Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post How to alienate entire fan bases

Thursday February 26, 2009

If you want to target the discriminating bourbon drinker in Columbus, Ohio, taking a shot at Michigan with a giant billboard can’t hurt.

One of the MGoBlog commenters, a Michigan fan living in Columbus, confirmed the authenticity of the billboard. Though if you’re a Michigan guy in Columbus, aren’t you more or less just crying yourself to sleep every night anyway?

Michigan fans looking for an alternate, though far less potent, beverage might want to consider VitaminWater. The Coca-Cola-owned beverage company is filming a commercial that should go over really well in the heart of Maker’s Mark country.

According to a KSR source, Vitamin Water is producing a new television ad featuring Christian Laettner and Rick Pitino which is likely to run throughout the NCAA Tournament. According to the source, the advertisement was shot yesterday in Louisville and will show Laettner following Pitino around his house making “the shot” over and over to torment him.

Post In the news

Wednesday February 25, 2009

Item: Jim Calhoun gets into it with a reporter over his $1.6 million salary while the state of Connecticut faces a massive budget deficit.

Comment: At first glance, this isn’t the conversation one wants to hear when hoping that Georgia will aim high for its next basketball coach. On the other hand, Calhoun’s right. How many other state employees have the ROI of a successful major sport coach?

Item: The Music City Bowl’s decision to invite hometown feel-good story Vanderbilt contributed to a $17 million decrease in the local economic impact of the game. "It was really a worst-case scenario," said Scott Ramsey, Music City Bowl president.

Comment: It’s refreshing to see Vandy draining money from someone other than the SEC for once.

Item: Will Georgia miss Stafford or Moreno more in 2009?

Comment: We’ll miss both at times, but I agree that Moreno is the slightly bigger loss. Georgia has had some good seasons without a standout tailback (2003, 2005), but the Georgia offense really clicked in 2002 and 2007 when Smith and Moreno got it going. The point about the offensive line is worth noting. Even though Searels and his troops did very well under the circumstances, Stafford and Moreno often made the line look better than it was. There were plenty of scary moments over the past two years. Now the tables are turned and the linemen will have more experience than the guys they are protecting and blocking for. A good line can make even a serviceable quarterback look like an all-conference candidate (right, JPW?).

Item: North Carolina is facing questions about its ability to present competitive counteroffers after three assistant coaches departed the program within a month. "There is a dollar difference, I can’t deny that,” AD Dick Baddour admitted.

Comment: No one is immune from the pressures of the marketplace, but Georgia twice dodged that bullet during the offseason. Rodney Garner showed that sometimes factors other than money come into play.

"The attraction of Georgia to me is Mark Richt," Garner said. "I’m going to be honest with you, I love the community and I love the institution, but I work for a great man and that’s the main reason I stayed."

Richt’s approach and way of doing things seems to work as well in the volitile world of recruiting as it does in retaining his best assistants.

Post Tech requiring full season tickets for Georgia game

Wednesday February 25, 2009

If you’re one of the Georgia fans who used the three-game packages from Georgia Tech to get tickets for the game in 2003, 2005, and 2007, you’re either going to have to dig deeper this year or look to the secondary ticket market.

The 2009 Tech ticket brochure is clear on this point:

The Georgia Tech vs. UGA home game is ONLY available as part of the season ticket or as an additional request from GT season ticket holders. There will be NO 3-pack option or other packages that include the Georgia Tech vs. UGA game.

Tech season ticket packages start at $260. A total cumulative score of 30,000 Hartman Fund points is required to be eligible to order Georgia Tech game tickets through UGA. Somehow I imagine there will still be plenty of Georgia fans in there.

We already knew that Oklahoma State has a similar policy. If you don’t get tickets through UGA, you’ll have to buy OSU season tickets or scalp your way in.

Post My God, a freshman

Tuesday February 24, 2009

The story of Georgia track freshman Torrin Lawrence is spreading quickly, but Lawrence could probably outrun even his own hype. In just his sixth college meet Lawrence posted an incredible split of 45.1 seconds in the anchor leg of a 4×400-meter relay race to come from behind and knock off #1-ranked Florida.

The video says it all.

And before you ask, no, he isn’t going to play football.

Post Geathers chooses Georgia

Friday February 20, 2009

Carvers Bay (S.C.) lineman Kwame Geathers will sign with Georgia over Tennessee and Central Florida. The 6’6″ 320 lb. Geathers is the brother of former Georgia defensive end Robert Geathers and of current South Carolina defensive lineman Clifton Geathers. Tennessee became a late player after Geathers eliminated South Carolina. With Marlon Brown’s Signing Day decision, Georgia has now been successful against the new Tennessee staff in two head-to-head recruiting battles in the class of 2009.

Geathers plans to play, or at least start out, as a defensive lineman. Some schools, including South Carolina, recruited him for the offensive line.

Post Diamond Dog opener free on GXtra

Friday February 20, 2009

The ping means spring! The weather doesn’t agree, and that always seems to be the case, but it’s opening weekend for the Diamond Dogs. The odd-numbered years have often meant valleys this decade in between some great seasons, but hopes are high for this year’s squad. Several key players return, and a great incoming class mostly survived the MLB draft. I’ll just settle for a consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament – something that has only been done once (2001, 2002) at Georgia.

First pitch is at 5:00, and you can watch it live at no cost on GXtra.

Foley Field

Post Lady Dogs loss puts them in uncharted waters

Friday February 20, 2009

Georgia’s women’s basketball team lost 57-46 to LSU last night. If you’ve seen the team much this season, there’s no need to go into the details of the game. It’s been the same story all year. If you thought the men struggled on offense Wednesday night (and they did), you should have stuck around.

In a little more than a week, Andy Landers will be inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame – deservedly so. It’s one of those cruel coincidences of timing that his program just lost four consecutive games in a season for the first time in his 30 years of coaching at Georgia. Without a win at Auburn or Kentucky (who just beat Tennessee) in the next week, he could head into the Hall of Fame ceremony with an unprecedented 6-game losing streak.

That this is the first time a Landers team has had to deal with a prolonged losing streak speaks to the consistency that has led him to 700+ wins and enshrinement in the Women’s Basketball and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame. But every time the Georgia starters run out on that red carpet listing the championship and Final Four seasons, it’s a reminder that the droughts between SEC championship and Final Four teams continue to grow.

It’s been that kind of year where the team just doesn’t have the pieces to take advantage of some great opportunities. The SEC has no dominant teams; even LSU and Tennessee are down. Georgia will host the NCAA Tournament opening round in a few weeks, but odds are now that they won’t be among the field for only the third time in tournament history. The future seems brighter with only one graduating senior and a solid incoming class, but it’s still going to be a long way back to the top of the SEC.

A semi-related question: after two more losses this week, will the voters have the guts to drop 18-8 Tennessee out of the Top 25?

Post Contributions take a hit

Thursday February 19, 2009

A rough accounting of the Hartman Fund contributions reveals that the total will be off by about 11%, or about $3 million, from last year’s record high. Blame the economy, the “disappointing” 2008 season and comparatively low expectations for 2009, or any other factor you like. The athletic department should be just fine – ticket and TV money aren’t going anywhere (yet), and there are strong cash reserves built up just in case.

Just from anecdotal evidence, people I’ve talked to are more likely to have donated the minimum necessary for their season ticket renewal. In years past many people would add to their contribution in order to build up their cumulative total for out-of-town tickets. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that reduction or elimination of that extra donation is behind a good bit of the lower bottom line this year.

For those hoping that the downturn will free up some more season tickets, there will still be competition. Associate AD Alan Thomas expects a return to a more normal season ticket turnover of about 2 or 3%. Over a season ticket base of 53,000, that’s only about 1,000-1,600 season tickets that will come available.

Post Disjointed thoughts from a disjointed game

Thursday February 19, 2009

It’s official: Team Tornado is no more. As sirens sounded across the UGA campus, we hoped that the stars were aligning for the first SEC winning streak since that amazing weekend last March. It didn’t turn out that way of course. It might seem pointless to really dwell much on this team with the season all but over, but I might as well get it all out after a game like last night. When one of the highlights was the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to Mark Richt, you know there wasn’t much else to cheer about.

  • This morning Billy Donovan woke up next to a bottle of scotch and tried to reassure himself that his team didn’t just get lit up a few days ago by a team that didn’t break into double figures Wednesday until five minutes remained in the first half.
  • It is c-r-i-m-i-n-a-l that Travis Leslie sat on the bench for the first 33 minutes of the game. I understand that there might be attitude and off-court issues with him. If that’s the case, suspend him, and I doubt anyone would have a problem with that. But if you’re going to play him, play him. He came into the game and had the energy that had been missing from the floor for the first 75% of the game. He rebounded and finished with as many offensive boards as anyone on the team in just seven minutes of action. He made things happen in the transition game. He’s not perfect by any stretch, but you can’t convince me that he shouldn’t be one of the first players off the bench.
  • Trey Thompkins is probably the best post player to come through Athens in the 20 years I’ve been watching Georgia basketball. He needs to reexamine his love affair with the three-point shot. It’s not that he can’t hit it, and it’s good that he has that range in his game. It’s just that he’s come to lean on the shot a bit too much, and it’s creating some bad habits in his offense. It’s almost as if he’d rather settle for the outside shot sometimes instead of working for position inside. That’s a habit that the new coach needs to address early on.
  • As if Georgia didn’t have enough trouble scoring in the first half, at one point midway through the half, Georgia had a lineup on the court that included Swansey, McPhee, Brewer, Barnes, and I believe Jackson. If you can find the go-to guy on offense within that group, you know something the rest of us don’t.
  • This is a generic comment about basketball in general – there is a special place in basketball hell for a post player under the basket who brings a ball from chest level down to the floor. If he takes a dribble in that position, snipers should be involved.
  • I do credit the guys for the comeback and the fact they didn’t pack it in. When Auburn opened the door by shutting down on offense, Georgia responded. That said, there is no reason for the lack of effort and intensity in the first half. Defense was Swiss cheese, and the offense was lazy: it’s bad enough to start the game 2-for-18 shooting, but it’s ridiculous that half of those 18 attempts were from behind the arc.
  • Dustin Ware had 10 turnovers a few weeks ago at South Carolina. In the three games since the freshman has had 15 assists to just four turnovers. He’s scored in double figures in the past two games. He’s more than earned the starting job, and his progress has been a bright spot. It’ll be fun to watch him over the next few seasons as he continues to gain confidence and improve his defense.
  • We knew coming into this season that offense, particularly from the guard position, would be spotty. What’s been disappointing has been the defense. Even on his earlier teams with far less talent, you could count on a Dennis Felton team to exhaust themselves on defense even if it came at the expense of scoring. Somewhere along the line that message was lost, and there is nothing special about the defense we’ve seen lately. When you have a weak offense and can’t play man defense, you end up with a season like this.

It’s amazing to think that if Georgia could have only kept it within 20, they might have had a chance at the end.

Post NCAA: Fix this bug

Tuesday February 17, 2009

The Stinchcomb brothers set the bar pretty high for academic achievement among Georgia offensive linemen, but incoming guard Chris Burnette will be coming to Athens with an academic profile every bit as impressive. If you followed recruiting, you probably know that the Troup County senior stands a good chance of finishing as his class’s valedictorian. If that happens, Mark Richt promised that he’d be there to hear Burnette’s graduation speech.

The AJC reports that an NCAA rule will prevent Richt from following through on that promise. Here we have a student-athlete who has already signed a letter of intent, and Mark Richt can’t be there to honor his future player’s academic accomplishment. If Richt were invited to speak at the football team’s banquet and honor athletic accomplishments, that would be fine – it’s done all the time, and it’s within the rules. So what is different about showing up at the graduation of a student-athlete for whom the recruiting process is over?

It’s doubtful that the rule will change or be waived, and both parties are resigned to the change in plans. Richt still plans to watch a recorded version of the speech if Burnette graduates on top. As a bright guy Burnette understands the world we live in, but that doesn’t make the outcome any less absurd.

Post In which Furman Bisher learns about modern college athletics

Monday February 16, 2009

Furman Bisher should have just stopped after admitting, "I have no idea how a search firm operates." Far as I’m concerned, that would have saved him from the unfortunate paragraphs that followed in another attempt to stir the Bobby Knight pot.

If a veteran of sports journalism is unfamiliar with the use of search firms in the hiring process, there’s no shame if someone reading this wonders just how widespread the practice is. Hardly a sign of incompetence or fear, the enlistment of outside help is increasingly important as the salaries and stakes involved continue to grow. Below is a very incomplete list of high-profile hires made with the assistance of a search firm. You might have heard of one or two.

  • Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech football
  • Bruce Pearl, Tennessee basketball
  • Lane Kiffin, Tennessee football
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma football
  • Rick Neuheisel, UCLA football
  • Urban Meyer, Florida football
  • Mack Brown, Texas football
  • Butch Davis, North Carolina football
  • Randy Shannon, Miami football
  • Kevin White, Duke AD
  • Bo Pelini, Nebraska football. Bisher thinks that Vince Dooley would never have used a search firm. Would it surprise him that Tom Osborne did?
  • John Pelphrey, Arkansas basketball
  • Les Miles, LSU football (same firm was used to bring Saban to LSU)
  • Bobby Petrino, Arkansas football
  • Gene Chizik, Auburn football
  • Scott Drew, Baylor basketball
  • June Jones, SMU football
  • Tom O’Brien, N.C. State football
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State football

The point isn’t whether those were all good hires. It’s that the use of a search firm or consultant is so commonplace now in major college athletics that the exceptional cases are when a search firm isn’t used. Here is an example of the influence just one consultant can have on the career of a coach and the landscape of a sport:

A Neinas search can vault a coach into the national spotlight overnight. Take the meteoric rise of Florida’s Urban Meyer, who boosted his annual salary 12-fold after emerging as the winner of two Neinas-led searches. In 2001, Bowling Green, without Neinas’ help, hired the former Notre Dame assistant for his first head coaching post at an annual salary of $165,000. After a Neinas search, Meyer jumped to a $500,000 salary with Utah in 2002. After another, he landed his current $2 million-a-year job with Florida.

One final thing…Bisher wrote:

Could it be that when Vince Dooley hired Mark Richt to coach football at Georgia he went through a “search” firm? Of course not.

But of course Dooley did.

The past two to three weeks we have conducted a national search for a new head football coach. We talked to a lot of people and did hire Chuck Neinas as a consultant, and it was very helpful to us. In any event, I am pleased to announce that Mark Richt — offensive coordinator at Florida State, has been offered and accepted the position of head football coach at the University of Georgia.

Post Working harder than ever – just like last season

Friday February 13, 2009

If you’ve read one Georgia story this offseason, you’ve read 50 about how different things are in Athens now that the team and coaches have had a while to reflect on the 2008 season. You’ve probably even heard about specific changes like the smaller workout groups with more individual focus. David Hale, as is often the case these days, provides the jumping-off point.

February 2009:

It’s been a common refrain in Georgia’s locker room this offseason, but everyone seems to agree the team is working a lot harder than it did a year ago. Cox said the new focus has been obvious during seven-on-seven drills, when even the young players have stepped up to show their skills.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? We want to hear positive things coming out of these important offseason workouts. But if it all sounds vaguely familiar, it should.

Mark Richt, March 2008:

"I’m really encouraged by everybody’s attitude and effort. I’m getting a lot of good vibrations on our leadership."

Matthew Stafford, March 2008:

"I think the guys have really stepped up, realizing that with the high ranking comes a lot of responsibility to be on meetings on time and try to help the team as much as we can. That’s a good sign instead of guys slacking off and saying ‘We’re No. 2 and we can do what we want.’ It’s not that way at all. The feeling around the team is the reason we got to that point is working hard, so we’ve got to do more of the same."

My plea to the Georgia media: enough. Is there ever an offseason in which the team isn’t working as hard as it ever has? Have we ever had an offseason update that didn’t include some variant of the phrase "stepping up"? It’s not that anyone’s being dishonest. The quotes are accurate of course, and as Hale says the refrain is common enough that we know the message isn’t being distorted. That’s how the team feels right now. A team that is positive and motivated about the challenges ahead sure beats the alternative. It would be interesting – and refreshing – though to see a reporter or two push back on this familiar storyline.

It’s a long way between the optimism of February and the harsh realities of the season. The camaraderie that is so tight and laser-focused now will be tested over the next few months by injuries, disciplinary actions, academic challenges, and ultimately by the games themselves next autumn. It only takes a few months for the tightly-knit team in March to degenerate into a team that was so clearly rudderless after the Kentucky game.

I’m usually a positive, optimistic guy. A Disney Dawg. Locke rather than Hobbes. I want to believe that working harder and better than ever will translate into different and better results this season than it did last season. I’m excited about the season and Joe Cox. This year though I’d much rather see great leadership, fundamentals, and hard work in action six months down the road before we start patting the team on the back for those traits in February.

Post When is a scholarship offer not an offer?

Friday February 13, 2009

The offer of an athletic scholarship seems like it should be a pretty cut and dried process, but it can be as muddy as the flip side of the process – the commitment.

We hear about offers (especially in basketball) to younger and younger prospects to the point where the NCAA is considering regulating contact with seventh-graders.

But a formal written offer can’t be made until September of the prospect’s junior year. So, yes, there are non-binding verbal offers as well as commitments. Often these "offers" come with plenty of strings attached. We’d like to offer you a scholarship – if we have one available, if you bring your grades up, if you have a strong senior season, if we don’t sign two other guys at your position, etc. Many prospects stop listening after "we’d like to offer you a scholarship," and so there is often confusing and conflicting information about a prospect’s status. Sometimes even the prospect himself isn’t the best source to find out if there is an offer on the table.

That brings us to the case of Kwame Geathers. If the last name is familiar, that’s for good reason. His brother Robert played at Georgia and is now in the NFL. His other brother Clifton is a contributor at South Carolina. That’s quite a strong family legacy, and Kwame seems to be just as good of a prospect.

Geathers has still not signed with a school, and Georgia has always been among those listed as a favorite. Georgia’s continued interest and Geathers’ status as a top prospect led many to assume or report that he had an offer from Georgia.

Then questions emerged around Signing Day. Did Geathers even have an offer? Even his high school coach was unsure. It turns out that Geathers didn’t have an offer. That led to another round of conflicting information. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell reported that "Georgia apparently is out of room and had to pull its offer (to Geathers)." That wasn’t the case, and Steve Patterson of UGASports.com had to set the record straight yesterday. Georgia has room not only for Geathers but also for unsigned TE Orson Charles.

There’s still more. Today we learn that Geathers did in fact finally get that Georgia offer on Thursday. But now he is postponing his decision again as he weighs a recent visit to Tennessee. Once assumed to be a Georgia vs. South Carolina battle, Geathers is now considering Georgia, Tennessee, and Central Florida.

RELATED: Read some additional thoughts about the recruiting process over at HP. Interesting thoughts about the emerging “‘soft offer” to go along with the “soft commitment”. I’m not sure it will catch on though. There is a much greater stigma attached to pulling an offer as there is to switching a verbal commitment. Coaches might be getting tired of it, but in the public perception it’s still the coach making $2 million per year vs. a prospect who is often a lower-income minority.

Post Tanned and rested

Thursday February 12, 2009

Georgia Tech’s 2009 football schedule is out, and it features two Thursday night games (natch), an opener against Jacksonville State, and nonconference games with SEC powers Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

The relevant bit for us: before hosting Georgia, Tech will have a November 14th game at Duke and then a bye week. That’s a lot of time to think about the Georgia visit. In contrast, Georgia will host Auburn and Kentucky in the weeks leading up to the Tech game. Then again, how much good did a bye week do us in 2008?

Post At least there’s that

Thursday February 12, 2009

While the current basketball team continues to go through the motions on its way to an inauspicious finish, the program did get a bit of good news. Fall signees (G) Demario Mayfield and (C) Daniel Miller both plan on sticking with Georgia and will play for the new coach.

“I’m still 100 percent going to Georgia,” said Mayfield, who also had offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn and Florida State.

“Even with (Felton’s dismissal), I am still going to Georgia,” (said Miller).

Now while neither is in the Derrick Favors class of instant program-changing prospects, each is considered to be a quality player. The AJC notes that Miller “is now considered the nation’s eighth-best senior center prospect by ESPN.” Mayfield’s offer sheet speaks for itself.

This news already puts the new coach a step ahead of the last time we changed coaches. The Georgia administration did everything but pack the bags of the 2003 recruiting class to encourage them to transfer to other programs. As a result, Dennis Felton had to piece together an entire recruiting class within a couple of months in the wake of a scandal that made national news. That first class ended up being Levi Stukes, Steve Newman, Corey Gibbs, and Marcus Sikes. Stukes and Newman were the only contributors from that class, and they became the core of the team as sophomores.

With Miller and Mayfield solidly committed, the new coach can focus on other needs in the spring period. The most obvious need is shooting help from both the 2 and 3 positions, and the ability to sign a scorer from the wing will be an immediate and early test for the new coach.