Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Will logistics concerns really keep CFB playoff games off campus?

Wednesday April 25, 2012

When we first got talking about changes to the college football postseason, we wondered if logistics might be a potential stumbling block to hosting games on campus. Ticketing allocation, hotels, parking, even concessions and security – all things planned out months in advance for the regular season – would have to be reconsidered in a couple of weeks for the postseason. In most cases these aren’t NFL stadiums with a full-time quasi-public stadium authority ready to turn the building around for another event.

I expected that might be a point of contention, but I didn’t expect it to be a show-stopper. That’s the way it’s looking, though. The Chicago Tribune explains why the idea of hosting games on-campus might be “on life support.”

Jason Kirk at SBNation explains why one of the bigger concerns is misplaced. The schools most likely to host these games have capacity far beyond most bowl and NFL stadiums. If money is at the heart of the discussion (of course it is), you’re looking at another 10-20,000 tickets to be sold.

Most fans love going to bowl games, but attendence and lack of sellouts at even the BCS bowls indicate that they’d probably much rather stay home and sell out the local stadium if it gives their team an advantage in advancing. And far be it from me to wax poetic in this context, but wouldn’t the scene of Oregon hosting a major playoff game in its smaller stadium be a great and memorable moment for college football?

One thing that’s caught my attention in this discussion is the claim that “the conference commissioners…are eager to take back New Year’s Day.” We know why the bowls have drifted away from New Year’s: with so much money being paid out, the sponsors and networks want their own prime time slot without competition from other bowls. So we get the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl with their own nights on television but unable to break 70,000 tickets sold as fans choose to stay home after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. If the commissioners are able to consolidate the semifinals on New Year’s, the other traditional New Year’s Day bowls will either have to move their own dates or risk being drown out by hours of analysis and pomp for the big games.

Post Scheduling from the Florida perspective

Wednesday April 25, 2012

Substitute Clemson for Miami, and this primer on Florida’s scheduling philosophy could serve very well to explain the factors that go into creating Georgia’s schedule.

I appreciate the credit given to some of Georgia’s scheduling initiatives, but the departure of Damon Evans might have signaled the end of a more aggressive scheduling approach. (Not that I disagree.) Georgia would prefer seven home games much more often than not, and Mark Richt was not thrilled by some of those treks across the Mississippi.

Year2 touches on the bottom line: Florida has used this scheduling philosophy en route to building some of the nation’s most successful and profitable football and athletics programs of the past two decades. If that’s not the purpose of a schedule, what is? There isn’t, as we heard our former director say of Georgia, a “branding” issue as the result of a hyper-regional football schedule; football and basketball national titles along with some dynamic players and coaches have more than taken care of that. A different approach to scheduling at Florida would be a fix for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Post Mammoth Missouri

Tuesday April 24, 2012

Though Georgia’s 2012 schedule has been widely panned, we’ve maintained that there are still several big games and challenges on the slate. Georgia’s SEC opener is the first of these big games, and we can expect a team, town, and fans out of their minds to host their first SEC game.

As Seth Emerson reports,

Pinkel said the excitement about joining the SEC and the league opener against Georgia was “mammoth,” and people were already talking about it in Missouri. Which is rare, he added.

Post Parker chooses UCLA, Georgia’s frontcourt gets no help

Tuesday April 24, 2012

It wasn’t a big surprise, but it was a mild disappointment that Miller Grove forward Tony Parker chose UCLA over Georgia (and others) yesterday. Parker claimed to be attracted to the “pressure” and the challenge of making a name for himself away from home, and he was also eager to be a part of one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.

If you’re wondering why Parker would choose a school on the opposite coast, even one with the tradition of UCLA, the answer more or less comes down to one man: Bruin assistant Korey McCray. McCray was previously involved with the Atlanta Celtics AAU program before UCLA hired him a year ago, and he leveraged that relationship to land not only Parker but fellow Georgia prospect Jordan Adams. As UCLA coach Ben Howland admitted, “Were (McCray) not on staff we wouldn’t have gotten either one of those kids.”

That’s not to imply any wrongdoing or dirty recruiting. It’s simply a logical outcome from a strong pre-existing relationship with a youth coach. Georgia got on well with Parker’s family, and Parker made several trips to Athens. There was a good relationship there, and the Bulldogs were a serious contender for one of the spring’s top unsigned prospects.

Unfortunately for Georgia, coming in a close second doesn’t get you any more than the schools that were dropped months ago. Georgia is left with a nice recruiting class, but that class is still heavy on backcourt players. That’s good since Georgia will be replacing senior guards Ware and Robinson, but it also means that the team missed out on a chance for a big impact on the frontcourt. Without any surprise late signings, Georgia’s frontcourt will look much as it did this past year. They’ll have the improvement from an offseason of work, sure, but the personnel will largely be the same.

UCLA will be an interesting team to watch next season. They’ll have to meld a strong incoming class with an unusual mix of returning players that will include three disgruntled former North Carolina players. Coach Ben Howland is under scrutiny not only for a string of poor seasons but also a culture that took a pretty strong hit in a Sports Illustrated piece earlier this year. Howland and his staff have responded with a great effort in recruiting, but they’ll have immediate expectations to turn this talent into the wins and titles that have eluded the program since last decade’s Final Four trips.

If you have an hour, you can watch the farce that was Parker’s announcement ceremony. The school has a link to the video up here, or you can wait until the commemorative 6-DVD set comes out in time for Christmas.

Post G-Day Wrapup

Monday April 16, 2012

So this is that post where we acknowledge how pointless the spring game is but write about it anyway.

What a brilliant Saturday afternoon to be in Athens. The campus can shine in its autumn colors or even a blanket of snow, a spring afternoon like Saturday is about as good as it gets in the Classic City. The track athletes we saw from as far away as Minnesota had to

Things did get off to a disappointing start. Those hoping to see a little tennis were met with the unusual news that a lack of healthy players forced Tennessee to forfeit. The Diamond Dawgs squandered an early bases-loaded situation with three consecutive strikeouts, and things only got worse at Foley Field.

After an unproductive fourth inning at Foley, a mass exodus carried fans north to Sanford Stadium just in time for the start of G-Day. The crowd was as impressive as you’d hope for on such a perfect day with much of the South stands full, a solid group on the North side, and even some sections occupied in the endzones.

On to the bullets…

  • The game started slowly as the defenses set the tone, but it turned into one of the more entertaining spring games in recent memory. When you fake an extra point against no defense or have Michael Bennett attempt a pass off of a reverse, you know that things loosened up after a more business-like first quarter. The back-and-forth final ten minutes of the game were worth hanging around for. We were hoping Rome would dunk over the crossbar.
  • Tight end should be relatively far down on the list of concerns. Replacing White and Charles is a big job, but Rome and Lynch both looked up to the task. Neither will be the smooth hybrid receiver that Charles was, but if you think in terms of the role of a typical tight end, Georgia has two good ones.
  • Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much in another area of concern. Georgia will be replacing both its placekicker and punter, and the format of G-Day doesn’t lend itself to much evaluation of special teams. Actually, the placekicking wasn’t all that bad. I don’t recall a missed kick, and a few were from over 40 yards out. Punting was rough, and it’s safe to say that the job is Collin Barber’s to lose when he arrives on campus.
  • The format also put the brakes on what otherwise would have been a dominant showing by the starting front seven on defense. No one was looking to fly full-speed into a quarterback, but the pressure was there a lot more often than it wasn’t. Washington’s midseason contributions last year keep us from calling this a breakout season for him, but offenses will have a lot to think about when they see #29 and #83 on the field at the same time – if they can handle the guys up front first.
  • You look at John Jenkins and Abry Jones and you understand why there was some worry they’d they’d be preparing for an NFL minicamp this spring. Georgia’s starting defensive line should have a fun year. It also looks as if Ray Drew has found a home with his hand on the ground. Drew might have outgrown the OLB position, but his speed from the defensive end spot caused some problems. If the secondary is a concern, if only because of depth, a strong line can make things easier.
  • In the running game you saw a very solid group of returning players but also why it would have been nice to get a look at Marshall. Crowell looked comfortable and confident – a big deal after spending the last half of 2011 unable to trust his legs. As good as Crowell ran the ball, his protection stood out as well. On one first half drive that resulted in a score, Crowell picked up the pass rush on three straight plays. Malcome also looked to benefit from a year’s experience and maturity. Neither broke especially long runs, and that’s hopefully where someone like Marshall can come in. Credit the defense though for preventing the big gains on the ground.
  • Richard Samuel had fans searching their programs in the second half when he put on the #19 jersey and moved from fullback to tailback. He ran with the same straight-ahead style we’ve come to expect from him, and he was delivering some punishment. I do think Samuel will find more playing time at fullback though Ogletree can’t be forgotten. Samuel does give the team one of its best running options at fullback in a long time, and a quick punch from the fullback doesn’t only have to be a short-yardage play – see Ogletree’s long gain at Tech last year.
  • We saw why Hutson Mason can afford a redshirt season. That’s no knock on Mason who had a very solid game (9-12, 133 yards, 1 TD) playing for both sides. LeMay looked like a capable backup to Murray, showing nice touch and running ability. As with most freshmen, LeMay will have to work on his feel for the game – when to get rid of the ball, when to protect the ball and take a sack, and how to secure the ball when he tucks and runs. For that reason I think the redshirt might come off of Mason if something long-term kept Murray out, but LeMay will be just fine in a short-term #2 role.
  • As expected, the offensive line was a mixed bag. Holes were there for some nice runs, and at times the defensive pressure was overwhelming.
  • Receivers likewise had a lukewarm day. There were a few nice catches – King’s score was impressive, and Wooten adjusted well to snag an early floater from LeMay. Justin Scott-Wesley made his case for some playing time, and there was an instant where his track speed threatened to show itself. Brown probably hoped for a better day aside from one devastating block, and his production didn’t do much for the breakout season talk. Whether it was the personnel or the playcalling or the effect of the defense, neither offense looked downfield much at all. Branden Smith got in a couple of times on offense, but there wasn’t much to talk about: he was a decoy on a pass play, and a play that looked like an option with he and LeMay was botched.
  • Finally, it was a well-received and smart gesture to make a legend like Charley Trippi a central part of the weekend. The ovation recognizing him before the second quarter was one of the game’s loudest moments.

MORE: G-Day 2012 Stats

Post How we got here – the origins of Georgia’s tough drug policy

Wednesday April 4, 2012

If you didn’t already know that Georgia had one of the SEC’s tougher drug and alcohol policies, the past week or so should have taken care of that. To a lot of people, Georgia’s position on testing probably seems to be, as Michael Elkon put it, “unilateral disarmament.” He’s left scratching his head and wondering why Georgia (or any program) would willfully do this to themselves.

The answer goes back to early 2006, and it has to do with what was going on around the UGA campus. University President Michael Adams, as early as his 2005 State of the Univeristy address, showed concern over the school’s reputation as a party school and its impact on “academic rigor.” Two high-profile events within the next year helped to turn that concern into momentum for campus-wide action: 1) the drug and alcohol-related death of student Lewis Fish and 2) the trashing of campus following the 2005 Auburn game.

By that point, the issue had moved from airy speeches to the editorial pages. The reaction was swift. New policies were put in place across campus that affected everyone from the underage freshman to the football tailgater. The actions and policies ranged from the prudent to the puzzling to the reactionary. See if any of these ring a bell:

It’s no coincidence that policies meant to take aim at student drinking and drug use were accompanied by changes to the football game day experience. There is perhaps no more visible symbol of Georgia’s “party school” reputation than a football weekend – especially the football weekend in Jacksonville. The tug-of-war between the football fan and the University continues today with tweaks taking place on almost an annual basis.

In such a climate, it’s easy to see how the athletic department’s internal policies came under review. With the University cracking down on the general student population and teaming up with the Athletic Assosciation to clean up tailgating, Georgia’s guidelines for acceptable student-athlete behavior had to face scrutiny.

So in July of 2006, we ended up with this. It’s the current athletic department policy for Georgia student-athletes. It’s not a football-only policy, and, while Damon Evans and other athletics administrators might have had input, it is very much in the spirit of the more general campus-wide policies put into place around the same time.

Elkon asks “whether the current stance taken by the Georgia athletic department is the result of media attention paid to off-field issues.” The answer is, indirectly, “yes.” It’s no defense of the policy, but its existence and content makes more sense when you understand that it was much more the fruit of a top-down initiative from the University than it was any kind of organic pet project of Mark Richt or his direct higher-ups. In fact, some of the first student-athletes facing serious discipline for drug or alcohol-related incidents ran afoul not of any football team policy but mandatory University policies (see: Akeem Hebron).

With the origins of the policy understood, the next question is what can or should be done about Georgia’s very real disadvantage relative to its competition.

Should anything be done? Georgia has certainly left itself little wiggle room with its policy, but as Elkon concedes there are several areas where schools chart a course that might be considered detrimental in the context of building a competitive football program – oversigning and academics are two good examples.

It’s difficult to guess how a walk-back of the policy would be taken. Critics would certainly pounce on the timing – do you have standards only until the point that they begin to adversely affect the football program? We’re also talking about sanctioning drug use. That might not seem like such a big deal to many people, and it’s a reality of life on campus, but it’s possibly unacceptable to others who face zero-tolerance policies in their own daily lives.

It’s also not a sure thing that the University would sign off on just any revision. The motivations for a crackdown present in 2006 are for the most part still a fact of life in Athens, and the administration would certainly be aware of the mixed message it would be sending to the rest of the University community by allowing the athletic department to soften its policies without cause.

That’s not to say that the current policy is set in stone. The UGA policy itself has been modified since 2006. In 2010, the policy was amended to remove an automatic suspension after a second drug or alcohol-related arrest. That didn’t mean that the second arrest carried no consequences; it just “was designed to differentiate between a student caught with a beer in a dorm refrigerator and a DUI-related offense,” as the administration explained. The current campus-wide policy was revised in October of 2011.

Should this be an area where the SEC steps in and normalizes policies across the league? I’m not so sure. It would certainly give schools like Georgia an out by removing any competitive disadvantage, though I don’t see why schools wouldn’t be able to put in place policies that go beyond a minimum standard. I also don’t know if it’s a good idea for schools to cede more authority to the conference instead of making – and living with – their own policies that reflect their own priorities and standards.

Post UGA announces big changes to football season deck parking

Monday April 2, 2012

The first week of July is often a tense time for a subset of Georgia football fans looking to purchase season parking in one of the campus parking decks. Between nonresponsive websites, the mad rush of a first-come, first-served system, and speculators grabbing up as many permits as they can, it’s been an easy system to criticize.

Parking Services sent around an e-mail this morning describing this year’s new lottery system to those who have purchased parking in the past. I’ve reprinted the bulk of that e-mail below. The good news is that the new system takes care of some of the more critical issues that plagued the old system.

First, the announcement (emphasis mine). Some comments follow.

For the 2012 football season, parking passes will be sold through UGA Parking Services by lottery. All customers will need to register (late May) on our new registration web site, which we will launch in a few weeks. All customers will have until June 22 at 5 PM to register for the lottery. There is no advantage to registering early as the date you register will have no impact on your chances for selection in the lottery. This year, the North Deck, South Deck, Carlton St Deck, and Performing Arts Center Deck will have season parking passes available for $140 ($20 per game) plus shipping and handling. Orders will be restricted to 1 permit per customer.

Parking Services will award the option to purchase a season parking pass at random based on customer deck choices and space availability. Contributors to the 2012 William C. Hartman Jr. Fund will have priority within the lottery. A contributor’s annual gift or cumulative priority points will not be considered within the lottery as all Hartman Fund contributors will have equal chance of selection. Contributors to the Hartman Fund must provide their UGA Athletic Association account number when registering for 2012 football season parking. Account numbers may be found by logging on to your online account on www.georgiadogs.com.

Customers who are awarded an assignment (early July) in the lottery will then be notified and be able to purchase their parking pass online. Purchases will need to be made prior to the July 16 deadline. After July 16, any remaining permit inventory will be made available for sale on a first-come-first-served basis.

Now a few thoughts…

  • Kudos to the University for addressing the biggest problem: any person could snatch up an almost unlimited number of permits. Often these surplus permits found their way to the secondary market. Now at least permits will be offered first to Hartman Fund donors, and quantities will be limited to one per donor.
  • They could have restricted the applicant pool even further. Hartman Fund donors over a certain donation level already qualify for parking controlled by the Athletic Association as part of their donation. According to the guidelines in the announcement, they would be able to enter the lottery to obtain a permit for friends or resale. They should be excluded or at least given lower priority than those who don’t meet the threshold for other permitted parking options.
  • I’m still a bit nervous about the lottery aspect. The problem with the system wasn’t necessarily the first-come, first-served part of it. Bigger problems were 1) technology limitations unable to handle the instant rush of applications on Permit Day and 2) the aforementioned opening of the system to anyone at all who could then buy any number of permits.
  • Note that the Hull Street lot won’t even be an option anymore. I expect that will be completely controlled by the Athletic Association.

We’ll still have to see the mechanics of the lottery in operation, but it does seem like a better system on the whole. Yes, I’ll still grumble if I don’t get a permit in the deck of my choice.