Let’s face it – it’s been a disappointing year for most Georgia sports programs. For most fans it all begins and ends with football, and the 2009 season wasn’t won of Georgia’s best. The men’s basketball program took a step forward and has us excited about the future, but the best they could do last season was to play spoiler. The baseball team just wrapped up a season whose futility was historic. Even stalwarts like gymnastics faltered during the past year. Michael Adams summed it up at today’s Athletic Association Board of Directors meeting: “It’s not been our best year on the field.“
While the Bulldog nation has been fending off bored columnists talking about the temperature of Mark Richt’s seat, Damon Evans hasn’t received much scrutiny. Much of that has to do with having a lot to like: the program remains financially strong, the APR results are worth bragging about, and Evans’ first high-profile hire, Mark Fox, seems to have been a good one. We looked at this topic last year on the occasion of Evans’ fifth anniversary as athletic director. There has been a downward trend in Georgia’s national Directors’ Cup standing, and I can’t imagine that the overall performance of Bulldog programs will improve that this year. The summary remains the same: everything else is stellar but actual athletics aren’t doing so well, and the trend remains downward.
It’s probably a surprise then to learn that Georgia finished second in this year’s SEC All-Sports trophy. The Bulldogs finished a distant second behind Florida, but there was also a healthy margin between Georgia and third-place Tennessee.
How did they do it? It should shock no one that Georgia’s women’s programs led the way. The gap between the Florida and Georgia women’s programs was much narrower than the overall gap, and Georgia’s women’s programs finished on average over two places higher in the SEC standings than the Georgia men. Despite that, it wasn’t as bad as you might think for the Bulldog men. Even with the major sports having sub-par seasons, Georgia’s men’s programs finished tied for fourth with Tennessee.
Here’s a look at how the Bulldogs did against the rest of the SEC this year. We use regular season standings where possible, but some sports like golf and swimming use a season-ending tournament or meet to decide the champion.
- Football: T-4th (T-2nd SEC East). Champion: Alabama
- Men’s Basketball: 11th (6th SEC East). Champion: Kentucky
- Women’s Basketball: 5th. Champion: Tennessee
- Baseball: 12th (6th SEC East). Champion: Florida
- Softball: 4th. Champion: Alabama
- Men’s Tennis: 3rd (3rd SEC East). Champion: Tennessee
- Women’s Tennis: T-2nd (T-2nd SEC East). Champion: Florida
- Men’s Golf: 1st (SEC Tournament). Champion: Georgia
- Women’s Golf: 4th (SEC Tournament). Champion: Alabama
- Women’s Soccer: 5th (3rd SEC East). Champion: Florida
- Women’s Volleyball: T-5th (4th SEC East). Champion: LSU
- Gymnastics: 3rd (SEC Championships). Champion: Florida
- Men’s Swimming/Diving: 3rd (SEC Championships). Champion: Auburn
- Women’s Swimming/Diving: 1st (SEC Championships). Champion: Georgia
- Men’s Track & Field: 5th (SEC Outdoor Championships). Champion: Florida
- Women’s Track & Field: 5th (SEC Outdoor Championships). Champion: LSU
- Men’s Cross Country: 5th (SEC Championships). Champion: Alabama
- Women’s Cross Country: 4th (SEC Championships). Champion: Florida
Note: Equestrian is not an SEC sport, but c’mon – they’re national champs.
Other than men’s basketball and baseball, most Georgia programs finished at least in the top half of the conference. Those results probably buoyed Georgia’s place in the All-Sports competition versus programs who might have done well in a few sports but poorly in most of the others.
While maintaining second place in the SEC All-Sport standings might be a nice surprise, it’s very possible that Georgia, for the first time in well over a decade, could dip out of the national top 20 in this year’s Directors’ Cup. Georgia was 25th after the conclusion of the winter sports, and they’ll be helped by several postseason appearances among the spring sports. It’ll be close.
Still, most fans just consider the strength of the football team a proxy for the state of the athletic department. What’s your verdict?