It’s barely July, but I already feel pressure building on Georgia’s 2017 football season.
I’m not talking about head coach Kirby Smart necessarily. Coaches always feel pressure to win. They’re naturally motivated by competition, not to mention compensation. They’re well paid for what they do, win or lose, and in the grand scheme of things they’re going to be fine.
And Smart’s just two years into this thing. He’s still in the honeymoon period. Unless the Bulldogs’ season deteriorates into some sort of unmitigated disaster or some unexpected scandal arises, he’s going continue to be Georgia’s coach and continue to bank big bucks.
No, I’m really talking about UGA as a football program. It’s time for the Bulldogs to get it going. It’s time to achieve something. It’s time to be something more than a “strong” program that’s financially sound. It’s time to do something more than to continue its “winning tradition.”
Ordinarily, I would consider that some well played hairsplitting, but given that accountability is not exactly a watchword at Butts-Mehre, Towers probably has a point making the distinction. If the 2017 season falls somewhere between an embarrassing collapse and winning the East, Kirby Smart will no doubt return as Georgia’s head coach in 2018 (although it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a few staff changes in its wake; you gotta do what it takes to gin up fan enthusiasm, right, Greg?).
However, there’s a risk that another mediocre season opens up a fault line that wouldn’t be healthy for Smart’s future.
That’s not really me talking. That’s the feedback I’m starting to hear more and more. And not just from the core fans and alumni, who are going to be loyal to Ol’ UGA whether it wins big or not. It’s the players that Georgia is currently recruiting. And that might be more important.
I hope you’ve had the opportunity to read the work DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell has been doing lately, which has been considerable. He was recently out in Oregon for The Opening, the premier recruiting event of the summer these days, and was cranking out loads of great copy.
While he was out there, Sentell got to talk to several of the country’s most elite recruiting prospects, some of them already committed to Georgia, several of them being pursued by the Bulldogs and a few of them not really in the picture for UGA.
What I noticed from those reports and other recent ones is a bit of theme developing with regard to this set. Right now it’s just barely creeping in but, unchecked, it could become a full-blown meme.
That is, Georgia is cool and exciting and a great brand and a great school and an awesome campus, but it just doesn’t achieve anything on the football field. These kids aren’t saying that straight out, but that’s certainly the inference.
Smart’s honeymoon may not be over, but it sounds like, as much as Jeff Dantzler might strenuously object otherwise, 2017 isn’t shaping up as another throwaway year. How much that affects the way Smart runs his program this season is likely to be as big a deal as having that rookie season under his belt.
I tell clients all the time that a contract is only as good as the people who signed it are. So you can imagine how good these contracts were:
Georgia Southern’s co-offensive coordinators last season, who were fired in the wake of a 5-7 record, have filed separate lawsuits against the school’s athletic association, head coach Tyson Summers and multiple administrators including athletics director Tom Kleinlein. The lawsuits allege breach of contract, fraud and tortious interference after the school failed to execute the 18-month contracts the coaches signed initially, then pressured them to sign shorter deals two days before their dismissal…
… After being offered the job by Summers and receiving formal offer sheets, both David Dean and Rance Gillespie signed 18-month contracts on Jan. 27, 2016, that established June 30, 2017, as the end of their term.
Both coaches claim that more than nine months later, they learned the school’s Board of Regents and the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation never signed the contracts. According to the lawsuits, Summers notified the coaching staff on Nov. 3, 2016, that new contracts were being prepared.
The second contract, which was given to the coaches following the 10th game of the season on Nov. 16, had changed the end of the agreement to Feb. 28, 2017.
The lawsuit alleges that Summers, Kleinlein, senior associate athletics director for business operations Jeff Blythe and director of football operations Cymone George “conspired to change the terms of the January Contract and specifically the employment end date” in order to save money, knowing they would be making coaching changes on the offensive staff.
The lawsuit states that Dean refused three requests from George to sign the new contract, believing he already had signed a valid contract. Dean claims he finally signed the new contract on Dec. 2 following a phone call with Blythe that left him with the impression that if he didn’t sign it, he could be fired any time and that his salary and benefits would immediately cease. Gillespie’s lawsuit makes the same claim, saying Blythe “informed Gillespie that it would be in Gillespie’s best interest to sign the November contract for his own protection.”
All this to save a few bucks, evidently, as the fix was already in.
These events were unfolding amidst a swirl of speculation that Summers might be removed as head coach following his first season, as fans were upset by offensive changes away from the school’s traditional triple-option attack and the failure to make a bowl game despite returning 17 starters from the previous year’s 9-4 team.
On Dec. 3, following the final game of the season, Kleinlein announced that Summers would remain as head coach. The next day, however, Dean and Gillespie were let go. On Dec. 9, Georgia Southern hired Georgia Tech quarterbacks coach Bryan Cook — who turned down the job a year earlier — to be the offensive coordinator.
Whatever GSU saved will likely get eaten up in attorney’s fees, but at least they know one thing there. As Brian VanGorder can tell you, nothing good ever comes of ditching the triple option in Statesboro.
The Atlanta-based university so zealously protects the trademark integrity of its own mascot, a yellow jacket named Buzz, that alumni must fill out a “grave marker permission form” before the insect can join them in their eternal rest.
Geez, no wonder Tech has so much trouble recruiting.
“And Georgia fans, don’t be turds. Enjoy this. Soak it up. It’s awesome. If you don’t win this year, it’s still not a failure. It’s a heck of a run. Back-to-back in the Playoff era hasn’t been done. So, to ask for a third I feel like it’s gluttonous. I feel like it’s not OK. But we’ll be in the mix.”-- David Pollack, On3.com, 5/9/23
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