Daily Archives: March 30, 2009

Amateur athletes and the trickle down theory

Hey, I’ve knocked Andrew Zimbalist when he’s said something off base, so it only seems fair to give him credit when he gets something right.

The New York Times published a roundtable yesterday called “March Money Madness” that explored the question of paying college athletes.  Zimbalist points out the folly of these payment proposals – the vast majority of college athletic programs lose money, so adding this cost on would only serve to put them further in the red – but also notes that there are fixes that should be made to treat the kids more fairly.

It’s a point made by more than one of the participants in the discussion, but it seems more than a little crappy that some of these kids aren’t fully compensated for the cost of going to college but find themselves limited by the demands of their programs and by the amateur rules to go out and make a few bucks to cover the shortfall.  No, I’m not advocating a Rhett Bomar car dealership situation here, but it seems like some more effort could go into finding a satisfactory way to make sure kids that are generating revenue for their schools aren’t winding up in a financial hole as they contribute to that.

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The road to Bogotay

As the header and yesterday’s post indicate, there’s a lot about the signing of Brandon Bogotay that intrigues me.  My focus in the prior post was a look at the statistics behind the move; today, I’m more interested in the psychology of the decision.

As for what I mean by that, take a look at this post of David Hale’s from last Friday.  It’s a riff off of a post I did that in turn was a riff off a post of Bruce Feldman’s about how there’s a trend line running against head coaches with more than a few years’ experience at the same school winning a BCS title game.  What we both responded to was Feldman’s speculation as to why that trend is occurring, particularly this passage:

I’ve always thought that coaches, like most other professionals, get better with added experience, but there are certainly other elements that can fly in the face of that: People do tend to get complacent; the message might no longer be fresh; maybe a coach’s enthusiasm isn’t quite what it once was when there was more determination to prove you belong.

I asked how much of this might apply to Mark Richt and thought I saw something in his recent comments that made me think he recognized the possibility of this.  I had several commenters who didn’t find this line of thinking applicable to the Georgia program.  While all we could do here was speculate about the speculation, David was able to utilize an advantage over us – access to ‘da man.  He up and went to Richt and asked him about Feldman’s train of thought.

And found, somewhat to his surprise, that Richt believes there’s some merit to it.  Here’s the quote that got my attention.

“There’s been years where I’ve said, ‘Men, I know what you’re going to do, I know how you’re going to do it, I’m not going to have to insult anybody’s intelligence to say we’re starting from ground zero,’” Richt said. “But this year, I said I don’t particularly care if anybody’s feelings get hurt. We’re going to pretend like we’ve never done it before, and we’re going to make sure we do it the Georgia way. That’s the mentality with the staff and with the players and myself.” [Emphasis added.]

And that’s what leads me around to the Bogotay signing.

It started with the decision to cut Dexter Moody loose after Moody signed his LOI but then had some issues turn up that gave the program second thoughts.  In prior years, we’ve seen this process with other kids take some time to develop – in several cases so that Richt personally could develop an exit strategy that involved placing the kid at another SEC program – which allowed the rumors to fly, the media to dig and the fanbase to squirm a bit.

Not this time around, though.  In a move so coldly efficient as to be almost Sabanesque in its execution, Moody was shown the door, put out on the porch and had the door locked behind him before anyone knew what was going on.  Moody was released from his LOI without being placed at another school, which gave Georgia the reason to refuse to comment on what happened.  The media didn’t dig into what the cause of the problem was until after Moody was released.  And the fanbase essentially shrugged its shoulders.

That’s just the first part of the story.  Like virtually everyone I spoke to about that decision, I expected that Richt would use the open scholarship slot to reward a deserving walk on senior and then use the scholly on next year’s class.  Instead, with no hint that the move had been in the works, Bogotay became the newest member of the incoming class of 2009 recruits.

And look how quickly it all came together.  Moody was released from his LOI on March 16th.  Ten days later, Bogotay is added to the fold.  That’s a short period of time, especially when you consider how Bogotay’s “recruiting” went.

… Bogotay still had another year of eligibility remaining at Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif., and his coach didn’t send out any footage of the kicker, assuming he would return for his sophomore season. Bogotay decided to send out some tape on his own.

“He might have heard that Poland comment,” Richt said. “I can’t tell you how many times we watched that video.”

It didn’t take long for Richt to decide Bogotay had what Georgia was missing a year ago, but Georgia wasn’t the only school interested. Bogotay had visited Hawaii a week earlier and had interest from several other schools, too, so Richt decided it was time to pull the trigger on a scholarship offer.

That’s some fortuitous timing.  That’s also a head coach who’s focused on a particular problem and made a decision to address it as efficiently as he could.

Color me very pleasantly surprised.  Three months ago, I was fretting over Richt’s apparent willingness to see last year’s disappointment as little more than the result of a tough schedule and a rash of injuries, instead of digging deeper and seeing the implosions in the Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech games as symptoms of something longer term and more problematic.  I don’t know that the Richt of three months ago says the same thing to David Hale, or deals with Moody or the kicking situation in the same way.

So to me it looks like we’re seeing the emergence of another Richt persona.  Not “evil Richt” or “hip Richt”… I dunno, “ruthless Richt” sounds too harsh… but there’s definitely something going on here that’s different.  All I know is that were I a Georgia player or coach who heard the head man talking about an area of the team that needed to improve and I played or coached in that area, I sure would be listening more carefully than maybe I did in times past.

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