You mean so much to me, baby.

Give Bill King some credit.  He followed up last week’s piece exploring the fallout from the fans about the west end expansion project with another.

Still, last week’s Blawg about UGA fans feeling taken for granted as the athletic administration asks them for more money to fund improvements for players and recruits certainly prompted a lot of discussion over long-simmering frustrations about the game day experience.

Butts-Mehre provides the comic relief with its response.

Anxious to point out that the planned renovations to the west end of Sanford aren’t strictly about the comfort of players and recruits, the athletic department sent me more details about the fan-friendly aspects, with special emphasis on a significant increase in the number of toilets for women that will be available in that end of the stadium come the 2018 season, going from 34 in the existing restrooms to 88 after the work is done. (For men, the number of toilets will increase from 47 to 50, and there will be two considered “unisex”).

It also pointed out that there will be more “points of sale” for concessions (both fixed and portable). And, of course, the new scoreboard will be 33 percent larger and there’ll be that new upper plaza for mingling, or whatever fans do in plazas.

33 percent larger!  And you think Greg McGarity doesn’t care.

What he should care about is the steady drumbeat of responses King got from his first column that sounded like these.

Quite a few fans also expressed frustration with UGA’s athletic administration viewing them mainly as potential donors. Said Charles Hill: “UGA has a large fan base but they don’t treat them as an asset.”

Jay Unger, who gave up his season tickets in 2014 after 32 years of contributing, said he did so because he felt that “the fans had become low priority in the game day experience equation and my decision has been validated by a continuation of this disregard in the years since. I’m as big a fan as ever but I do it on my terms now. StubHub for a couple games and the rest from my easy chair.”

And I heard from another devoted super fan who didn’t donate to the Hartman Fund this year because of “growing frustration and dismay with the athletic department and how they don’t even care about our opinions or experiences. … I definitely still care about UGA and the athletics programs, but I’m just not emotionally invested like I used to be … and that comes from UGA not caring.”

It’s not what you want to hear as an AD, but, again, I remain skeptical there’s any real impact to this sort of apathy unless the bottom line starts to take a real hit.

That being said, for better or worse, the AJ-C isn’t a backwater, like a certain Georgia fan blog I could mention by name.  It’s got a significantly sized readership, one large enough that the athletic department felt compelled to respond to King’s article.  I don’t think McGarity can be shamed into making any improvements to the game day experience that he’s not inclined to pursue on his own in the first place, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

Unfortunately, I think Bill’s conclusion is an accurate summation of where most of the fan base lies.

What a wonderful part of my life the University of Georgia and its sports teams have been!

As my brother Jon, a former Redcoat, likes to say, “Once a Dawg, always a Dawg … how sweet it is!”

But, that doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to feel that we fans mean as much to the folks who run UGA’s athletic programs as pulling for the Dawgs means to us.

Sadly, I remain unconvinced on that point.

But not so unconvinced that the Hartman Fund contribution checks won’t continue to be stroked.  And therein lies the key to Butts-Mehre’s success.

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Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

“We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

The most interesting thing at this point about the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss is how most of the world, including me, has gone from thinking that Bjork, Freeze and Company would probably skate around any serious repercussions to the sudden realization that it’s likely a serious hammer is about to drop on the football program and the school’s athletic department.

How serious?  That’s the question.  The allegations are so numerous and significant that nobody has a real baseline of comparison from which to evaluate.

No one SI spoke to for this story downplayed the 15 Level I violations. A former committee member, who asked to remain anonymous, has seriously tracked NCAA cases for more than 15 years and couldn’t recall a case with that many. (Violations used to be classified as major and secondary, which makes comparisons imperfect. Now they are broken up from Level I to Level IV. Level I is the most serious). “In terms of sheer numbers, I can’t recall anything that matches this,” the former committee member said. “I just don’t recall anything that’s more serious.”

That’s almost a little scary, if you’re the school.

The other factor that puts the whole episode into uncharted territory is that the NCAA’s enforcement framework was radically changed a few years ago.  Ole Miss is the first school to be evaluated in the new context.

… In 2013, the NCAA introduced a new penalty matrix. (It did so with the not-so-subtle headline of, “Violator Beware.”) The idea was to make penalties more consistent, something like federal sentencing guidelines. (If you commit armed robbery, there’s a minimum prison sentence. If you commit a Level I NCAA violation, there’s a consistent punishment).

It’s not that simple, though, as the allegations the Committee finds valid will get classified as aggravated, standard or mitigated. And that nuance ultimately determines the punishment, which leaves a lot of room for variables. Not all of the alleged violations occurred after 2013, so the entire case may not even flow through the matrix.

A handful of cases have gone through the new matrix, but all the people interviewed this week didn’t feel comfortable using those cases to predict what could happen at Ole Miss. “The matrix is kind of baffling, and I understand penalties better than most people,” said the former committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “We have seen a few cases all the way through. We don’t have enough of a body of case law to make any statements or accurate predictions.”

Take a peek at the chart. It’s easy to see how with 15 Level I violations, fans of SEC rivals could project years and years of postseason bans. Alternatively, Rebels supporters could be optimistic about mitigating many of the charges and receiving little more punishment. No one really knows.

The only safe assumption is that this matrix, which the NCAA unveiled in 2013, is about to have its first heavy dose of public scrutiny. “Even with a matrix, you have undecided major issues that have yet to be litigated and decided,” Marsh said. “You still have human beings involved [in the Committee on Infractions].”

Gee, kinda like a playoff selection committee, just with sanctions.

There are only two things for certain at this point.  One is that the bleeding is going to continue for a while.

The only consistent thing about NCAA cases is that they unfold slowly. Ole Miss obviously wants this to end as quickly as possible. The school tried to spin the news this week as the end of the investigation.

The reality here is that the hearing before the Committee on Infractions won’t likely happen until the fall. Then there’s an appeals process. And considering the severity of the charges and how much Ole Miss is contesting, it’s hard to imagine things not being appealed. “This is going to be resolved in 2018 if it goes the distance,” Thomas said. “We’re looking at 2018. It’s a matter of when.”

At least we know where Hugh Freeze will be for the next couple of seasons.  And that leads to the second thing we know — Freeze may or may not be a dead man walking, but if he’s not left severely crippled by the investigation, that’s gonna leave another mark on the credibility of the NCAA’s enforcement arm.  There’s too much expected at this point for a light slap on the wrist to mollify those who expect a message to be sent.

… It’s safe to say that Freeze is fighting for his career. At the least, he faces a potential suspension, much like the ones served by Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, UConn’s Jim Calhoun and SMU’s Larry Brown. “This is an interesting test case under the new rules,” Thomas said. “Football has the most scholarships and the most staff. It does raise the question at some point of how close are we going to hold the head football coach to things that happened down the chain.”

The entire college coaching fraternity viewed Ole Miss’s anomalous recruiting success with skepticism. And there’s a strong curiosity in the coaching world of how the NCAA will handle Freeze. “If it’s a willful and intentional violation of rules, he should not be allowed to coach, “ said a Power 5 coach. “The rule says that coaches can’t coach [when NCAA issues occur]. We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

If Freeze survives the NCAA process and potential suspension, he still has to win games at a watered-down program. Ole Miss went 5–7 last year and then lured a recruiting class so poor that Freeze labeled it “a penalty to be under the cloud we’re under.” It’s hard to imagine Freeze surviving the fickle NCAA process and the inevitable dip that Ole Miss is expected to take on the field.

Again, it’s amazing to think about the level of self-confidence Bjork and Freeze projected at the beginning of this process, that they continued to show even after the PR disaster of Laremy Tunsil’s draft night.  In retrospect, that looks like nothing more than a bad case of bravado.  The check for that nice dinner, it seems, is about to be presented.

As a Georgia fan, it’s not so much that I have anything personal against Ole Miss.  I don’t take any pleasure out of what may be coming for the fans of the program or the players, like the incoming class, who are going to pay the price for the indiscretions of others.  It’s just that I’d like to see the NCAA, for once, properly go after a program for its wrongdoing (if that’s what’s gone down, of course) in the absence of taking the Georgia Way approach of self-debasement.  There’s a message I’d approve.

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Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA

Musical palate cleanser, on cassette and 45 edition

Here’s a song that shuffled up on my iPod this weekend — one of those tunes when you haven’t heard it in a while, you wonder why you’ve ignored it — from Spoon’s brilliant Gimme Fiction, “I Summon You”.

There’s something about the way the percussive acoustic guitar work drives the song that really appeals to me.

By the way, if you’re interested, GF is a great album, one without a single weak cut on it.

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“You knock them right in the face.”

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey demonstrates that tone-deafness in Waco is not a gender-based affliction.

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Filed under Baylor Is Sensitive To Women's Issues, General Idiocy

Today, in great moments of non-mention

Al.com list entitled “SEC football’s notable NCAA cases over the years” contains nary a mention of Georgia.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, The NCAA

There’s only so much a man can put up with.

Mike Gundy sniffs and Hugh Freeze doesn’t pass the smell test.

Gundy has been among the consumers of ominous updates emanating from Oxford, Mississippi. Last week, Ole Miss announced a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season.

“The first thing I thought about was (OSU’s recent experience with the NCAA),” Gundy said, “and the second thing was the Sugar Bowl and my players and what they went through.”

As he was paid $4.7 million, Freeze’s 2016 Rebels were 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the Southeastern Conference. His fate, and his program’s, won’t be determined until the NCAA finalizes its case.

It is rare that a coach will speak publicly about controversy at another school, but Gundy is a veteran of his own NCAA encounter and emerged mostly unscathed. He must be exceedingly confident that his own program is law-abiding because the OSU coach expresses resentment that Ole Miss’ Sugar Bowl roster might have been assembled at least in part through illegal tactics.

“We’ll never know what we could have done in the Sugar Bowl if it was a level playing field,” Gundy said. “That is the truth. I’m not sure we would have won the Sugar Bowl, but we’ll never know.”

Apparently, Gundy added, “we didn’t all play by the same rules. If everybody is playing by the rules and you get your butt kicked, that’s OK. I can live with that. But when it’s an uneven playing field, that’s not fair.”

I suspect we’ll soon hear how Hugh’s feelings are hurt by this.

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Filed under Freeze!

Mr. Conventional Wisdom’s gonna conventional wisdom.

From stating the obvious as if it’s profound wisdom (“Now let me say this again because some people will miss this: If the charges are proven true, Ole Miss deserves the punishment it gets.”) to lauding Mike Slive’s leadership to chastising those in glass houses, Tony Barnhart’s reaction to the Ole Miss mess is exactly what you’d expect, right down to the punctuation marks.

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Filed under Freeze!, Media Punditry/Foibles