Someone asked me in the comments the other day why I haven’t added an entry for the “Georgia Way”. Honestly, it’s been a struggle to come up with something succinct. On the one hand, there’s the part that easy to mock, which is the way Butts-Mehre has gone about its business for decades.
On the other, there’s the romantic part, the part where we like to believe in a football program that tries to adhere to a higher standard in how it operates. That was part of Mark Richt’s appeal to the fan base. The problem for Richt came when it was perceived that the Georgia Way interfered with winning SEC titles.
Richt is gone and Kirby Smart, fresh off nine years’ worth of being immersed in the Process, is the man now. And judging from the way the Toneil Carter de-commitment went down, this isn’t your father’s Georgia Way any more.
It’s nothing different from what Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Les Miles and countless other college coaches have done in previous years. Georgia used to not be one of those programs as it preached about doing things the “Georgia Way.”
The “Georgia Way” doesn’t seem so unique anymore. And hey, who’s to blame Smart and this coaching staff for adhering to this kind of recruiting philosophy? It has worked at Alabama, and Alabama has won four national championships since 2007.
But depending who you are as a fan, it could bring up either two feelings: You might be happy Smart and this coaching staff caught Georgia up with the ways a lot of the other major institutions handle recruiting. Or you’re lamenting the fact Georgia is no longer holding itself to the standard it used to.
All well and good, I suppose, with one caveat: you’d better win and win big. Otherwise you’re nothing more than a pale imitation of the original and that’s not what they’re paying you the big bucks to be.
I haven’t even gotten to the cringeworthy part of the Carter story. It’s Sabanesque:
The Carter family is somewhat understanding of all this. They certainly landed on their feet. Toneil Carter, the all-time leading rusher and scorer in Langham Creek (Houston, Texas) High history, accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Texas later in the day Monday. He also was holding immediate offers from Baylor and Florida State after Georgia bailed.
But Byron Carter made it clear his brother still wanted to come to UGA. And they’re not happy with the way Kirby Smart handled the whole situation.
“We understand that Nick and Sony wanted to come back and play their senior season for whatever reason; we’re not mad at them,” Byron Carter said. “We told them Toneil was willing to come there and just be there as a midyear and learn their style and learn their playbook and everything. He wasn’t even concerned about starting anymore. But these guys were like, ‘we don’t have the numbers for him to come in anymore.’ So that is what it is at the end of the day. That’s it. We were done with Georgia.”
What irked the Carters was that they didn’t get to hear directly from Smart. After all, Smart had just flown to Houston earlier this month to meet with them after Texas came back into the picture. They re-pledged their loyalty to the Bulldogs and thought that was that.
Then, when Georgia decided to withdraw its offer, they had to hear it from McGee, who told them they would not be hearing from Smart.
“That was kind of a slap in the face,” Byron Carter said. “(Smart) could at least have come to me to tell me those last final words. First of all you’re going to tell me we ain’t got a spot, then I’m not going to hear from Smart? That’s not cool. That kind of ticked me off because, honestly, he was one of the big reasons we decided to come to UGA. He was a big factor in that decision. For us to not hear from him is discouraging.”
Thanks, Dell McGee. Now we know when Kirby Smart doesn’t have time for that shit.
In one sense, this is water under the bridge already. Georgia’s made its bed with a more ruthless approach to program building, and we all know what happens with some eggs when you make an omelet. (Good morning, mixed metaphors!) Luckily for Carter, he’s a talented enough egg to land on his feet in one piece. So at least there’s that.
To a certain extent, I can excuse a misstep like this — and don’t kid yourself, this is a screw-up that they’ll try to put in the rear view mirror as fast as they can — because it’s the kind of thing that happens to a guy who’s having a more successful early run rebuilding the roster than he imagined he would just a week or two ago. A more experienced head coach would likely have handled this differently. (Boy, am I looking forward to the day when I can quit typing that.) In any event, Georgia is where it is now and will have to live with it.
From here, it’s something of a race to see if the staff can continue to build momentum with the incoming 2017 class sufficiently to erase the bad taste in our mouths over how this went down. My guess is that’s what happens. February can’t get here soon enough for Kirby Smart.
As far as the Georgia Way goes, though, the next time folks like McGarity and Morehead wax poetic about what makes the school’s athletics special, it won’t be about doing things in a more elevated way than their peers. Those days are gone. As Carter’s brother puts it,
“At the end of the day all I can do is respect it,” he said. “It’s a business and you have to run your business the way you see fit.”
The Georgia Way is dead. Long live the Georgia Way.