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Post Will Royal flush Tech?

Monday March 7, 2011

The AJC is reporting that Milton forward Julian Royal would consider asking for a release from his letter of intent from Georgia Tech if Paul Hewitt is replaced.

Royal, a 6’8″ PF, is a Top 100 prospect according to Rivals.com and is #63 on the ESPNU 100. He committed to and signed with Tech over Georgia in October.

The Yellow Jackets enter this week’s ACC Tournament as the #11 seed after finishing with a 5-11 ACC mark this year and an overall record of 13-17. Though he led the Jackets to the national title game in 2004 and brought a long list of talented prospects to Atlanta, Hewitt has been under fire for several years. Since 2006, Tech has a losing record both in conference play and overall. They are the only ACC school to have a losing overall record over that time span, and no ACC program has done worse than their 31-63 league mark.

So why is it even a question whether Tech will make a change?

  • The contract. You probably know all about the deal by now. In order to lock down Hewitt after the 2004 NCAA run, Tech signed Hewitt to a contract that renews itself each year and provides for a buyout equal to the five remaining seasons – over $7 million. But with fans staying away in droves, we now start to see an opportunity cost rising next to that $7 million. The value of that lost support will add up quickly, especially for a moderately successful basketball program that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of football money with which to sustain itself.
  • Next year. Here’s where the timing gets interesting. Tech’s win over Miami on Sunday was the last game at what we know as Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Tech will spend the next year gutting and rebuilding – and renaming – the arena on the same site. Meanwhile, the team will become nomads and play at Philips Arena off-campus. Is a year leading a gypsy team attractive to potential replacements? On one hand, he’d have a year to right the ship and head into year two with a lot of buzz (as Mark Fox did this year). On the other hand, Tech would run the risk of a lackluster ’11-’12 season with a lukewarm and dwindling fan base that they’re trying to re-energize in time to pack their new facility. Would Tech get a bigger impact by introducing a new coach and new arena at the same time in 2012?

We should know one way or the other soon. Hewitt’s contract rolls over on April 15th, and they’re required to give him a month’s notice of any change. March 15th is next Tuesday, only two days after the end of the ACC Tournament. If Tech does make a change, we can be sure that Mark Fox and the Georgia program would welcome a second chance to talk to Royal. Georgia’s frontcourt takes some big losses after this season, and it’s doubtful that anyone in the current class is as ready to make an impact as Royal would be.

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