As I’m sure you figured out from yesterday’s post about the latest version of Stewart Mandel’s national powers rankings, he reached out to me for a quote about Georgia finally ascending to king status. He used my short and sweet reaction in his piece, but I gave him a longer answer, which you can hear on his podcast with Bruce Feldman here. (Dial it up to the 3:40 mark and listen for the next five or so minutes.)
Here’s what I wrote:
The ingredients for sustained, elite success have been there for decades. UGA enjoys one of the best recruiting bases in the country and the program has been extremely good at generating revenue. What’s held UGA back — subjectively, objectively, take your pick — has been the four power bases (school administration, athletic department administration, boosters and head coach) not working in sync and sometimes working at cross purposes. That’s not the case any more and Kirby Smart deserves the lion’s share of the credit for that. It’s an underappreciated aspect of his head coaching tenure and it’s why things feel more sustainable for the long term than they’ve ever seemed for Georgia.
I think back to so many bumps in the road along the way after 1980 — the complete botch job the school did trying to replace Dooley when he stepped aside in 1988, Michael Adams’ treating the athletic department as his own personal fiefdom, the petty way Richt was treated with regard to his assistants’ compensation, the embarrassing presser after the 2015 Belk Bowl win, etc. — and I’m always drawn back to something I posted in the wake of Richt’s firing that continues to ring true even as the program has ascended to the highest level we’ve seen in four decades.
If you manage an SEC football program, there’s a difference between being committed to winning and being financially committed to winning. Everybody wants to win. The hard part is figuring out how to allocate resources to make sure that happens. And, no, that doesn’t mean spending money like a drunken sailor. (We’re looking at you, Tennessee.) It simply means that if you think your rightful place is among the Alabamas, Floridas and LSUs of the world, you’d better take a hard look at what they’re doing and make sure you’re giving your coaching staff the opportunity to keep up with them.
The simple truth is that Georgia wasn’t doing that for the better part of forty years. Instead, the powers that be spent much of that time smugly wrapping themselves in the blanket of “we do things the right way here” (aka The Georgia Way) when they didn’t have the first damn clue about what the right way actually entailed. At least not until Kirby Smart showed up.
Sure, I’m thrilled where we as a fan base are now. But it pisses me off a little to look back and see how much of our passion (and money, sure) was wasted by a bunch of folks who had no business directing an SEC football program. Let’s not do that again, aight?