In a world in which six head coaches making more than $3 million a year sport losing records, do you really want to be the guy who fires a nine- or ten-win Mark Richt? Or, more accurately, spend the kind of money it would take to get a replacement for Richt who would unify the fan base?
Daily Archives: October 8, 2015
* Georgia has been playing football since 1892. In 123 years, the Bulldogs have had 21 seasons with 10 wins. Richt has 10 of those seasons.
* Richt has won 140 games in his 14-plus seasons at Georgia, an average of about 10 wins per year. With his next win, Richt will stand alone in second place on the school’s career list behind Vince Dooley (201 in 25 years), who averaged eight wins per year.
* Richt’s winning percentage, which is right at .740, is the highest of any coach in Georgia history. Dooley won 72.3 percent of his games.
* Richt currently has the fifth-highest winning percentage of all active FBS coaches, behind only Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Saban and Gary Patterson. That’s good company.
* The guy graduates a lot of his players (292 to be exact) and has run a scandal-free program. He had a stretch where too many players were getting into trouble, but Richt has effectively tightened up that part of the organization. Georgia has the toughest drug-testing policy in the SEC. Ever heard him complain about it? Me neither.
* Since Richt arrived in Athens in 2001, only one school (LSU) has had more players drafted than Georgia’s 79. Some see that as evidence that he should have accomplished more. I see it as evidence that good players want to play for him.
Mr. CW says the whole thing comes down to this:
Before the season, I had a conversation with a friend who is a huge Georgia fan. The subject was Mark Richt. My friend was not happy with the Bulldogs’ coach.
Predictably, he started pulling out the numbers and the well-worn narratives about Richt:
* He hasn’t won an SEC championship since 2005.
* He’s never played for a national championship, while Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama and Auburn have won titles since 1998.
* His teams are good for at least one explicable loss per year (See Florida, 2014).
* He’s too nice.
* And the always crowd-pleasing, “He can’t win the big one.”
I stopped my friend in mid-rant and asked him this: What if Georgia had gotten the final 5 yards against Alabama in the SEC championship game in 2012? What if Georgia had beaten Alabama and moved on to the BCS championship game with Notre Dame, where it very likely would have won?
“Oh, then we’d be OK because we would have a championship.”
All righty then. So you’re telling me that if a coach gets 5 additional yards three years ago against the No. 1 team in the nation, then he’s a good coach? But since he didn’t get those 5 yards he’s not a very good coach? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?
I would phrase it “not good enough” as opposed to “not very good” coach, but that’s quibbling over semantics. You guys – agree or disagree?
The math of selling beer at college football games is pretty simple.
In an era of seven-figure coaching salaries and demands for more resources for athletes, universities are always looking for ways to increase revenue. But college football is also eager to keep up attendance, which averaged 44,190 last season, the lowest figure since at least 2003, according to the N.C.A.A. In the era of high-definition home televisions, fan experience is the focus of many athletic directors’ offices.
In that environment, alcohol sales are a moneymaker. West Virginia’s athletic director, Shane Lyons, said last month that “approximately $500,000 a year just in beer comes back to us.”
Not only is that nothing to sneer at, it’s enough to overcome certain squeamish qualms.
“I feel like we’ve been a pilot program — people have seen it work,” West Virginia’s Lyons said, noting that Maryland and Texas had contacted West Virginia for advice before deciding to begin beer sales this fall.
Not everyone is comfortable. West Virginia’s president, E. Gordon Gee, who as a Mormon does not drink, said he was reluctant to maintain the policy when he returned to the university last year but was persuaded to do so by the Board of Governors.
“I’m sometimes conflicted about it,” he said, “because I do believe one of the main issues confronting universities is alcohol abuse — binge drinking.”
And the decision to sell beer in the stadium will have such an impact on that. Like another policy in fact does.
At West Virginia, the introduction of general-admission alcohol sales was paired with the elimination of so-called passouts. Though the term is not a deliberate pun, passouts — which allowed fans to leave and re-enter the stadium during Mountaineers games — contributed to binge drinking in the parking lots at halftime.
“I used to park my motor home outside the stadium,” Jay Gerber, 65, said as he stood at his seat near the 50-yard line. “Was nice to come and go.”
His bathroom was probably easier to access, too.
There is a certain hypocrisy to allowing alcohol to be consumed in the well-heeled section of the stadium – one of the perks, ‘ya know – and denying it to the rest of the season ticket holders. But buried in the article is the most hilarious defense of the practice you’ll ever see.
“Whether it’s alcohol or any other improvements,” she said, “it’s important to keep some of what people love about college and not make it a mini-N.F.L.”
Heavens to Betsy, not that! Get thee away, demon alcohol!
Rumor has it that Randy Edsall will coach his last game for Maryland this Saturday, barring an upset of sizeable proportion (UM’s on a run in which its three losses have come by an average score of 40 to 11).
What’s noteworthy about it is the contractual maneuvering leading up to the season. Edsall got his contract extended for three years, ostensibly to enhance his position in recruiting, but…
… just $500,000 of the $7.5 million was guaranteed money; by firing Edsall before his original deal ends Jan. 15, 2017, the school will have to pay him for the remainder of this season and an additional $2.6 million: $2.1 million for next year’s salary and that half-million buyout.
As votes of encouragement go, that was kind of a mixed message.
Even though Maryland’s going to be shelling out some major dollars on the buyout, it doesn’t sound like it had much of a choice, financially speaking, as boosters had begun withholding donations.
Still in the process of raising funds for its $155-million football facility, low booster morale was making it difficult for the school’s fundraisers to elicit donations. With this year’s team looking like it will struggle through the remainder of the season, negativity mounting and players grumbling, Maryland officials decided the situation was untenable and accelerated their plan to remove Edsall.
“No donor I know is happy,” one source told IMS after Maryland gave up 42 second-half points in a 48-27 loss to Bowling Green on Sept. 12. “None of them were happy with the game, Edsall, or the direction of the program. Haskins may well save his job for this year, but no donor I know is happy.”
That ain’t good. Neither is this.
Maryland’s team held a players-only meeting prior to the Michigan loss and intentionally kept Edsall out of the loop, resulting in his admission he was unaware of the meeting. The message, per sources, was to play for pride against Michigan, but it wasn’t a rally to save their coach’s job.
“It was, ‘It may be his program but it’s our team,” a source with knowledge of the meeting told IMS.
Sure seem to be a lot of people willing to talk behind Edsall’s back. I wonder why that’s so.
Off the field, he’d also earned praise for improving the program’s academic standing and avoiding off-field issues — along with the aforementioned recruiting class next to arrive next year. And for the most part, sources said, the current players like Edsall personally. But he lost their support with his program-wide rigidness — at times he’s taken names off jerseys and banned baseball caps, ‘do’ rags, untrimmed facial hair and earrings in efforts to stifle selfish individualism — along with his refusal to play more aggressively and tendency to blame them for losses.
Hokay – a likeable enough guy who blames his players for losing. Randy Edsall’s gonna Randy Edsall… right out of a job.
Time to turn the page from last weekend’s debacle. (As Georgia fans, page turning is something we excel at, based on experience.) The SEC never sleeps and now Georgia plays another East team in hopes of getting back on track, or at least not losing any more ground to Florida.
Tennessee, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, is in fairly desperate straits itself. As Tony Barnhart tells it,
Tennessee’s players certainly were expecting more out of this season. Let us not forget there are seven games left. And let us also remember that Tennessee closed with a 4-1 record last season to make it to a bowl. If the Vols lose to Georgia and Alabama, they’ll be 2-5 with very little margin for error.
On paper, the key to Georgia’s success is pretty obvious: run the ball and stop the run. The Vols had an awful time handing Arkansas’ rushing attack last week, giving up 275 yards on the ground, and Josh Dobbs has done a lot more damage with his feet than with his arm this season.
As we know, though, Georgia and paper don’t always see eye to eye.
Thinking about what concerns me this week, my mind wandered back to Georgia’s last trip to Checkerboardland. And it’s interesting, perhaps even a little scary, to see a couple of common themes in play. First of all, there’s Booch, who managed to combine game management issues with keeping his young team’s collective head in the game when things look like they were slipping away.
But here’s the bigger thing:
I’d really, really like to quit typing that special teams were a mixed bag. But damn it, Dawgs, I need a little help here. The 56-yarder, a stadium record, was remarkable, and kudos to Morgan for drilling the winner as visions of the Michigan State fiasco flashed through my head. But the clanger to end the first drive of the second half was the psychological turning point of the game. And there simply is no excuse for a top ten team giving up two blocked punts for touchdowns in five games. Yes, somebody whiffed on the protection, but I’m also coming around to the idea that Barber is a little too deliberate with his punts. In any event, you can bet that every coach facing Georgia for the rest of the season will be playing for the block when the Dawgs are punting from inside their 20.
Georgia’s most glaring special teams breakdown Saturday turned into a momentum-building blocked punt for touchdown by Alabama.
It was hardly the only area in the kicking game where the Bulldogs didn’t measure up in the 38-10 trouncing by the Crimson Tide.
Georgia had a 28.3 net punt average with two going into the end zone on touchbacks instead of being downed deep in Tide territory. The Bulldogs averaged a paltry 1.5 yards on punt returns and 17.8 yards on kick returns.
As the Bulldogs hit the midpoint of the season Saturday at Tennessee, their special teams are sagging in the national rankings and they may be without their most explosive player — punt returner Isaiah McKenzie — due to a hamstring injury.
Georgia ranks last in the nation in kick returns at 14.0 yards per game, 119th of 127 teams in net punting at 32.2, 87th in punt coverage at 9.89 and 85th in kickoff coverage at 22.0.
It’s been a relatively quiet story in comparison with everyone’s frustration over the offense, but the plain reality is that Georgia’s special teams have been a major disappointment so far this season. I will grant you that it’s reasonable to expect a few bumps in the road as Richt has made a concerted effort to load the coverage and return teams with freshman talent, but there weren’t any green players involved in the punt block. Reggie Davis, who evidently believes he’s this close to breaking one, despite averaging less than 18 yards a kickoff return against Alabama, isn’t a newbie, either.
What makes this especially troubling is that special teams is one area in which Tennessee excels.
Richt pointed out Tennessee is “by far” the best team on specials teams Georgia will have played up to now including No. 1 in kickoff returns (37.9 average) and No 6 in net punting (42.7).
“When you watch the film you can see why,” Richt said.
Special teams play gave the Vols life in 2013 and you have to be concerned about history repeating. Unfortunately, Georgia won’t have Aaron Murray available to pull its nuts out of the fire this time.
A funny thing happened on the way to jacked up prices, cupcake games, pace and stretched out game times: attendance at college football games has stabilized.
Personally, I think it’s the improved WiFi experience.
Booch, when you’re getting criticism from Mr. Conventional Wisdom, it’s a sign things aren’t going swimmingly on Rocky Top.
There’s a nice piece in SI.com from a West Coaster who made his first trip to an SEC game this past weekend in Athens (talk about making lemonade out of lemons). You’ll want to read it all, but this part is my favorite:
Oh, gawd, the hedges. Really? As soon as I told folks I was heading to a Georgia game they started nattering on about the shrubbery. My first night in Athens I lucked into a dinner with Verne Lundquist, who would be calling the game for CBS, and hearing my tale he said, “Ah, your first time between the hedges. How delightful.”
Even with his voice-of-god delivery I found the whole thing a bit off-putting. Who ever cared about the plants at a football game? I pressed Vince Dooley for answers. He’s the coach who resuscitated Georgia football, leading Dawgs to the 1980 national championship and six SEC titles, and he now lives on as the program’s patriarch. “They are our sentinels,” Dooley said. “The hedges give the setting an air of elegance and formality. It tells everyone in the stadium, and those watching at home, this is a little more than just the usual football game.”
I still wasn’t sold, so the day before the Bama game I decided to investigate the hedges up-close, meeting at Sanford Stadium with Kellie Baxter, the grounds forewoman. She was a font of information. The hedges actually have pedestrian origins, a mix of English and Chinese privet. They were planted in 1929 only after a failed experiment with roses. (Bruin pride, baby! One thing we can do is grow roses.) Baxter trims the hedges two or three times a week and her toil is well known to the players; whenever one of them goes careening into the plants during a game they invariably apologize later.
“I tell ’em it’s okay as long as the make the play,” Baxter said.
Don’t be messin’ with those hedges, man.