I know I’m a little late to the party, but I read Sterling Bailey’s dad’s – happy Father’s Day, Mr. Bailey – reaction to Tray Matthews’ decision to take his talents to Auburn University with some interest.
“When I read some of the things said, it just made me sick to my stomach,” Bailey said. “That young man (Matthews) needs to realize who opened doors for him first. I’m speaking as a member of the Georgia Bulldog family, of the Bulldog Nation, because my son goes to school down there, too. I love Tray. I love his mom and dad, too. We’re good friends. But the comments I read made me feel like they were putting down the University of Georgia, the system and the coaches. Not one time did I see it mentioned what Coach Richt or the other coaches have done for him. That’s what made me mad.
“Coach Richt and the coaching staff opened their arms to this kid. They welcomed him into the Bulldog Nation and they stood behind him. For him to come out like that and make it seem like the University of Georgia had done him wrong, that’s what makes me so mad. Same with Shaq Wiggins and the other kids who had the opportunity to play at the University of Georgia. They leave and transfer and get dismissed from the team and they blame it on the school system. It’s not the system; it’s the kids. If you come and do what you’re supposed to do and do it right, you wouldn’t get in trouble and things like this wouldn’t come about.”
He’s spot on in that last sentence, of course, but overall I think he expects too much from teenagers who have an overly exalted opinion of themselves. That’s hardly unexpected when you consider how they’re seen before they get to college and how it often continues that way. (Anyone notice the way most commentators last year delicately described Nick Marshall’s departure from Georgia?) If you’re unwilling to accept the responsibility for not fitting in with the demands of Richt’s program, and you can’t keep your virtual mouth shut, where are you going to pin the blame for no longer suiting up in Athens?
That being said, I also think it’s unfair to lay all of this at Richt’s feet for welcoming kids like Matthews into the program in the first place. The idea that Georgia should have seen the signs during the recruiting process and laid off a talent like him, a kid who was avidly pursued by every major program in the South, is little more than 20/20 hindsight. (Now if he fails to connect at Auburn, you can’t say Malzahn wasn’t warned. But that’s another story.)
If you believe a recruit will fit in, you sign him. You’re not always going to be right. So the trick is to make sure that you recruit in sufficient numbers to weather the storm if he turns out to be one of those who needs to go elsewhere. And you don’t look back, no matter who he blames for the failure.