As for athletics, a statue of former coach and athletic director Vince Dooley was unveiled on the corner of South Campus in 2008. And that came only after considerable public debate and private fundraising.
Otherwise, there are only busts of Dr. Steadman Sanford, Dan Magill and Frank Foley in front of the respective athletics facilities bearing their names.
“Very rarely has there been individual recognition on this campus or in our facilities,” McGarity said. “That’s something you have to be very careful about how you approach it. Once you start you better have a plan to be inclusive.”
Saye appears to have gotten the message. He and his cohort Jimmy Taylor softened their “call to revolution” approach when they updated the status of the Facebook page late Thursday night.
“Thanks so much for everyone’s support of this idea! We have definitely gotten a lot people’s attention!
“This effort has exceeded all of our expectations and is going strong. When we started on Saturday, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Lots of things are now coming into view and becoming clear as we move forward.
“At this stage, we ask for your continued support and patience, as we navigate the proper channels within the various UGA organizations that we will need to partner with to bring this project to fruition. Please also keep in mind, as we have learned, that we are looking at at least a one-year timeline for the design and construction of the statue!
“The bottom-line is that we started this in good faith with the goal of honoring our greatest player with a permanent tribute and a charitable foundation that will continue to contribute positively to the community. We move forward with these goals still in place and the resolve to work within the system to achieve this mission.
“Thank you again for your support. More to come as we work the process!”
But what got Saye – and subsequently other Georgia fans – motivated about the starting the “Herschel Project” in the first place was seeing how many other football players at other schools had statues. There’s Doug Flutie at Boston College, Ricky Williams at Texas and Johnny Unitas at Louisville, just to name a few. Last April, Florida unveiled statues of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow, its three Heisman Trophy winners. And Auburn is building monuments to Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson this year.
Even Walker seems to like the idea. Though he couldn’t be reached for comment, he sent out this tweet via Twitter on Thursday: “Hey UGA Fans.Thanks for your support on the ‘Herschel Walker Statue Project’ page on Facebook!! Totally honored!!”
But McGarity said that Georgia can’t be influenced by what others are doing.
“It’s more or less a philosophical approach that the athletic association and the institution must have and I’m not even aware of what the policies are,” McGarity said. “Is this something we would consider for the future? I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about it. I don’t want to be disrespectful but that’s not a priority for us right now and it just opens the door to so many other things.
“Right now it’s just not on our radar.”
What do you think?