Well, it’s February, and football season is over. Seems no one complains about that, but just let baseball go into November, and howls erupt.
But the real reason for this post is to note how quickly fortunes can change these days in college athletics. Just look at my alma mater, the University of Georgia, which is now rebuilding its football program and looking for a new Top Dawg in basketball.
It’s interesting to note that all the buzz lately is about Bob Knight, the memorable and combustible basketball legend. He’s the winningest coach ever, and someone who would bring instant credibility and attention to any program. And Georgia needs both, as its men’s hoops outfit has not been an SEC contender in some time.
Forget 2008. Georgia got lucky when a tornado hit downtown Atlanta during the SEC tournament. The damage forced the tournament to move a few miles away to Georgia Tech, and officials restricted attendance to players’ families and school officials. That negated Kentucky’s huge fan advantage over Georgia, which says volumes about the apathy surrounding the Bulldogs. So Georgia seized the unique moment by winning two games in one day en route to a surprise title.
But no force of nature could help Georgia in 2008-09, and it went winless in SEC play before firing coach Dennis Felton recently.
But I don’t think Knight is the answer. He’s past his prime, and is something of a walking time bomb. His volatility is well known, and not what a struggling program needs. And he is not motivated by money or titles, just ego. Perhaps the Bulldogs should concentrate on someone younger who is still seeking to climb the mountain. (Updated 2/3/09: I see I have at least one ally here, AJC columnist Mark Bradley.)
And speaking of irrelevancy, the Georgia football program is on the brink. Much is made of the team winning at least 10 games a season in almost all of Mark Richt’s tenure, and his two SEC titles, the school’s first since the Herschel Walker era.
Now, though, the Bulldogs are having to rebuild their program after the departures of QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, two likely first-round NFL picks. And this comes after a disappointing season in which Georgia was outclassed by top rivals Florida and Alabama and upset by Georgia Tech.
It has been three seasons since the Bulldogs have appeared in the SEC title game. And it never gets easier in the conference, as Florida has won two national titles in three seasons and another SEC East rival, Tennessee, is rejuvenated with new coach Lane Kiffin, who has a pedigree that includes time on Pete Carroll’s staff at USC.
Sentiment? Nah. Georgia AD Damon Evans did not hire the deposed Felton, and he did not hire Richt, either. Former AD Vince Dooley brought Richt in after UGA President Michael Adams ordered the firing of Jim Donnan, who consistently failed to beat Georgia’s key rivals.
Not likely that Richt is in any trouble now, not after a 10-win season. But again, loyalty doesn’t win games. Sylvester Croom was fired at Mississippi State in 2008 after being named SEC Coach of the Year, and Philip Fulmer was ousted at Tennessee in ’08 a year after reaching the SEC title game. These days, mediocrity is unacceptable.