Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post SEC maintains 8-game schedule

Tuesday April 29, 2014

The SEC decided over the weekend that it will maintain its eight-game football schedule while adding a requirement that each team add an opponent from another BCS conference each season. The 8+1 model still leaves three games for each school to schedule as it pleases.

The requirement to play a power conference opponent just codifies what’s already happening. Four schools (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky) have permanent opponents from the ACC. Most everyone else has played a BCS conference opponent recently, and they’ll just have to make arrangements for it to happen every year. Yes, teams will be tempted to look towards the bottom of those other conferences for opponents, but last season’s Mississippi State trip to Oklahoma State is a nice example of what else might be possible. Only four SEC schools don’t have a qualifying opponent in 2014, so the SEC is getting a nice PR boost for essentially maintaining the status quo.

ESPN’s Chris Fowler unfortunately criticizes the SEC vote as a threat to quality scheduling. While there are some good reasons for considering a ninth SEC game, strength of schedule metrics really aren’t among them. SEC programs consistently have some of the nation’s toughest schedules. Six of the top 7 SEC teams had schedules among Sagarin’s top 25. As @CFBMatrix put it,

Even if schedule strength were a concern, it would have been foolish to commit to a much more aggressive approach before we have some idea of how much it will matter to the selection committee.

Who is happiest with the plan?

Winners: Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee. The magnitude of these two historic rivalries was enough to steer the scheduling policy of the entire conference.

Losers: LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M. Four schools who could care less about the tradition of playing their cross-divisional permanent opponent are now locked into a fairly tough annual game.

Are the fans winners or losers? I guess it depends on your school and your priorities. If preserving the cross-divisional opponent mattered, you’re happy. If you wanted more variety among the teams you’d see from the other division (i.e., more frequent trips to Baton Rouge), you’re disappointed. If your school already has a nonconference rivalry game, you’re ambivalent. If your school doesn’t often schedule games against power conference opponents, you’ll get them. Most power conference teams will require a home-and-home, so get ready to travel.

Georgia fans will likely have mixed feelings about the plan. It’s certainly a positive to keep the Auburn rivalry. It’s a trade-off that we won’t see the other schools from the West as often. While the nonconference schedule will occasionally go soft as it will in 2015, the eight-game SEC schedule gives Georgia (and all SEC schools) flexibility. A ninth conference game along with Georgia Tech would almost certainly end ambitious and varied nonconference scheduling for Georgia. This plan keeps alive the possibility of a future series with Notre Dame (or Clemson or any other program.)

Post Ticket demand and schedule

Thursday April 24, 2014

If you’re a Hartman Fund donor at a certain level, you might have received a note this week with this offer: “The Georgia Bulldog Club is offering you the opportunity to request additional non-renewable season tickets.” Qualifying donors may request as many as eight non-renewable season tickets before the deadline in May.

Now before we assign any sweeping trends to the availability of extra season tickets, this news isn’t unusual. Yes, the $10,000 donation that it took for first-time season tickets in 2008 seems like a long time ago, but that spike in demand was the exception. Extra season tickets remained in years before 2008 and have remained in years since.

You only have to look around the nation (or in the Georgia student section) to see that schools face challenges in packing their stadiums. It’s true that some schools are undertaking ambitious expansions and renovations. We’ll see if the fans follow. Even the programs on top have trouble holding interest. Administrators are grasping at ideas to compete with the experience of watching a game from the comforts of home.

Georgia ticket sales have remained strong in this climate, but even the Dawgs aren’t immune from the pressures on demand. Is that what we’re seeing in the season ticket numbers? We won’t know until the totals are in, and even then it will take a few years of data to establish a trend. Individual teams face their own micro factors in ticket demand – how do fans feel about the coming season? How did they like last season? How do they feel about the coaches and the offseason moves?

If you want to raise a small red flag, we’re talking about extra season tickets remaining for a season that features Clemson, Auburn, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech on the home slate. How will things look in 2015 when the home schedule drops off precipitously after South Carolina?

That brings us to the quality of the schedule. I’m not as gung-ho as others on a 9th SEC game driving ticket demand. The same temptations that keep people at home still apply. We like to imagine that the 9th game will always be a big draw like Alabama or LSU, but it’s just as likely to be Arkansas or Mississippi State. It still figures to draw bigger crowds than a lightweight opponent as demand grows more elastic. How much bigger? That’s where I’m slightly skeptical. If we do move in that direction, it’s pretty clear that the push is going to have to come from the administrators rather than the coaches.

SEC coaches again emerged from a discussion about the 9th SEC game without much support for the idea. Saban, who champions both a 9th conference game *and* another game against a power conference opponent, is playing a solo rather than leading the band. We know that keeping the schedule at 8 games could jeopardize traditional rivalries, but coaches don’t seem to mind. I don’t really blame the coaches for acting in their own interests. Another conference game by definition spreads 7 more losses around the league affecting everything from job security to bowl bids to bonuses. A coach like Saban might feel relatively secure in those areas, but many of his peers can’t afford to take the risk.

When the 9th game comes – and it will – it’s going to come from top-down pressure by administrators. They’ll hear the demands from networks wanting a better inventory of games, and they’ll do what it takes to keep the money flowing in by appeasing those networks and priming demand for tickets. They just won’t (and shouldn’t) count on the coaches to lead the charge.

Post Stegeman work to begin, and they mean it this time

Wednesday April 16, 2014

The protective scaffolding around Stegeman Coloseum has been an eyesore for more than two years as the school bickered with contractors over the costs of securing the glass panels installed in 2011. We’ve been teased with a resolution before, but it looks as if work will finally begin to correct the flaw that had marred a showcase renovation.

The Red & Black reports that “Stegeman Coliseum…will be undergoing construction to retrofit the glass panel installation and eventually remove the scaffolding.”

The project was supposed to have started on Monday and should be finished July 31.

Post You’re not helping, NCAA

Wednesday April 16, 2014


In order to adapt to a game that has become more up-tempo, the Bulldogs are emphasizing getting lighter at all defensive positions. Pruitt thinks his defense as a whole is “too big” and needs to cut down.


The NCAA’s legislative council approved a proposal Tuesday to expand the meal allowance for all athletes….The proposal would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons. The measure still must be approved by the board of directors, which meets April 24.

Post G-Day 2014

Monday April 14, 2014

A perfect day for a spring game, an entertaining game, and no long-term injuries. We’ll take it.

  • If I dare to take one conclusion from G-Day, it’s this: Georgia’s going to go as far in 2014 as its offensive line and secondary allows. That’s not a surprising development – those two areas have seen the most attrition and turnover from the 2013 team. In a way, it was a bit of a relief to see things play out that way. It would have been more of a concern to have seen deficiencies pop up in unexpected areas that were supposed to be strengths.
  • Georgia’s going to have a good problem at receiver this fall. We didn’t need much of a reminder of Bennett’s sure hands, but his incredible catch did the job. Conley also didn’t have much to prove, but he looks every bit the polished upperclassman. It’s going to be interesting to see how Mitchell works back in to this group and who Mason settles on as his favored targets. Add back in JSW after a likely suspension, and Mason’s options increase. Richt and Bobo do like to rotate in receivers, so there will be opportunities for the catches that went to Wooten and McGowan last season. Reggie Davis looked most ready to join that next group of receivers. Rumph, a star of the 2013 spring game, had a couple of unfortunate drops. Towns seems more comfortable this year, and he’d get the nod ahead of Tibbs or LeMay.
  • Can’t mention the receivers without a nod to walk-on Clay Johnson who led the black team with 5 catches for 75 yards. Johnson takes the Ronnie Powell Award.
  • This depth at receiver leads me to think that Tramel Terry might be left to sink or swim on defense. Yes, it’s been a struggle for him. I can see the frustration – as a gifted receiver, it might not be as natural to “become a defensive player.” Moving back to offense would be a long view. It would be tough to get on the field this season even for the most talented newcomer, but Georgia does need receivers for 2015. Does the short-term need at safety trump that? Terry didn’t look as behind the curve on Saturday as his frustration might have led us to think.
  • We didn’t see much from the running game, and that’s fine – we were more interested in getting a look at the quarterback depth. We know what we have at tailback with Gurley and Marshall, and Gurley’s few touches were enough to give you the warm fuzzies. His catches out of the backfield are an added dimension to an already-loaded passing game. Douglas will continue to be a factor, and it was a nice debut for Turman. The only question for August is whether Turman and Douglas give the team enough to consider a redshirt for one or both of the prized incoming tailback signees.
  • The pass rush is going to be fun to watch. Floyd and Jenkins were as active as we all hoped, but it was also encouraging to see pressure and plays along the line from the next group – Deloach, Bellamy, and Dawson. We also saw a glimpse of what coaches hoped for from Toby Johnson – his agility and size along the line will help make up for the loss of Garrison Smith.
  • The offensive line had its hands full with a good pass rush, but it had its moments. Left guard continues to be the biggest question.
  • The attrition and injuries in the secondary make it tough to get a read. That said, there were still a few regulars to watch. Moore was active and made a couple of impressive hits. Swann, as we saw last season, seems to be more of a natural fit in the nickel “star” spot. Wiggins and Dawson (not to mention Swann) drew pass interference flags. I suppose the positive is that at least they were in the neighborhood to battle for the ball. As Pruitt continues his work on technique, hopefully those plays will turn into deflections or turnovers. Getting to the spot is a starting point.
  • As for the defense overall, it’s still a work in progress. What we’ll see in a few months will depend on how fast some recover from injury while others join the team. An early focus on fundamentals is paying off – we were impressed by the tackling and pursuit. The success of Mason and the first team shows how much work remains, but that’s the core of a very good offense. Finding those missing pieces in the secondary will be the biggest challenge Pruitt faces before his first season as coordinator.

That’s what I saw. How about you?

Post A eulogy for CSS

Friday April 11, 2014

Saturday’s broadcast of G-Day will be the last time you see live Georgia football on CSS. The AJC reported last month that the cable-only network will be shutting down on June 1.

The channel started out as something barely a step above local public-access that happened to show replays of football games. Production was spotty and HD wasn’t an option. Over the past 15 years the station grew its inventory of live events but also added team-specific shows like the Dawg Report that fell into a niche between the IMG-produced content and what the larger networks could carry.

The introduction of the SEC Network will take most of the best live content from CSS, and that’s why CSS is packing it in. Most of the games you used to find on CSS will likely be on the SEC Network in the future. We’d expect Comcast to just swap one for the other in the channel lineup when the SEC Network starts broadcasting in August.

We’ll still be losing a bit when CSS goes away. We don’t know how the SEC Network will operate, but Georgia will be competing with 13 other teams (not to mention generic conference-wide programming) for time on the new network. We don’t know if we’ll get replays of all of the games or just those produced by SECN/ESPN. We’ll miss the Dawg Report and some of the other shows that had a local touch. It was even nice to catch the occasional G-Braves game while working around the house.

CSS was also an anchor keeping many (a few?) people from switching to satellite from cable. Georgia content found only on CSS made it worthwhile to hold onto the cable subscription. That value was eroded slightly as more and more content became available on ESPN3, but the presence of CSS was still a consideration for those folks. That presence and motivation to stick around are gone now. No, we won’t see millions leaving Comcast, but it’s reasonable that the cable network will lose a small number of subscribers.

Post Nice little run for Georgia baseball

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Scott Stricklin’s team got off to a slow start this season, but they’ve since recovered with five wins in their last seven games. Georgia has won two straight SEC series, and they knocked off #14 Clemson on the road last night. The Diamond Dawgs are now 19-13-1 on the season and are 5-6-1 in the SEC after starting 1-4. They’ll try to get the conference mark up over .500 this weekend when they host Tennessee.

Post Dawgs and Domers

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Georgia officials confirmed yesterday that they are in talks with Notre Dame for a home-and-home football series. Details, including the dates, aren’t finalized, but the 2018-2019 seasons are a possibility.

The key stumbling block would be the future of the SEC schedule. As Greg McGarity noted, “First of all, we’ve got to determine how many games we’re playing in the SEC down the road (eight or nine). That’s the first order of business.” If the SEC slate went to nine games, Georgia would be left with only two open nonconference slots each year and would be much less likely to fill those slots with marquee opponents. Notre Dame could also face scheduling pressure as they begin to work ACC teams into their schedule.

Post Bauerle, men’s swimming under NCAA investigation

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Nearly three months of curious silence came to an end Friday when Georgia announced an NCAA investigation into the men’s swimming and diving program and the immediate suspension from “all job-related responsibilities” of coach Jack Bauerle. The investigation alleges violations of NCAA bylaws and UGA policy by Bauerle concerning the fall semester course schedule of swimmer Chase Kalisz.

Bauerle had been under a soft suspension since early January when both he and Kalisz were disciplined. Kalisz was reinstated for competition, but Bauerle’s suspension remained through the end of the season. Bauerle was not allowed to coach the team during meets and did not travel to the NCAA championships, but he was still allowed to conduct practice, perform all other duties of the job, and even pass messages to the team during competition. It was this odd state of limbo that lasted for months that led us to wonder what was going on.

These facts don’t seem to be in dispute: Kalisz was allegedly added to a fall semester course between the end of classes and the start of final exams. Though Kalisz completed no course work, he received a passing grade for the course.

According to the allegations, Georgia claims that the passing grade was a “clerical error” and that an incomplete grade should have been given while the coursework was completed over the next several weeks.

I’m trying to wrap my head around how a student gets added to a course at the point in the semester between the end of classes and the start of exams. Even if that were possible and permissible according to University policy (how could it be?), Bauerle going directly through the professor is a no-no at Georgia. I still don’t see how it gets done without assistance from the academic side – surely professors aren’t able to bypass the Office of the Registrar and adjust their course rolls as they please.

Another odd fact is that Bauerle attempted to go through proper channels first. “Athletic department personnel gave ‘repeated instructions’ to Bauerle not to have a course added to Kalisz’s schedule,” reports Marc Weiszer. I know that athletics sometimes goes to lengths we’d rather not discuss in order to preserve eligibility, but what made this seem like an idea that had a prayer of getting the stamp of approval? Had someone used this technique before? Though athletics administrators gave “repeated instructions” not to follow through on the plan, it still happened – no one on either the athletic or academic side stopped it.

We’ve only read the allegations, and Georgia has up to 90 days to respond. The response will come with the aid of a firm familiar with NCAA minutiae, but we can’t imagine how the substantial facts would be disputed. The nature of the response will be interesting since Bauerle seems to have gone around the administration that will be representing him.

While we wait for that response and the subsequent investigation and finding, Bauerle will be suspended. In a contrite statement following the announcement of the allegations, Bauerle acknowledges a “mistake” and takes full responsibility for the incident. Bauerle “do(es) not agree with the charges in the way the NCAA has framed them,” and I suppose that distinction will be the substance of Georgia’s response.

At one pole of interpretation, we have a coach who went around his administration to work with a complicit professor in order to maintain the eligibility of a star team member. Kalisz went on to win an individual national title, set an American record, and contributed to the program’s second-best showing at the NCAA Championships. Looking through a more charitable lens, the coach pushed the boundaries of a questionable but legitimate method to get some additional credit hours for the student-athlete, and the professor added to the mistake by recording a passing grade rather than an incomplete.

Some have suggested the role of an overzealous compliance department in this story. Georgia’s institutional approach might look like another case of being too quick to fall on its own sword, but schools are also now operating under a new enforcement paradigm. If the allegations are correct, I can’t fault the compliance department for raising the red flag.

Bauerle regrets “that I have placed the University of Georgia, an institution I dearly love and have given my heart and soul to for 44 years, in this situation.” Bauerle has proven that he’s no renegade when it comes to academics; his men and women have been some of the most decorated student-athletes produced by the university. It’s an unfortunate consequence that such an accomplished career and reputation could be tarnished by these allegations, and one of Georgia’s legends will spend the next several months fighting for his position and legacy.