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Post 2006-2007 Bottom 10 Moments in the DawgNation

Monday July 2, 2007

With the 2006-2007 academic and athletic year completed, Georgia finished a respectable 12th in the 2007 Director’s Cup – not the best showing in recent years, but nothing to be ashamed of either. Two national titles (gymnastics and men’s tennis) were at the top of the highlights, and we’ll get to those top stories soon. But first, we’ll take a look back first at some of the lower points from the past year.

10. "I’m Georgia!"

OK, I understand the proceeds went to a really, really good cause. I bought a few towels myself for that reason alone. But manufactured enthusiasm always seems a little artificial and often cheesy. The "I’m Georgia" campaign was both. It became painful watching former Georgia greats trying to rally the Sanford Stadium crowd in their middle-aged monotones. "You want me to wave this towel and say what?!" But because they distributed so many towels and the kids love them – kids love anything free – the "I’m Georgia" towels are barnacles on the Georgia program that will be hanging on for several years.

9. Basketball collapse at Alabama.

It’s unfair to label any particular game as the reason why Georgia missed the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s not even clear that another win would have made the difference. Still, a double-digit lead against Bama represented a rare chance to get a quality road conference win. The questionable finish only made the missed opportunity more painful. This game wasn’t the only time that the Dawgs blew a decent lead late in the game; Western Kentucky handed Georgia its first loss of the season with a late rally from ten points down. Either one of those wins would have been nice to have. Both together might have earned the Dawgs a bid.

8. Women’s golf embarassment.

The mysterious resignation of women’s golf coach Todd McCorkle turned into an uncomfortable if not creepy story filled with charges of harrassment and other conduct inappropriate for someone in his position (and most anyone over the age of 14). McCorkle resigned his position but remains with the athletic association, an arrangement that I agree creates a lose-lose situation.

There’s another angle to the story that didn’t get much play – the spokesperson-parent. Art Leon, father of star player Taylor Leon, triggered an investigation by complaining to administrators "after his daughter said she was berated by McCorkle at the Bryan Intercollegiate (tournament)." While I consider the harassment charges very serious and worthy of the reaction they received, I am not so quick to sympathize with parental claims of "verbal abuse" that resulted because a coach got in a player’s face.

Mr. Leon comes across a bit differently in this quote from the AJC following McCorkle’s resignation: "I’m shocked, surprised, just flabbergasted…Todd’s a great coach. I just saw him at SECs and everybody was happy and jubilant." A week later, Leon told the ABH, "He’s the type of guy you feel like you’d like to have a beer with, but he has no place being a coach of women’s golf." Hm. OK.

7. UGA: home of the minor alcohol-related incident.

From Akeem Hebron to Ian Smith to Tasha Humphrey, the campus crackdown on underage drinking left its mark on Bulldog athletics. For the football team, the incidents resulted in another round of early-season suspensions, and Hebron was suspended by the University. In the case of Humphrey, her suspension led to chemistry issues on the team that weren’t really sorted out until the final month of the season. Given the climate withing the campus administration, the overzealousness of local police, and the automatic suspensions mandated by the athletic department, you’d think the message to be smarter about drinking might be getting out to student-athletes. But this next academic year hasn’t gotten off to a great start either.

6. Quarterback indecision.

A year later, it seems like a hazy dream. But a year ago, Georgia fans were debating whether or not Joe Tereshinski’s unproven ability to "manage the game" (whatever that meant) was enough to give him the nod at quarterback over less-experienced but more talented options. Ideally, the question would have played itself out in August. Unfortunately, the quarterback question ended up dragging into the middle of the season and not settled for certain until the Mississippi State game, the eighth game of the season. Along the way we had an injury to the starter, a solid debut from the freshman phenom, an off-the-bench rescue by a third quarterback, and several close calls. Eventually the job was won by Matthew Stafford, but his on-the-job training during the middle part of the season included some very harsh lessons. It’s impossible to say how the season would have turned out had Stafford started the whole time, but that doesn’t keep fans from wondering.

5. Big Three vs. Florida.

0-fer. Sweep. Georgia’s "big three" men’s sports of football, basketball, and baseball all played their part in the Year of the Gator. The Gator football team held off a second-half comeback from the Dawgs en route to SEC and national titles. Florida’s outstanding basketball team was never seriously challenged in three games against Georgia including the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Georgia’s best chance for a win was against a struggling Gator baseball team, but even a Florida team that would finish under .500 and fire its coach managed to sweep a three-game series in Athens. Thank goodness for other sports like tennis, gymnastics, and women’s basketball which took care of their own business against Florida, but a turnaround in the "big three" can’t come quickly enough.

4. Baseball roller coaster hits bottom.

I guess we should have seen it coming. Georgia baseball has had a strange pattern of feast and famine lately, and the calendar said that they were due for another downturn in 2007. But the severity of the downturn was the news this year. The talent drain after the 2006 trip to Omaha hurt, and those expected to carry the team this year didn’t. Georgia produced no all-SEC players this season, and they clearly lacked the clutch star power they’ve enjoyed recently. Georgia finished the season under .500 with their worst record in several years and far out of contention for the postseason.

The season was in trouble out of the gate as the Dawgs dropped early series to PAC 10 members Oregon State and Southern Cal. A sweep of Auburn to start SEC play provided a small glimmer of hope, but reality set in quickly. Taking two of three games from Georgia Tech was one of the few bright spots of the season, and those two wins might have had the added benefit of keeping Tech out of the NCAA Tournament.

The odd-even schedule that seems to rule the Diamond Dawgs lately says that Georgia baseball should be back on top next year, but they’ll be looking for answers and improvement at nearly every spot.

3. Mike Mercer’s season-ending injury.

Ouch. You knew the moment it happened that Mike Mercer’s knee injury at South Carolina was severe. In fact, it was considered "good" news that the injury was only season-ending. Similar injuries have ended careers. A lot of Bulldog programs had significant injuries last year, and some like Thomas Brown’s were season-ending too. But a major injury to a basketball starter is magnified, and Mercer’s injury turned out to be too much for the fragile Georgia depth to handle down the critical stretch run. Though they fought until the regular season finale against Tennessee, Mercer’s injury gave them very long odds for a postseason bid with no margin for error. Still, the team scrapped by and were able to record their first postseason win in nearly five years.

2. Football losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

We sensed that inexperience at the quarterback position would cause problems, but few would have guessed that the defending SEC champions would fall to the traditional doormats of the SEC East. Even worse is that Georgia held the lead in each game but saw Vandy and Kentucky drive late in the game for the winning scores against a relenting Georgia defense. Following the loss at Kentucky in November, things were as bleak as they’ve looked at Georgia since 1996. How the Dawgs turned things around to beat three consecutive ranked teams is an incredible story, and I don’t think we’ll ever know just how much negative momentum the team had to overcome in order to make that turnaround happen.

1. The death of Kevin Brophy.

The Georgia basketball world was rocked in July when point guard Kevin Brophy was killed in an auto accident. The Australia native was driving to Savannah when he wrecked during a rainstorm south of Athens.

Though I consider the death of Brophy the bottom story of the past academic year, the response by the team and the fan base was far from a low point. The team embraced the memory of the popular player, and an emotional win over LSU in the presence of the Brophy family topped off a season dedicated to Kevin. Fans and the University worked together to start a Kevin Brophy Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund, and its trademark circular "3" patch was a ubiquitous reminder all season on the court and in the stands.

One Response to '2006-2007 Bottom 10 Moments in the DawgNation'

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  • Bill Florence

    July 3rd, 2007
    10:47 pm


    Great piece! I never post here, but, I always click to read here every day. Thanks for putting your thoughts online!