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Post What’s happened to the Bulldog Club?

Tuesday August 1, 2006

If you were among the Dawg fans at yesterday’s Atlanta Bulldog Club meeting at Colony Square, you probably noticed a lot of empty chairs. Many people chose to stand, but the room wasn’t packed by any stretch. For the first time in a while, attendence at the Road Tour was off quite a bit this year. I’m getting much the same story from other locations, including Macon, Roswell, and Jacksonville.

I’ll admit that for the first time in several years I decided to skip the Atlanta meeting. Why? To be honest, I kind of knew what to expect and didn’t see much point in fighting Atlanta traffic. I was pretty happy with what I heard at the Roswell meeting last month. As it turns out, I was able to see the meeting thanks to the free online broadcast via the athletic association’s gXtra service. As I watched the broadcast, I felt pretty justified in my decision to stay home. I think I can put my finger on a few reasons why the annual "rubber chicken circuit" is becoming less and less important to fans.

  • Less-than-impressive organization and marketing. The athletic association just doesn’t seem interested in promoting the Bulldog Club events. Either they expect fans to find out the information on their own, or they expect the local clubs to handle their own promotion. If it weren’t for word-of-mouth on message boards and blogs, I don’t think many people would have known about the events at all. I’m hardly out of touch with Georgia athletics, and I had to dig to find information about a meeting in my area that featured Coach Richt but which wasn’t on the official Road Tour schedule. It’s a shame, because the technical aspects of the events are well-done. The videos are always entertaining. Last night’s meeting was broadcast online via gXtra. That takes some technical chops to pull off. Georgiadogs.com did promote the Atlanta meeting – on the day of the event.
  • Fewer questions about the program. Let’s face it, the interest in the football program drives these events. The program is riding high with few core changes. Oh, of course there are some positional questions and the usual "how good will we be" or "what the heck happened against West Virginia" stuff, but fans are more or less confident that things will work out reasonably well. If there is a common question in this offseason, it’s "who’s going to be the quarterback?". Anyone with a shred of sense knows that question won’t be answered before preseason practices, so it’s not something on which we expect to gain much insight from the Road Tour. How many times can you hear Coach Richt say, "I don’t know who the quarterback will be."?
  • Diluted and recycled information. Last night in Atlanta, Mark Richt was one of six speakers including three other coaches, Damon Evans, and an emcee. The format had him address some canned questions and then open the floor to some (mostly awful) fan questions, and his portion of the meeting took less than half an hour. You learned more about the program reading a transcript from SEC Media Days. I’m not criticizing Coach Richt for what he does or does not reveal at these events. It’s the nature of the event. He’s not going to reveal his super-secret depth chart that he’s been saving for this meeting, and he doesn’t want to be the next coach to put a foot in his mouth with a "55 years" comment. Many of the fans are tuned into the program year-round now thanks to the Internet, and a lot of the usual questions we have before a season have been dealt with over and over online. Since most of the Bulldog Club meetings follow more or less the same format, a good recap posted online from one event can be enough for most.

I understand that the Road Tour is an inconvenience for all. Richt starts fall camp in less than a week. Basketball coaches are in the middle of recruiting. The full fleet of interns there during the academic year probably isn’t around to help. But what it all adds up to is that the athletic association and the Bulldog Club system are just going through the motions now, and the empty seats show that fans are beginning to notice.

Am I missing something? What is the future of Bulldog Club meetings? Maybe it’s a good thing – these events have more or less turned into pep rallies, and the Bulldog Nation doesn’t need much of a pick-me-up these days. Despite the questions and uncertainties of a new season, Dawg fans have faith in their coach and have just maybe taken on a little bit of his relaxed confidence.

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