Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Attrition hits Georgia secondary

Saturday May 30, 2009

The Georgia football program announced today that sophomore safety John Knox will be transferring to Georgia Military College for “academic considerations.”

Knox played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman and only recorded 8 tackles, but he was going to be counted on to make a bigger contribution this year as a hard hitter pushing Georgia’s starting safeties. He started against Tech last year as a response to the option, and he had four tackles and even added a reception at G-Day this year.

A transfer to GMC sometimes leads to a return to Athens, but not many of those were academic transfers. Knox was a borderline qualifier to begin with out of HS, and the demands of academic life at Georgia might have proved too much to handle.

Post And now a word from your stadium…

Friday May 29, 2009

Hi. I’m Sanford Stadium.

Sanford Stadium

You visit me six or seven times a year, and I’ve caught you driving past me on the bridge more than once just to peek inside. I’m old, but I’ve aged well and kept up with the times. Your parents or grandparents might have even introduced us.

I don’t mean to brag, but, well, I’m kind of a big deal among college football stadiums. There aren’t many bigger. My symmetrical architecture is as classic as the city I call home. (Oh, I know the new upper deck throws off the symmetry, but who doesn’t get a little out of shape as we get older?) Playing “Between the Hedges” means only one thing to college football fans. ESPN’s Doug Ward wrote,

Sanford could not have found a more idyllic setting for a college stadium; it sits squarely in the middle of Georgia’s campus, as if it were the university’s beating heart.

I’m blushing. But I’m empty for the next 106 days or so without much to do but read the news, and I have to admit I’m feeling a little jealous and unappreciated this morning.

I know the Georgia Dome is attractive, especially after its recent makeover to replace the color scheme with good ol’ red and black. There are plenty of days this time of year I wouldn’t mind some air conditioning myself. A lot of teams seem to want to play there these days, and I really hope the Dawgs get a game there in early December. I could use some more SEC championship bling.

If there’s one gripe I have, it’s that I don’t get to host a lot of interesting nonconference games. Sure, there’s been the occasional Clemson or even BYU, and I’m looking forward to seeing Arizona State this year. Yale was cool back in the day. But those are few and far between, and it’s usually the same old Directional Louisiana or cupcake teams to open the season. You and I know there’s nothing better than the UGA campus on a fall day with a big late-afternoon or night game in town.

So when I read talk about Georgia and North Carolina playing in the Dome, I have to wonder what it has that I don’t. A neutral game in Atlanta would split the tickets for a smaller stadium, so over 10,000 of my own season ticket holders would either have to scalp or stay home. Teams want to play in Atlanta to help their recruiting in Georgia, but you have an advantage they don’t. You can’t host recruits at the Dome. When Georgia plays a game here at Sanford you get to show off the whole package – stadium and all – to this state’s prospects.

Is it the home-and-home thing? I don’t mind – really! I can appreciate a good-looking stadium, and Kenan Stadium – in its own way – is supposed to be a great place to catch a game too.

Post In the news

Friday May 29, 2009

Somehow the coaches’ poll survived for years without transparency, and I imagine that it’s not exactly going to be the Wild West doomsday scenario now that the transparency has been taken away. It’s not a move in the right direction of course, but it’s not the end of the world either. If bias is a concern, and it probably should be, maybe the two highest and lowest votes for each team could be discarded.

Anyway, the coaches’ poll isn’t the only imperfection among the BCS components. The Harris poll has its own problems, and the various computer polls operate under their own shroud of obscurity. The idea of a selection committee to seed the BCS has been floated before, and that might be the best solution to put polls back into the trivial role they play in other sports. A selection committee would have its own affiliations and biases of course, but they’d at least be sorting out the teams face-to-face.

I understand why Mike Slive wants the SEC football coaches to play nice. His product is the SEC, and real dollars are at stake these days. But as much as “we’re all in this together,” the livelihood of those 12 coaches depends on their ability to outperform the other 11. The pressure to find and exploit an advantage is tremendous, and self-preservation can be a powerful motivator. Slive’s threat of a fine might drive the sniping out of the public eye, but it will just continue to simmer underneath the surface in the underworld of recruiting where negative recruiting is a way of life.

I kind of liked having the tension bubble up into the public eye. Of course it was good fodder for fans, but on a more serious level a peer calling out another coach brought to light some of the tactics and outrageous behavior that goes on in recruiting and elsewhere behind the scenes. If transparency is good for the polls, it can also counter and shame coaches behaving badly. The “pumping gas” row was a great example – it forced a coach out from the shadows to address and defend his recruiting methods in a way the media never could. Those derogatory comments will still be made to recruits, but the ability to confront something like that in a direct way has been diminished.

If there’s one lesson from this Memphis cheating scandal (other than Calipari’s ability to stay one step ahead of trouble), it’s the absolute mockery made of the one-and-done rule. In order to become eligible and get that one year of college at a high-profile program, Rose allegedly not only had someone take his SAT but also had grades changed at his Chicago high school. It might be to the detriment of the college game, but these one-and-done guys have no business in college, and it’s ridiculous that the NCAA – with all of its PR about the “student-athlete” – would be a party to it. Let them go pro, head to Europe, or commit to a college for three years.

Every time I see an article about a “Rooney Rule” coming to college sports, I ask myself, “don’t these colleges already have hiring procedures in place?” Our institutions of higher learning pride themselves on their diverse faculty and student bodies. If anything, they’re sometimes criticized for going too far in the interests of promoting diversity. So to me this seems like an issue of capitulation on the part of college administrators. If diversity in the coaching ranks is a priority, administrators should hold their athletic departments responsible for following the same hiring process as the academic side where you hear much less complaining about a lack of minority representation. Or maybe it’s easier to wait for action to be taken at the conference or NCAA level so that the administration doesn’t run the risk of being seen as meddling in athletics.

Post Knowshon already winning NFL awards

Thursday May 28, 2009

It’s been a good week for Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos’ crowded backfield was culled by one when J.J. Arrington failed a physical and was released. But the highlight of his week was winning the touchdown celebration competition at the Upper Deck 2009 NFL Rookie Premiere Photo Shoot.

Video highlights from the competition are below. Stafford and Massaquoi and about a dozen other rookies also make appearances. It’s worth it just to see Stephen McGee’s awkwardness.

But what else would you expect from the man who made celebrating an art form at Georgia…

Post 100 days to go

Thursday May 28, 2009

Welcome to the countdown…it’ll be here before you know it!

Sanford Stadium

Post Slive says it best – hands off, Congress

Wednesday May 27, 2009

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has lobbied for a college football playoff, but even playoff advocates don’t want the government anywhere near the issue.

“The last time I looked, we were in a recession, fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Slive said. “We’ve got a health care program that desperately needs help and I would hope that the Congress will make sure that they work on these problems and let us take care of collegiate athletics.”

Post Richt has the right idea for the Dome

Wednesday May 27, 2009

I’ve said that the Georgia Dome offers very little to Georgia even when it comes to the Georgia-Florida game. But Mark Richt has come up with the only scenario I’d go for to bring a regular season Georgia game to the Dome: if the opponent is willing to sacrifice a home game.

“We have a neutral site game (against Florida) already, so every other year we’re losing a home game,” Richt said. “If you have another neutral site situation, you’re losing another home game, and I don’t think we should trade a home game for a game in the Dome. But if they want to trade a home game to play in Atlanta, that would be great for us.”

That sounds like exactly the right approach. And it’s not without precedent – even for conference games.

Post Diamond Dawgs headed to Tallahassee

Monday May 25, 2009

After learning that Georgia wouldn’t host a regional in this year’s NCAA baseball tournament, the only question was the destination. Georgia will be the #2 seed in the Tallahassee regional hosted of course by #1 seed FSU. #4 seed Marist and #3 seed Ohio State are the other teams taking part in the regional. Georgia will open play against Ohio State at noon on Friday (ESPNU).

If the Dawgs emerge from the Tallahassee Regional, the bracket has them playing the winner of the Oklahoma regional (hosted by the Sooners if they win their regional).

Georgia and FSU have played twice this decade in the postseason. FSU was sent to Athens for the 2006 regionals. The Seminoles beat Georgia 6-4 in a winner’s bracket game, and Georgia had to win two straight over the ‘Noles to advance. Georgia handled FSU 7-1 in the second game the Bulldogs played on Sunday, and they wrapped up the regional with a tight 3-2 win on Monday night thanks in part to a great pitching performance by Trevor Holder.

The most infamous series between the two teams was the 2001 Super Regional in Athens. Georgia advanced to their first College World Series since the 1990 title season, but the big story of the weekend was the arrival of Kudzu Hill and the Georgia crowd as a real advantage for the Diamond Dawgs. FSU coach Mike Martin commented,

”Georgia deserved to win. They played outstanding. The atmosphere was unbelievable. This environment was as tough as I’ve seen in 22 years of coaching. We don’t ever want to come here again.”

Georgia’s homefield advantage came through over the Noles again in 2006, but they’ll need to find their own motivation heading into a tough place to play at Tallahassee. The Seminoles were the top seed of the ACC tournament last week, but they fell to Virginia in the championship game, possibly costing the ‘Noles a national seed. FSU was 42-16 on the year and ranked #12 by Baseball America entering the postseason.

The Dawgs split a pair of games in Tallahassee in 2008.

The Dawgs weren’t one of the top eight national seeds of course, but the SEC is still well-represented among the national seeds:

  1. Texas
  2. Cal State Fullerton
  3. LSU
  4. North Carolina
  5. Arizona State
  6. UC Irvine
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Florida

Eight SEC teams received bids: LSU, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt.

Post Late-inning dramatics lead to wins for baseball and softball

Friday May 22, 2009

It was a rough start for the softball team in the opening game of the Super Regional. The starting pitcher struggled with control and had to be replaced in the first inning. Ohio State was limited to a single run, but they added three more on a 3-run home run in the 3rd. A 4-0 deficit is usually trouble at this level of softball, but the host Bulldogs exploded for five runs in the 5th and added an insurance run in the 6th for a 6-4 win.

Georgia and Ohio State will play again at 4:30 on Friday afternoon (ESPN2) in Athens. If Georgia wins, the Super Regional is over, and it’s on to Oklahoma City and the WCWS for the first time in program history. If Ohio State wins, the two teams will turn around and play a deciding game around 6:30.

Thanks to an extra-inning win, the Diamond Dawgs will have plenty of time to tune in to the softball games if they wish. Georgia earned a valuable day off with a tight 2-1 win over Arkansas, and they advance through the winner’s bracket into Saturday’s semifinal.

The game was a showcase of pitching and defense. Bulldog starter Trevor Holder was masterful in his hometown. Holder allowed just three hits through eight innings and at one point retired 15 batters in a row. With Georgia up 1-0, Holder was given the chance to close out the game in the 9th but allowed a pair of cheap singles and was replaced by closer Dean Weaver. Weaver inherited runners at first and third with no one out and retired the next three batters, but a long flyout was enough to plate the tying run.

Georgia couldn’t answer in the bottom of the 9th, and Weaver got out of a little trouble in the top of the 10th. The bottom of the 10th got off to a positive start with a Cerione single. Cerione advanced to third on a Poythress double, and Massanari was intentionally walked to get to Joey Lewis who had struggled so far in Hoover.

Lewis needed to make contact of some kind, and he delivered with a sharp grounder that was fielded by the third baseman. The throw home was wide though, and Cerione scored the winning run.

Though the final play earned Georgia the win, it was very nearly a disastrous blown call that would have added some controversy to the outcome. After spearing Lewis’s grounder, replays showed that the Arkansas third baseman touched third base with his throwing hand while the ball was in his glove. That should have retired Poythress on the force at third but removed the force on Cerione running home. The Arkansas catcher should have been required to tag Cerione. But the call at home plate seemed to be that the catcher’s foot was pulled off the plate. That’s only a call you make if you believe the force was still in effect at home. Cerione was safe regardless; the catcher was pulled off the plate, and no tag was applied. It would have been interesting though to see how the call was handled if the catcher was able to keep his foot on the plate – I think everyone from the umps to the TV broadcast missed the 3B touching the bag.

Most Bulldog hitters struggled against the Arkansas pitching, but the bright spot was Rich Poythress going 3-for-5. Poythress has seen his average drop by nearly 50 points over the last month to “only” .378, and it hasn’t helped the struggling Bulldogs that their biggest bat was also slumping. Hopefully he can keep this up and be the catalyst that sparks a run through the postseason. Georgia’s experienced players from last season’s amazing postseason came through in the 10th with Cerione’s leadoff hit, Poythress’s big double, and Lewis’s hot shot that won the game.

Georgia gets the day off on Friday waiting on any one of three teams to emerge from the loser’s bracket. They’ll play at 2:30 ET on Saturday with the game televised by Fox Sports South. If they win that game, they’re on to Sunday’s championship game. If not, they’ll play the same team again in a rubber game Saturday evening.

Post Butts-Mehre expansion moves forward

Thursday May 21, 2009

Butts-Mehre expansion

The athletic board today approved almost $40 million to begin expansion of the Butts-Mehre facility this summer. The project could take as long as two years to complete.

For preliminary plans of the expansion, download this PDF that the Georgia Sports Blog posted last year. What’s Georgia going to get for $40 million?

A new 12,000 square foot strength and conditioning area, a training room of 8,500 square feet, new football coaches offices and a multipurpose room with a turf field that will be used for both drills and walk-throughs by the football team and be converted for receptions and other hosting functions.

To be clear – this is not an indoor practice facility. If you look at the plans, the “turf field” described above isn’t but about 20-25 yards deep. It’ll just be an area where the team can duck inside on a bad weather day and still get something done. As Marc Weiszer reported in early 2008, any attempt a proper indoor practice facility would likely happen down the road at the sports complex on South Milledge Avenue beyond the bypass. We’ve known for some time that Coach Richt prioritized this project above an indoor practice facility, and Damon Evans indicated that other projects will still maintain priority over an indoor facility.

The biggest impact of this expansion will be in the additional weight room / training / conditioning / rehab areas. The added space for sports medicine will be very welcome.

Funding for the project is expected to come from a mix of private donations and new debt. The Athletic Association will reach into its deep pockets to get the project underway, and they’ll be repaid as the private donations come in. It’s noteworthy that even in these tough times the Athletic Association plans an 11.2% increase in revenue for the 2010 fiscal year. Hartman Fund contributions are down a few million dollars, but income from the new SEC television deal will more than cover the projected drop in donations.

No word yet on the biggest question – what’s the temperature setting going to be for the turf practice space?

Post Onward in Hoover

Thursday May 21, 2009

Last year I called the SEC baseball tournament the world’s most meaningless playoff. Sure enough, an early exit had zero impact on Georgia’s national seed. Can you name another postseason event where the top four seeds losing on the first day is just a nice bit of trivia instead of big news?

Georgia was one of the bottom four seeds that emerged from Wednesday with a win, and they’ll face Arkansas on Thursday evening. Credit Cerione with a big game, and it was encouraging to see the bullpen hold the lead. It’s still tough to find meaning in the tournament for Georgia – their spot in the NCAA tournament is pretty much set, and it’s unlikely that a tournament championship would put them back in contention to host a regional, much less earn a national seed.

But a good showing in Hoover is more important than usual for a few reasons. First, the Diamond Dawgs are still seeking their first SEC Tournament title. That would be nice to pick up in a year in which they faded from the race for the regular season championship. Bigger though is the need to get back into the mindset of winning heading into the NCAA tournament. Georgia finished the year on shaky ground and confidence waning. Even the hitting that carried the team for most of the year faded down the stretch. The team needs a few wins in a big way, and getting them with a tournament title at stake is a nice bonus. It might also get them into a more favorable regional if they are forced to hit the road.

Post ESPNU, ESPN360.com finally coming to Comcast

Wednesday May 20, 2009

It’s been a week of good news for sports fans with Comcast cable. First the cable company and the NFL reached a settlement ending the ridiculous squabble over the NFL Network. Now it’s official that Comcast will add ESPNU to most markets, especially in the South, in time for football season. As an added feature, Comcast will also add access to ESPN360.com which more or less means FREE GAMEPLAN.

I’m glad to see the news, but – honestly – it’s about time. These are basic networks and features that other cable and satellite companies have offered for years. Comcast isn’t doing its subscribers some big favor; they’re playing catch-up to the competition.

ESPNU is important because it’s a key part of ESPN’s $2.25 billion deal with the SEC announced last year (that linked article is a very good summary of what’s going to change). ESPNU is also likely to be the home of several SEC basketball (men’s and women’s) games as well as coverage of “Olympic sports”. Here’s a reminder of how it will break down for football:

  • CBS still gets the first pick for the 3:30 slot.
  • ESPN and ESPN2 will continue national broadcasts of the #2 and #3 SEC games each week.
  • ESPNU will carry at least 13 additional SEC games, and most will be in prime time.
  • ESPN will also produce and brand regional broadcasts to take the place of the 12:30 JP games. Word on the DawgVent has these games on Peachtree TV in Atlanta, but they’ll be available on other local stations across the region (just like the JP games were – just check local listings each week). These regional games will also be available as part of the ESPN Gameplan package and also on ESPN360.com.

Got all that? The main point is that there will be a ton of SEC football on TV beginning this fall, and now most major cable and satellite providers will have it all. I only hope that HD feeds are included as well. Since JP/Lincoln Financial went to HD for the regional games last year, a return to standard def broadcasts by ESPN would be a step backwards.

PS…I know I’m asking for some dish evangelism with this post, but my unhealthy attachment to my TivoHD means I’m stuck with cable.

Post I guess we’ll still have a hoops season

Tuesday May 19, 2009

Poor Anthony Grant and Mark Fox. They’re going about the business of getting settled, setting up staffs, establishing recruiting ties, and doing all the right things to get their new programs off on the right foot. Meanwhile John Calipari lands at Kentucky, finalizes the nation’s top recruiting class, and sets the Wildcats up as the presumptive favorite for the national title in Year 1.

Top-rated point guard John Wall ended the speculation today by announcing that he’ll join Calipari’s Kentucky team. He’ll complete a class of six newcomers who are all among the top 40 prospects in the nation according to Rivals.com.

With the SEC still recovering from a down period, Kentucky is now the clear favorite to win the league in 2010. Could they dominate the league like Calipari’s Memphis teams came to dominate C-USA? Given the expectations put on even ordinary Kentucky teams, would anything short of a national title for this group be a big disappointment (not to mention great comedy for the rest of us)? We might only get one year to find out – Wall and others in the class are considered one-and-done prospects who will put in only one season in college before jumping to the NBA.

Calipari has made things tough enough for newcomers like Grant and Fox, but even proven SEC veterans Pearl, Donovan, and Stansbury have to be a little uncomfortable now.


Monday May 18, 2009

Georgia’s football team will open the 2009 season on the road against a likely top 15 opponent. The opener in 2010 might be a little lighter fare.

The AJC is reporting that Georgia will open the 2010 season with the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Dawgs have played a number of nonconference Louisiana teams including Louisiana-Monroe and Northwestern State, but this will be their first meeting with Louisiana-Lafayette. The game is set for September 4, 2010, but the AJC notes that there is wiggle room if the Dawgs need that opening date to accomodate another opponent.

Georgia still needs one nonconference game to round out the 2010 schedule. The possibility of playing the season opener in the Georgia Dome generated some discussion a few weeks ago, but with just five home games currently set for 2010, it’s almost a given that the final opponent added to the 2010 schedule will be a true home game.

In addition to Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia is already set to play two BCS-conference schools in 2010: Georgia Tech and @ Colorado. The home schedule looks like this as-is:

– Louisiana-Lafayette
– Arkansas
– Tennessee
– Vandy
– Georgia Tech

Does that need improvement? The road games will include Colorado, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Kentucky (and of course Florida).

Post About last weekend…

Monday May 18, 2009

The Diamond Dawgs head into the postseason losers of 11 of their last 13 regular season games. The SEC Tournament begins against Ole Miss on Wednesday in Hoover. There was a lot more going on over the weekend though…