Priorities

Greg McGarrity’s got ‘em.

I realize I’m late to the party on this one, so I apologize to our two readers, but seeing as how the Dawgosphere seems loathe to give McGarrity credit for anything, allow me to salute our AD on offering the proper response regarding the well-intentioned but ultimately misguided “Herschel Walker Statue Project.”

“What I’ve told people is we’ll consider it at the right time, but the right time is not right now,” McGarity said.

Yes sir.  As far as I’m concerned, erecting a statue to honor a player from 30 years ago, no matter how great, seems like a colossal waste for anyone receiving an annual salary from the University to spend their time.  Besides, poor McGarrity is probably busy enough wrapping his head around the fact that there are some UGA fans who are clamoring for a 9-game SEC schedule which, combined with their distaste for McGarrity’s beloved cupcake games and their passion for a certain nonsensical neutral site game played in one participant’s backyard, seemingly provides Georgia with the most difficult road to a championship of any kind, with as few home games as possible.

Make Room in the Butts-Mehre Trophy Case

Athens Banner-Herald blogger Jim Thompson has a brief but interesting entry entitled “A Sobering Assessment of UGA fans” that’s sure to stir up an equal mixture of shame and pride in the heart of every Dawg fan.

It’s about a UT fan’s letter to the editor of The Chattanoogan.  UGA’s Office of Public Affairs included the clip in an e-compilation of positive and negative coverage of the University.  We’ll let you decide which of those 2 labels applies:

A writer complained that a group of male UGA fans, presumably students, “showed themselves to be disruptive, abusive, foul mouthed, drunken fools, all of whom shouted obscenities at others sitting around them and one of whom threw a bottle hitting a little boy in the head a number of rows in front.

The writer goes on to note “that certainly wasn’t the first time Georgia students had acted in such a manner while visiting the UT campus and … one had better be able to take the abuse when visiting the stadium at University of Georgia. … Having attended games at all of the SEC stadiums with the exception of Arkansas and Mississippi State, I can tell you the UGA fans are the most abusive and hostile of all.

Clearly this writer hasn’t spent time with Gator fans in JAX during their SEC stadium tour, and I guess they lost their hearing while hanging around LSU loyalists in Death Valley.  Either way, the best part of the blog can actually be found in the comments below it:

Bdawgfan, we salute you.

(Ed.note – Is anyone else not really that shocked that he made that comment at 2:00 in the morning?)

Urban’s Way . . . or the Highway

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree 100% with Urban Meyer.

Those Big 10 dolts made a big mistake whining about his recruiting tactics.  Now he smells blood.

The dumbest quote comes from Wisconsin coach Bret Beliema, who said “We at the Big 10 don’t want to be like the SEC – in any way, shape, or form.

Seriously?!?!

You don’t want your conference to account for 8 of the 11 national championships since the start of the BCS era?

You don’t want your conference (and thus, your school) to bring in more revenue from the best television contract of any conference?  And by extension, be the most widely distributed conference in the county?

Uh, ok then.

The Four Horsemen of Recruiting

National Signing Day 2012 was last Wednesday, capping off months of hype, pandering, and (according to the media but not anyone acquainted with the meaning of the word) “drama.”

Despite the rabid attention annually paid to this spectacle, recruiting hardly differs from year to year.  A bunch of 17-18 year olds flip-flop, take official visits to other schools 9 months after they “firmly commit” to one, and essentially screw with fans and media like 5th graders telling their substitute that recess is a hour long and three times a day.

The utter predictability of it all, combined with a rigorous and scholarly analysis of biblical and extra-biblical texts, has allowed The Red and Whack to open the seven seals and foretell the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Recruiting.  These harbingers of “can’t miss” recruits that bustNCAA secondary violations, and outright walking, talking scandals mark every recruiting season, year in and year out.

If Signing Day was a movie of the week on Lifetime or a new sitcom on the CW, these would be your four lead characters.

The First Horseman: The Shady Unk

Behind almost every big-time recruit is a family member, family friend, high school coach, or church pastor deviously plotting to profit off his recruitment.  He or she can take many forms, but usually manifests as The Shady Unk, a nefarious uncle who, having spent nearly 18 years as a stand-in father figure to his nephew, is ready to collect some reverse child support.

The Shady Unk isn’t content to simply have Les Miles kiss his ass during home visits.  He thinks BIG.  You can bet he’s got a plan in place to sell the family’s future ticket allotment on Stubhub, or maybe just squeeze some “gas money” out of Trooper Taylor.  Sometimes the pay-for-play is overt.  Other times The Shady Unk waits patiently, entrenching himself until the NFL draft, at which point he’ll surely have a bunch of gaudy t-shirts made up with the player’s face and the word “DESTINY” in giant letters on them . . . as well as a contract to “manage” his nephew’s “investments.”

Oftentimes The Shady Unk just wants all the attention to be on himself.  He’ll try to take credit for developing the kid’s talent by telling Rivals.com about the one time he threw a football around with him on Easter, even if the kid is a middle linebacker who will never throw a pass.  He’ll position himself *just* behind the recruit on signing day, ensuring he has a great picture to show everyone else at the barber shop.

This year’s Shady Unk was unquestionably April Justin, the mother of 5-star safety and Alabama signee Landon Collins.  As her son announced his pick live on ESPN at the Under Armour High School All-America game, she frowned, gyrated, shook her head, and otherwise made an ass of herself on what should have been the biggest day of his life.

She clearly knew beforehand that her son wasn’t going where she wanted.  Yet, instead of quietly disagreeing with his decision and publicly supporting him, she got her nails and hair did (pretty sure blond isn’t her natural color), wore her favorite pink one-shouldered blouse with giant hoop-and-butterfly earrings, and made sure she looked her best to embarrass her child on national TV.

But she didn’t stop there.  Even after her son committed, she called out Nick Saban, her son’s girlfriend, and her son’s girlfriend’s mom.  In wreaking so much havoc before her son played a down or even enrolled, the very classy Ms. Justin has set a new standard for aspiring Shady Unks everywhere.

I really hope this kid doesn’t go pro early.  In 4 years I really want see the video of his mom and Saban having to pose together at midfield on Senior Day.  By the time young Mr. Collins’ college playing days are over, Ms. Justin could make us change “Shady Unk” to “Crazy Ma.”

The Second Horseman: The Poorly-Prioritizing Recruit

I don’t envy recruits.  One can’t help but feel a little sorry for these kids making such big decisions while everyone whispers in their ears.  When I was 17, my biggest concern was figuring out how to unhook a girl’s bra.  These kids have to choose which school and coach can utilize their God-given athletic ability to its full potential, all while dealing with Shady Unks.  Often, the young man’s abilities are the best shot his family will ever have to escape poverty, meaning the fate of future generations arguably rests on the unknown outcome of his decision.

Understandably then, a gifted high school athlete has lots of important things to think about during recruitment.  An offering team’s scheme, for one.  Position depth is another.  The track record and job security of the coaching staff is definitely important.  A school’s academics and player graduation rate?  You bet.

Despite all this, every year a handful of recruits put aside such important concerns to focus on what really matters, like the availability of their jersey number.  Or it could be something even more important, like whether their scrub teammate who no one would recruit if it wasn’t just to swing a “package deal” for the good player they’re friends with has an offer (*cough* Da’Rick Rodgers *cough*).  These young men eschew considering whether they will start or redshirt in favor of picking whichever school has the choicest selection of New Era caps.

Poorly-prioritizing recruits: The Red and Whack salutes you.

The Most Powerful Man in Auburn, AL

The Third Horseman: The Booster

This one shouldn’t surprise anyone.  We all know boosters are out there orbiting every major program, dangling their disposable income in front of an AD like a carrot on a stick.  They’re the college equivalent of Jerry Jones or George Hank Steinbrenner:  they hold the purse strings, wield the influence and think they should make the calls on coaches and players.  In college recruiting, boosters are forced to operate behind the scenes, lest the NCAA actually be forced to do something about them.  But make no mistake, the helicopters, limousines, Hummer limousines, and sexual favors are bought and paid for by big-money alumni.

The lengths to which boosters go to ensure the success of their alma mater’s team would be admirable if they weren’t often in such bad taste.  Smart boosters have taken steps to disguise their influence.  Take the story of Baltimore Ravens OT and former Ole Miss stand-out Michael Oher in the 2009 film “The Blind Side”, adapted from the 2006 Michael Lewis book.  The movie tells the “true” story of a privileged white southern family that adopts a poor uneducated black youth solely out of the goodness of their hearts, guiding him to realize his God-given talents on the gridiron and setting him on a course to NFL stardom.  The film, which included cameos by Phil Fulmer, Nick Saban, and even dead-behind-the-eyes Ed Orgeron, was a feel-good box office hit.  It was also one of the most disingenuous “based on a true story” adaptations ever to come out of Hollywood.

Despite the film’s account, the real Tuohy family didn’t invite Oher to move into their home until 2004.  That is important because it was in 2003 that Oher was named all-state and rated as a 5-star prospect by Scout.com, which even ranked him the no. 5 O-lineman in the country.  During that year, he was still bouncing around between foster families, not surviving solely on the Christian compassion of the Tuohys.  The movie ups the inaccuracy by portraying family matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock, who won as Oscar for the role) – a 5’6 middle-aged lady in high heels – teaching the 6’4, 300 lb Oher how to play football.  Even Oher himself publicly criticized the filmmakers for taking such insane liberties with his life story.

Finally, the movie glosses over who the Tuohys were and what may have been their non-charitable motivations.  Leigh Anne was an Ole Miss cheerleader when she met Sean Tuohy, an Ole Miss star basketball player who, interestingly enough, still holds the all-time SEC record for assists and played briefly in the NBA and overseas.  After graduating from Oxford, the Tuohys became very wealthy from Sean’s broadcasting career, Leigh Anne’s interior decorating business, and their investment in fast food franchises.  One article I’ve seen claims the Tuohys currently own all or part of about 80 – EIGHTY! – Taco Bells, KFCs, Pizza Huts, and Long John Silvers.  They leave Ray Goff and his Zaxby’s money in the dust.

Besides houses, cars, and Christian private school educations for their kids, the Tuohys gave huge sums of money to the University of Mississippi and its athletic department.  They were boosters, period.  Yet the film barely addresses this, except for its cursory portrayal of the NCAA probe into Oher’s recruitment.  Those two scenes towards the end of the movie serve mostly as a plot point, depicting the NCAA as the cynical bad guy (Note:  In a rare display of spine-possession, the NCAA actually issued a public rebuke on its website of the movie’s portrayal of its investigation).  Hollywood omitted another fact that piqued the NCAA’s interest: just 20 days after Oher committed to Ole Miss, the Rebels hired his high school coach . . . as their new recruiting coordinator.  Who was that high school coach?  Some guy named Hugh Freeze, who just this past December was named as the new head coach of – wait for it – Ole Miss!

Do the Tuohys represent the worst of the college football world?  Of course not.  To be fair, they provided significant financial and material support to Oher before adopting him, including hiring tutors to improve his academics so grades didn’t stop him from realizing his athletic potential.  Whether they were motivated primarily or just partially by the desire to guide Oher to play for their alma mater, they still helped him tremendously and changed his life for the better.  As boosters go, the Tuohys are full-fledged saints.

But let’s be real:  Hollywood had no choice but to white-wash the real story of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.  If the filmmakers had told the full story, no reasonable person in the audience could help but watch without thinking that maybe, just maybe, were it not for his proven football talent, the Tuohys would have locked their luxury SUV’s doors as poor Michael Oher walked by, instead of adopting him.

The Fourth Horseman: Nick Saban

You could say the last month has been pretty good for Nick Saban.  Not deterred by failing to win his division or conference, he managed to get to the NC game and win his 3rd BCS title as head coach.  Then signing day came along and he pulled in what is unanimously considered the number #1 class in the land.  And don’t ya know it, Coach Saban did it with honesty and class!

Just ask Justin Taylor, a blue chip safety out of North Atlanta High School.  Taylor committed to the Crimson Tide in February 2011.  Then in August the senior injured his knee during a game.  Taylor kept his head up knowing Saban would honor his scholarship offer, he’d enroll as scheduled, and he’d play in Tuscaloosa when he was 100% again.

Except not.  Saban decided that wasn’t going to happen.  Nearly 5 months after his knee injury and barely 3 weeks before signing day, Saban informed Taylor there was no longer room for him in the Tide’s 2012 class.  He “generously” offered him a grayshirt and a 2013 enrollment as a consolation prize.

If Saban wasn’t be man enough to at hold this kid’s spot and let him redshirt while he rehabbed, he should have at least had the decency to tell him sooner.  Instead, Saban kept recruiting until *oops* he gave away the kid’s scholarship.  Now, instead of competing for national titles and regularly showcasing his talents to NFL scouts at the school he fell in love with and never wavered from, Taylor signed with Kentucky, a program where of course none of those things will happen.

I’m usually against coaches bad-mouthing other coaches or programs.  But I truly hope every SEC HC makes Justin Taylor’s story a part of their recruiting pitch for years to come.  Every high schooler (and their family) considering Bama deserves to know what might happen if they trust Saban and tell other schools to stop recruiting them . . . and then get injured before they sign a LOI.  If I’m a Tide assistant right now, I don’t know how I answer a Shady Unk who asks me “what happens if he gets hurt?”  Unless Richt, Miles, Muschamp, Chizik, et al. keep this story alive, it will eventually be forgotten.  But it shouldn’t.

Nick Saban is almost certainly the best college football coach in the world right now.  After his third (but surely not last) title, he is arguably one of the top 5 of all-time.  Whether on the field or on the recruiting trail, he wins at all costs.  Justin Taylor is not the first, and certainly not the last, human “cost.”

But as Nick Satan Saban will tell you, you can’t make an omelet without  lying to teenagers and their families and severely impacting their future football prospects  cracking some eggs.

Einstein’s Definition of Insanity

Each year, I look forward to the Georgia/Florida game more than any other.   I was elated to see the Dawgs escape Jacksonville last season with a win over a mediocre Florida squad.  However, one simple win over Florida’s worst team in 24 years did not change my opinion on this:  The Cocktail Party should not be played in Jacksonville every year.

Across the internet, as there have been for years now, are impassioned defenses from the entrenched Dawgosphere (all of whom are excellent writers and must-reads during the first hour and a half of work each day) on why this game should be kept in Jacksonville. Other than a couple of comments here and there on those sites as to why the game should move from Jax, I have yet to see a definitive post on anywhere in favor of moving the game from Jax each season. Allow me to provide one.

First, Who I Am:

  • I am a 2005 graduate of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
  • My freshman year at Georgia coincided with Mark Richt’s first season at the helm, 2001.
  • I have been watching Georgia football since the Goff years (not saying this is a long time…just painting a picture of where this argument is coming from).
  • The thought of Erk Russell and/or Herschel Walker does NOT make me soil myself, tho I must admit, that ESPN Herschel doc was pretty damn cool and gave me the chills quite a few times.
  • I realize that Mike Adams and our Athletic Directors are always going to do what is in the best financial interest of the University, and if that means holding the game in Atlanta, Jacksonville, the Everglades or even Gainesville every year, they will do so.

There seems to be a divide among Georgia fans on this issue. Those who attended the University pre-2000 are wholly in favor of keeping the game in Jacksonville, while those who attended during the Richt years would like to see some sort of a home-at-home (ATL-JAX or Athens-Gainesville) set up. The pre-2000s are passionate regarding this issue, usually for the reasons outlined below.

After each of their reasons is my retort. I have yet to see logical responses to these retorts, either on the internet, or from older UGA grads in person. Any and all comments are welcome.

Reason #1: “We played just fine in Jacksonville under Dooley!”

Retort: Yes, that is true. However, once upon a time Army and Navy were relevant college football programs. Notre Dame was a powerhouse. Penn State…never mind. Times change. This line of thinking, as well as the constant nostalgia over plays, players and coaches from 30 years ago, is borderline pathetic…again, see Notre Dame. Florida was a completely different program back then. The demographics and high school programs in the state of Florida were different than they are today. Ditto for college football as a whole. Trotting out this logic would be like a Pittsburgh Pirates fan pointing out their dominance over the Atlanta Braves in the 70s and 80s and expecting that to hold true today.

Reason #2: “Richt’s record in road games is just fine…it’s not the venue…it’s Florida!”

Retort: Again, you are correct. Most years, Florida is the best (read: most talented) team that Georgia will play. Richt’s excellent road record has been compiled largely against teams where UGA has a talent advantage. Why a seemingly intelligent person would deem it logical to play a game one hour away from an opponent’s home stadium – a game that UF travels to by bus, and Georgia travels to by plane – and call it a neutral site game is beyond me. Why are we giving this advantage, however miniscule, away to a team that, most years, is more talented than Georgia? Why are we splitting the tickets 50/50 every season to, by and large, a more talented program? How does this make sense? Even if you stubbornly insist that the game is neutral, you are still taking away a home field advantage every other year in a game where UGA usually has inferior talent.

Reason #3: “It’s mental. Florida is just in our head! We just need to come out and GATA. SHOW THESE 19 YEAR OLDS SOME ERK RUSSELL CLIPS!”

Retort: I am sure it is somewhat mental. Georgia players probably do press more against Florida, they probably do feel like it’s a bigger game each year than the Florida players do. If one would agree that it is mental, and our players need to overcome this mental block, why not change something, anything (besides uniforms, of course) about this matchup to give the players a sense that they can own this series. A memorable end zone celebration can only hold up for so long. Every Florida fan I know (admittedly, again, in my age group) views this game as Georgia coming down to their region, getting whupped, and heading back to Athens with their tails between their legs. If Florida fans don’t even view this as a truly neutral site, why should we? You know there is not one Florida fan that would want to play this game in Atlanta every year.

Reason #4: We are throwing a bone to the south Georgia UGA fans.

Retort: I’m sorry, but this is irrelevant. The University of Georgia is located in Athens, Georgia, which happens to be located in the northeast region of the state. I cannot think of any other instance where a college sports team plays a game in a locale hundreds of miles away from their campus in order to appease a fan base in a different portion of the state. In addition, any talk of building a recruiting presence in south Georgia via this matchup being held in Jacksonville is negated by the fact that this series has been nothing but a Georgia curbstomping spanning the duration of every current and recent recruit’s time here on Earth.

Reason #5: We would look like giant pussies if we moved the game to a home-at-home.

Retort: Ironically, the most asinine reason for keeping the game in Jax also doubles as the one sliver of regret I’d have if the game moved. Look, nobody wants to look like a punk. However, let’s say you’re in a bar fight. The other guy, simply bigger and stronger than you, is beating your ass, punching you in the gut, throwing you to the floor, kicking you in the head. Every one punch you land is met with six of his. You’ve exhausted every ounce of effort and strength. Your friends are gone. Are you going to stay there, allowing him to beat you senselessly while you struggle to avoid injury and remain conscious, or are you going to attempt to get the hell out of there, admit defeat, and walk/crawl/run to safety? Would we get crap from UF fans if the series switched to alternating sites? Yeah, maybe, possibly, who cares? At the end of day, college football fans are always going to talk shit to each other, so just add this to the list. Do you know any Alabama fans that are still hung up on the Iron Bowl not being in Birmingham anymore? If so, my condolences.

——————————————————————

This debate reached its nadir in 2008 when many a pre-2000 Georgia fan/blogger said “if we win this year, we will be 3-2 in our last 5 games…so much for that advantage!” That, combined with “UF did come to Athens in 1995…and look how that turned out!” might be the only two examples of bloggers actually resorting to small sample sizes to prove a point.

We now have a whole generation’s worth of evidence to show that this series is lopsided in favor of Florida. Is Jacksonville THE reason Georgia is losing six out of seven games to Florida? No. Is Jacksonville one of the many advantages that Florida carries coming into this matchup every year? I believe so. If this is something that the University can change to the possible benefit of our football program, then I believe it stands to reason that this change is worth a shot. Or, we can just show the team some Erk Russell vids, tell them to GATA, and eventually stumble across back-to-back W’s in this increasingly frustrating rivalry.

Between the Ledges

     The Red and Whack is the attempt of two University of Georgia alums to inject some sanity into the often-insane college football blogosphere, especially those covering UGA.

     After years of reading and trading links from various UGA, SEC, and college football blogs, we reached the conclusion that  most fans and bloggers are certifiably nuts.  They’re always ready to jump off the nearest ledge if we don’t fire a certain assistant coach or sign some “can’t miss” recruit that Rivals.com convinced them is Herschel Walker 2.0.   The offenders usually fit into the following 4 groups:

1.  Commenters on the AJC, Dawg Vent, etc.  

Pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure why these folks need to be committed, go ahead: surf over to these sites.  Force yourself to read even a few of these whack jobs’ rants.  Just make sure you have a hammer to smash yourself in the head with, too. If you have a friend whose post-game Facebook statuses have more exclamation points than correctly-spelled words, congratulations, you’re acquainted with members of this group.

"Oh no, not another Herschel anecdote!"

2.  Delusional “back in my day” alumni/bloggers.

Not all UGA alums or bloggers qualify to join the Manson Family.  But a large number just can’t seem to let go of the days of Herschel and Erk.  This is the golden era of UGA football to them, ignoring that Dooley had plenty of bad years before #34 suited up and started running over DBs.  Many are blind slaves to tradition.  They refuse to even consider alternatives, like the mere possibility that playing the Florida Gators in Florida might be just a slight disadvantage compared to getting them between the hedges once in a while.  Have you ever found yourself at a tailgate listening to an alum wax poetic about the 1962 UGA-Clemson game?  Or read a blog that finds an excuse to post that same picture of Erk’s bloody forehead every 3 weeks?  Then you’ve visited the twilight zone that these folks call home.

3.  Uninformed, out of touch, and overreactive fans.

You know these guys.  Their go-to solution after the Dawgs have a bad game is to immediately fire Mark Richt, Mike Bobo, Kathryn Richt, Sanford’s groundskeeper, etc.  They may argue in favor of other insane ideas, like playing a 2-star backup with two dozen “garbage time” reps over an all-SEC upperclassman (I’m looking at you, Hutson Mason fans).  Some are convinced that if we fire Richt then Bill Belichick will give up winning Super Bowls to coach here.  Members of this group have a lot in common with those in group #1.  Especially when it comes to medications they should be taking.

"What year did you graduate?" "I didn't, Coach. Couldn't you tell by the jersey?"

4.  High-n-Mighty Non-Alum/Non-Student Fans.  

We don’t have a problem with someone rooting for a school they didn’t attend.  If your school’s fan base doesn’t include those folks, it doesn’t have a legit program and you’re probably a Tech alum.  But let’s be clear:  Cheer all you want.  Wear the official jerseys that aren’t allowed to have players’ names on them.  Hell, come to Athens for the games.  Just don’t act like fan-wise you’re  equal to those of us who actually attended the University.  We’ll be tied to our school ’til we croak.   You’ve got the luxury of changing your mind – and PLENTY of you do when the program is down. You can go back to watching local H.S. football until they’re winning again, or put on a ridiculous-looking houndstooth hat and pretend you’ve always been a Tide fan.  At the end of the day, we both know that your emotional connection to UGA is about as solid as the one you have to your favorite pro wrestler.   Alums have to put up with our Tiger-Gator-Bama-Gamecock-Jacket coworkers forever.  As long as members of this group understand that, they’re fine by us.  But unfortunately most end up joining groups #1 and #3.

This isn’t an exhaustive list.  Unfortunately, there’s plenty of other offenders of all ages and backgrounds.

Understand: most of the Bulldog Nation isn’t insane (that honor goes to Gamecocks fans), nor does UGA have an above-average share of nutjobs. But they are out there.  The Red and Whack is here to counteract them and give voice to the silent majority of UGA and college football fans who aren’t going off the rails on a crazy train.

Sometimes we’ll call offenders out.  Sometimes we’ll try to be the voice(s) of reason.  Sometimes we’ll just give our take on the Dawgs, the SEC, and college ball.  But fortunately, we’ll never be fitted for Nike Pro Combat straitjackets.

Enjoy, and Go Dawgs.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.