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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15 Comments

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15 responses to “The road to Bogotay

  1. kckd

    Senator, you may know more than me. But in talking with a few friends from Twin City, Moody was told a couple of times that he would have to remain incident free before getting to Athens for UGA to honor his scholarship.

    I consider that a little different than the kid who eventually went to Arkansas (can’t remember the name). I thought he had stayed clean, but like Moody had some trouble before he was offered the coaches already knew about. Then they found out the admissions board or whatever they are, wouldn’t let him in.

    With Chaney, I think we all know that had nothing to do with character, but the fact that UGA didn’t want to take him based on the fact he had one test score extremely high while all the other times his test score wasn’t good enough to qualify as a student athlete.

    If you know more than me (and that definitely could be the case), I’d like to know what I have wrong about the three cases.

    As far as Richt goes, I never had a doubt that things were gonna change. People were getting extremely upset because he wasn’t saying things like he’s saying now during the season. But I’ve pretty much put together that he feels it’s very important for the coaches and players to be supportive of each other at that point and doing what our fans wanted him to do would have been throwing certain coaches and players to the wolves. If you look back at 2006, he handled that in very similar fashion. But that one didn’t quite sting as bad cause we finished strong, beat Tech and only were blown out in one game which had more to do with our own mistakes than the other team being superior to us.

    • I don’t want to get into what I know about prior dismissals, for a variety of reasons, but primarily because the “why” part of the story isn’t particularly relevant to my point. The issue isn’t what was going on behind the scenes with Moody, Grant, Cheney or anybody else that led to the decisions to cut ties with the program, it’s how the program dealt with the kids publicly after a decision was reached. And in my mind, Moody was treated very differently from others. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it’s an indication that Richt’s focus is sharpened elsewhere.

      As far as what Richt says, I don’t take too much out of what he discusses during the season, because things can change rapidly – just witness the turnarounds in ’06 and ’07 for examples of that. But, yeah, his comments looking back after last season gave me some cause for concern. I’m not looking for him to throw anyone with the program to the wolves, but I think it’s hard to stress things like accountability in a credible way when you don’t seem completely willing to acknowledge the problems that need correcting. Maybe I read too much in what he said after the season was over, but in any event, I’m really happy to hear him speak as he does now.

      • kckd

        I guess my point is it’s hard to tell if the way he dealt with Moody is due to a different Richt, or due to the fact that Moody’s case itself was different.

        I think Richt has gotten harder on bad behavior, that’s with both recruits and signed sealed and delivered athletes. But that might have just as much to do with what happened before September this past year as during the season.

  2. …I guess “gettin’ my shit together Richt” doesn’t really roll off the tongue either.

  3. Joe

    I have flipped through a number of UGA articles today and this one stands out as something different. This is a theory presented in a way I have not seen posted before. After reading this post I thought about what I have read over the last few months and have come to the conclusion that The Senator is correct. From a number of comments by coaches and the players there is some validity in saying that Richt has begun to change the way he is running the program and the way he is treating his players. I think it was Micheal Grant that was shuffled over to Arkansas (so politely handled that he probably showed up for his first practice at the University of Arkansas with a “Finish the Drill, UGA t-shirt”. Pulling back from the hundreds of articles about UGA football, the Moody situation strikes me as a change of pace, or maybe a redirection. This redirection seems to indicate that CMR is VERY serious about winning another SEC Champ and with that comes the shot at a National Championship. I believe that there have been two areas of focus in the off- season. The first is that I get the impression the coaches have notified the young men in the locker room that you either do it the Georgia Way, or it is the highway. The Moody situation was an example. The second is that you can tell that coach Richt has addressed the issue of leadership with more than just the team seniors. Seems that he has decided to anoint anyone who is a “leader” to actually be one of the leaders. Leaving it to the senior class was a mistake last year. I like what I am seeing this year and will be saying a few extra prayers that this coming January we get to raise the glass football (I would even let Orson take a shot at it if we did).

    • Meyer and Saban are already ahead of Richt in this category. I really appreciate Richt’s strong faith–I try to be a Christian myself BUT this year Richt is gonna have to “hunder down”. By that I mean he has to expect alot more from the players he’s recruited and not putting up with any off the field stuff-you screw up and you are gone. He has to get everyone on the same page this year.When you lose to Tech ,it wakes you up and maybe we can make a positive out of it.

  4. Joe

    Oh, and GO DAWGS!

  5. Left to Right

    I think a “Ruthless Richt” would have allowed a couple coaches who had a chance a couple of months ago to pursue other coaching opportunities to actually leave.

  6. Macallanlover

    To paraphrase a Kenny Rogers’ song “Something always told me they were reading Mark Richt wrong”. There have many stories from people close to him about how competitive and “tough” CMR is underneath the public personna.

    It has always been amusing to read posts about how CMR was “too nice” to win the big games, totally ignoring the success men like Tom Landry, John Wooden, Tony Dungy, etc., have had as coaches. Richt’s own accomplishments of winning 80% of his games while playing an SEC schedule and winning two SEC crowns should put such characterizations on the shelf.

    I do feel CMR is introspective and evaluates his own performance at the end of each campaign. It is not surprising that a “return to basics” is in order at this point as success can often allow you to drift further from the starting point than you realize while basking in the adulation. This guy is grounded, and no one should question his discipline or mental toughness

    • Hobnail_Boot

      Exactly. CMR wants to win another SEC Championship and an MNC as much as anybody, and he knows that ultimately his record vs. UF will be a huge part of how history judges his tenure at UGA.

  7. ceph

    I keep hearing Richt, Martinez etc., keep referring to the Georgia Way, could someone possibly explain exactly what this means?

    • Macallanlover

      I don’t feel there is any real mystery to the phrase “Georgia Way”. Every organization has its own culture and method of operating. It isn’t a claim that we are superior, just that CMR has his own way of speaking, handling discipline, speed, lines of communication, delegation, authority limits, etc. That “Georgia Way” would be modified to some degree by a change of regime and that would become the “new” Georgia Way. (I would think the “Alabama Way” changed significantly from Shula to Saban even though they still have the same Alabama traditions.)

      For instance, corporate cultures vary significantly even though they are often bound by the same laws. Each has a personality of its own, and when companies merge there is always some folks that are out of step for a while.

  8. JM

    Good article and some interesting thoughts.

    I wonder if you might try to include how Richt has acted toward his coaching staff this off season though.

    Richt seems to have been intensely loyal to Martinez when the fan base was chomping at the bits for him to be ruthless with him.

    Any thoughts?

    • I guess it depends on how much you want to read into this quote:

      “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.

      • OoltewahDawg

        What I’m reading into the quote is, he’s gonna get back to basics, push the team in that direction, and if anyone gets out of line they will be shown the door much quicker than before. In regard to staff, I think if things don’t improve in an area that needs drastic improvement, that coach will be gone next year, or at least demoted to a position of lesser responsibility. Hopefully he won’t have to deal with the latter, and maybe the team leaders will make sure everyone stays out of trouble.
        Go Dawgs