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Hate Under the Lights

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This should be fun.  The Tech game is at 7:45 on ESPN.  We’ve been complaining about the lack of night games and its injurious effect on recruiting.  Well, here comes a big one against a hated rival with bowl eligibility on the line. It should be the best atmosphere in Athens the Dawgs have seen all year.


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In All Fairleyness …

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Frankly, the Dawgs performed better than I thought they would tonight.  This was one of the few games in the Richt era where I thought we had almost no shot of winning.  While we weren’t that close to a win on the scoreboard, the team performed quite well in spurts.  The first quarter was some of the best football we’ve played all year.  Eventually, however, we just couldn’t keep up with Auburn’s offense.  As soon as we kicked a field goal in the third, I knew the game was essentially over because they had broken serve.  That offense was the best unit we’ve seen all year.  Our defense continues to struggle and I think this is just who we are, fundamentally inconsistent, not particularly physical, and perpetually susceptible to a big play.  With that said, Grantham has two weeks to get ready and I expect a good performance against a hobbled Tech offense.
The Dawgs got a takeaway early and ended up winning the official turnover battle, but I would count the onside kick as essentially equivalent to a turnover.  It was a gutsy call by Chizik, but it worked and stole a precious possession that could have helped UGA put the pressure on Auburn to keep up with us, instead of us keeping up with them.  Richt said he had prepared the team for such a tactic, but they weren’t watching for it when it actually happened, I guess.  Based on Boykin’s second half returns, I guess they were only concerned with the onside kick after Auburn got one and forgot to block.
Three other good things before I get to the bad.  Aaron Murray and Alec Ogletree are as good a set of freshmen as we’ve had in a while.  Murray is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites.  The kid was getting beat senseless, but kept fighting at every turn.  Tonight might have been his best game of the year all things considered.  If we had a legit running game to really sell the play action fakes, he’d be an absolute mortal lock for SEC freshman of the year.  Ogletree needs to start every game for us until he turns pro.  He’s big, physical, as sure a tackler as we have in the defensive backfield, and he needs experience.  I know he got toasted on Auburn’s last touchdown, but the way they were running all night you can’t blame him for the cheat step up.  And lastly, A.J. Green is the best receiver we have ever had or will ever have.  How exactly will our offense function next year without him?  Nevermind, I know.  I was in Starkville.
Now, on to the ugliness.  I’ve never been a fervent Auburn-hater like Kyle King.  I’ve always sort of considered us friendly rivals with outbursts of mild fire-hosing or drink-throwing, but nothing of the Tech or UF caliber hate.  Our games always seem to be physical, hard-fought games that are fun to watch and inspiring of a certain earned respect.  With that preface, Auburn was a dirty football team tonight.  Perhaps it is unfair to characterize an entire team for the actions of a single player, so I guess I’ll say Nick Fairley is a dirty football player.  I realize I’m biased, but it’s not just me who thinks Fairley was unsportsmanlike.  Every father should show his son Fairley’s actions tonight and tell them “if you play like this, I’ll kick your ass.”  Nick Fairley’s a good football player and he’ll be a millionaire very soon, but he’ll never be able to buy a good reputation.  He’s dirty and he plays the game the wrong way.  I’ll never cheer for a player to get injured, but I’m as close as I can get to breaking that rule for Fairley. 


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UGA Basketball Update

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The basketball season officially begins on Friday night in Athens as the Bulldogs face Mississippi Valley State.  There are discounted tickets on sale via  Some items of interest with the season on its way:

  • Recruiting Rankings — ranks the basketball signing class as #24 in the nation.  Our peers in the SEC East are UK (#1), UT (#23) and UF (#25).  It's nice to see us ranked, and in the mix vs. our direct competition.
  • Georgia's 2011 Commitments — Preseason I felt that if Georgia signed Kentavious Caldwell (best player in state), Tim Dixon (best true center in state) and two other players that this would be a good class.  The hope was that one of those two players other would be Julian Royal (GT) or Nick Jacobs (Bama) and we'd go from "good to great." Obviously, that didn't happen.  The addition of the raw 7'1" JUCO center will help some.  The class is solid, but we're going to need more star power over the long term to make a consistent move towards the top of the SEC.  Devin Langford (Wing) is still out there and considering the Bulldogs which would be a very solid addition. (Note: It appears that the LOIs for all existing commits are in)
  • 2012 Recruiting — Dan McDonald of has his recruiting 2012 hot board up.  The Bulldogs are in the Top 3 for some of the true gems of the class including high profile in state players like Jordan Price (PG), Jordan Adams (SG), Evan Nolte (SF), Jamal Reid (SF) and Tony Parker (C).  Evan Nolte's brother is on the team, and Reid's half-brother is Jeremy Price.  Parker was HS teammates with Donte Williams.  Both Jordans are Atlantic Celtics, and our success story with their AAU program is Trey Thompkins.  Fox really needs to sign at least three of those kids as all represent areas of extreme need.  Hopefully, he'll benefit from this group of kids seeing our 2010-2011 progress on the court.

Playing rotation once Trey returns based on what I'm hearing:

5 – Price then Barnes
4 – Trey then Barnes then Donte
3 – Travis then Connor then Thornton (til MT learns the scheme)
2 – Gerald then Travis then Brantley
1 – Ware then Gerald then Vincent

Other tidbits:

  • Jeremy Price — Fox told a recent booster gathering that Price is an emerging leader on the team.  Those that have attended team banquets and practices since Fox's arrival will tell you that Price was Coach Fox's favorite subject of ball busting (both playful and otherwise), but that seems to be changing.  For this team to meet it's true potential Price has to become a steady 12 points and 7 rebounds a night type performer.
  • Chris Barnes — Chris and Jeremy will graduate per Coach Fox, and Gerald Robinson is also on pace to graduate.  This is pretty significant improvement for a program that once went 6 years with only 1 scholarship player getting a diploma during the Jirsa to Harrick transition phase.
  • Scheduling — Coach Fox said that in his first 2 years we will have played about 11 BCS opponents, but only 2 (Colorado and GT) in Athens.  He is working with McGarity to try and fix that, but it's tough because everyone knows we beat GT, UT, Vandy and UF at home last year.  Other coaches aren't stupid…they don't want to walk into a snake pit and get beat.  So, it's tough getting things lined up.
  • Stegeman — I took a tour on Nov. 2nd, but I missed the exhibition game.  Still, I can tell you that it looks absolutely incredible.  It'll look even better once the graphics are finished on or before Nov. 18th.
  • Ticket Sales — As of 1 week ago, season ticket sales were up about 18% and contributions were up 30%. Also, the UK game sold out with only ~150 tickets going to non-donors (those with the pre-sale password).  Since we have some UK fans who donate to UGA for SEC Tourney tickets, the Cats will get some tickets.  However, it should be the fewest number of blue clad fans in Athens in a very, very long time.  Five hundred UK fans is better than 1,500+ as we've seen in the past.

That's what I'm hearing.


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Thoughts on Cam Newton’s saga

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I'll start by saying that I find it highly unlikely that Mark Schlabach, Pat Forde and Chris Low would all put their names on the original story involving Newton and Mississippi State if they didn't have it cold.  Joe Schad's a different animal entirely.  I'd put his willingness to put himself out on a breakable limb as pretty high, but I digress.

It's important to remember that Forde, Schlabach and Low didn't say Auburn paid for Newton, and that's an enormous issue in this story. They simply said that a representative for MSU stated that someone representing Cam Newton tried to sell Newton to MSU.

Yes…Schad is reporting that the MSU recruiters say they were outbid.  However, I wouldn't put much stock into that as the MSU recruiters have nothing to lose by lying or exaggerating to Schad. And I think Schad may be the weakest link in the entire ESPN news organization .

Hello, I'm Agent Killjoy:
However, the FBI getting involved as TMZ is reporting makes it an entirely different thing.  Ask yourself why and how the FBI gets involved in a case like this?  They certainly don't care about college football's integrity or NCAA violations.  So why get involved?

Well…laundering money through a entity with non-profit tax status like a church…that's on their radar.  Using cross state phone lines to commit fraud or other crimes is also on their radar.

But again…the FBI doesn't get involved with a lot of wild goose chases.  They simply don't have the time.  So why this case?

Consider these three facts:

1.  The NCAA has no subpoena power.  They can't make a Church(es) reveal documents they don't want to reveal.  Nor can they make "runners" or "agents" cooperate with them.

2.  Contributing to non-profit organizations in a non-quid pro quo manner is not an NCAA violation.  Take a look at a some of the big name AAU basketball programs' web sites and notice that several have very visible "Donate Now" pay pal buttons that anyone can hit.  Routing money to AAU coaches via their non-profit AAU status is very common and tough for the NCAA to prove without subpoena  Same with routing money through a church I'd imagine.

3.  NCAA investigators are often retired/former FBI agents who love sports and hate being lied to.

So,What's more likely?  That MSU, Bama or UF called the FBI into this saga?  Thereby increasing their own legal costs and creating distractions for their personnel.  Or that an NCAA investigator called a former co-worker at the FBI and shared his information to date.

Bringing in the FBI is perfect for the NCAA.  They can then let the Feds do the heavy lifting regarding the money trail and leverage their subpoena power to find dirty secrets. Then the NCAA can read the testimony and discovery documents after the fact.

The NCAA wants real meaningful change in the recruitment of student athletes and what better way to facilitate that change than to have the parents, runners, agents and/or coaches involved in high profile cases go to jail?

So is Auburn in real trouble?
Maybe. Maybe not.  If I were betting, I'd suggest that Cam Newton's dad was more likely to end up in hot water than anyone at Auburn.  But Auburn officials should be sweating bullets.  Just remember, there are five people that you never want to see in your front yard:

1. Jim Cantore
2. An IRS Agent
3. An FBI Agent
4. Greta Van Susteren
5. Chris Hansen

If Cam and Auburn want due process, well..they are going to get it.  Sadly, just not fast enough for Georgia to benefit on Saturday.


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My Overall Thoughts on the Football Program

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If Georgia had played as hard against South Carolina and Mississippi State (and to a lesser degree Colorado) as they played against the Gators, I believe that things would look very different. We could still be in first place in the East, and things wouldn't look so bleak.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The Bulldogs played dispassionate football for much of the first five games of the season, and they put themselves in this position.

That's what bothers me.  I just can't comprehend why in 2007, 2009 and 2010 this program's coaches and players waited until the biggest prizes were off the table to decide to play their hardest and smartest football*.  It's maddening.

Georgia is not a program with 4-5 talent.  Georgia is not a program with 4-5 facilities, recruiting base, financial backing or any other infrastructural element.  There's no Jan Kemp, Ronny Contrell or Lane Kiffin-sized legitimate excuse for where we are.  We are here because Coach Richt has consistently waited too long to address the glaring problems surrounding the program, and that is why we are where we are.

It's a systemic issue of urgency that we've discussed frequently over the years.  A coach with "hair on fire urgency" doesn't do the following:

  • Tolerate Neil Callaway's recruiting for 6 seasons
  • Tolerate John Jancek's epic fail linebacker coaching for 5 seasons
  • Tolerate John Fabris' idiotic kickoff "strategies" for 9 seasons
  • Redshirt Knowshon Moreno
  • Promote a kid like McClendon when *obviously* more qualified candidates were available
  • Wait to terminate Martinez and post-pone an inevitable rebuilding process
  • Blow off two a day practices in favor of pool parties
  • Let the strength program fall to where we're getting mauled up front

So here Richt sits scrambling to find answers that are less painful than the obvious ones.  Just like last year.

It's all so avoidable, and that's what frustrates me the most. 

To clarify, I'm not calling for Mark Richt's job or his head.  I want him to be successful because he's a good person…but more importantly because the process of replacing him is TERRIFYING when you consider the realistic pool of potential candidates.

I'm simply asking that our coach manage our program in the proactive manner that is commensurate with his compensation package.  To date, we've paid Coach Richt almost $20 million.  The bulk of that money was not paid as a reward for past performances. It was paid to ensure we got consistently excellent results on a go forward basis.  Once you win the SEC, you're not Coach for Life.  You still have to drive the program forward.

We've now lost 10 games in the past two seasons, and appear very likely to lose 11 in two seasons. As a point of comparison, Jim Donnan lost 11 games in his final THREE seasons in Athens.  Regardless of Richt's excellent achievements in his first five years, he absolutely cannot take the program to a level lower than he found it.  That's simply not acceptable.

He's being paid to make the tough decisions BEFORE those decisions become obvious to those of us who've never been in the arena.  Waiting for years after we can figure it out is far too long.  And that's my frustration.


*Ht to "Whyso" via's message board for helping me articulate that sentence more concisely than my original draft.  He articulated what I was trying to say in a similar manner.  Not the whole post…just that sentence.

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Once Bitten, Twice Shy

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I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve been a frank pessimist regarding the Dawgs since about midway through the second quarter of the 2008 Alabama game.  That doesn’t mean I don’t desperately want to be an unbridled, unabashed optimist about the Dawgs.  My problem is a lack of evidence to make the turn.  In the last two and a half seasons, there’s only been one sound defeat of a legitimate team (Tech 2009).  Even inferior teams have given the Dawgs problems (and more than a couple of losses) during that span.  And then, there’s been two epic beatings in Jacksonville.
This year’s team, left for dead in the Flatirons, has suddenly appeared competent with three straight convincing wins.  While I’m not yet ready to start beating my chest until it’s red and black, there seem to be a lot of us who are.  Vegas likes us this weekend.  The experts, if you call Mark Bradley that, are for the most part picking the Dawgs, despite our recent historical difficulties in Jacksonville. I can’t remember this much objective enthusiasm about UGA’s chances in Jacksonville since Zook was fired or that suicide-inducing 2002 game (I apologize for bringing it up, **PUKING**).
The experts are picking us because we are the “hot” team.  Three straight convincing wins will evidently make you forget two atrocious efforts earlier in the same season.  But, it looks to me that our relative hotness and the Gators’ relative coolness is simply a matter of timing.  UF beat UT and UK badly, just like us.  UF lost to Mississippi State in embarrassing fashion, just like we did.  These results, however, have just come at opposing times.  UF got UT and UK early and we played them this month.  So, we’re essentially the same team against common opponents.  They’ve looked like a bunch of turds lately, but we looked turdtastic early.  
Even with the experts on our side, there’s something of a lingering dread about this game that keeps me from complete confidence Saturday.  I’m having a problem turning myself into a bubbly fountain of hope because I’ve been burned so often and so badly in this series, but am I just not getting it this year?  Should I be more confident?
Given the recent history of the series, I feel like the Dawgs have to show me they can beat the Gators without endzone celebrations, lame duck coaches, or goofy alternate unis.  I want a straight up win over the Gators with no frills.  It’s something I haven’t seen in thirteen years.  I don’t want to hear how we’re going to do it.  I want to see it. Let us have it, Dawgs.  Please.  My capacity for hope in this series could be at stake.


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Quick Hoops / Stegeman Update

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Player News:
Trey Thompkins continues to get positive press following his nomination as preseason SEC Player of the Year.  One of my favorite articles so far comes Andy Katz talking about Trey's status as the best big man in the league.  It's a very encouraging read.

Recruiting News:
On a separate note, I noticed Nick Jacobs committed to Alabama yesterday.  It's unfortunate that Jacobs didn't give us a longer look given that we have so much playing time available, and his connection to the program via David Jacobs (former football player).  The biggest issue with the 2011 recruiting right now is simply that the signing period is BEFORE what should be our breakout season.  I hope to sign one more big man in the Spring, and we've got offers out to one more guard/wing for the Fall in Devin Langford and Dai-Jon Parker (Nov. 5th announcement scheduled).

Facilities News:
I dropped by Stegeman on Friday to check out some of the renovation work, and I came away incredibly impressed.  The all glass facade completely reshapes the look of the place from the exterior.  Interestingly…to me at least…hanging each piece of glass properly is quite the ordeal.  I counted 1 crane, 3 cherry pickers and 10-13 men required to install one panel of glass.  Oh..and each panel looked to take about 25-30 minutes to get in place with two separate crews doing the work — one on each side of the building . This photo from the Red and Black shows the work pretty well.

On Friday, it looked like they had 4 panels left on the Carlton Street side and about 10-12 panels left on the practice field side. I would imagine they are probably pretty close to finished on that aspect of the work.  Anyone who wants to drive by the building and post a comment about the progress is welcome.

Interestingly, I talked to one of the guys on site who was supervising.  He said they install a rubber connector of sorts to connect the top row of glass to the concrete roof of Stegeman.  The connector has to allow for the expansion and contraction of the concrete.  They've measured Stegeman's roof height during temperature variations as much as 50 degrees and found almost 4 inches difference in height as the concrete reacts to external temp swings.  The roof "moves" less when the building is closed off to the outside temps…in other words when they finish they'll be able to regulate the internal temps much better and reduce the movement of the roof.

The crews are basically working around the clock to finish in time, and it looks like all the major work will be done in time for the Nov. 4th exhibition game.  However, I would expect quite a bit of cosmetic work regarding the graphics and visual extras to be completed closer to the official home opener.

You have to hand it to Damon Evans.  This is a high value investment in our basketball facilities.

One negative in all of this…I do have to say that it's a real whiff to have the exhibition game on Thursday, Nov. 4th instead of the originally announced Friday, Nov. 5th.  There are lots of folks…me included…who just can't make three separate trips to Athens in one week.  One trip for the exhibition game, one for the football game and one separate athletics related trip.  We need to get that exhibition game next year moved back to the Friday before the home opener to help our fans.

That's all.  Overall…momentum continues to build around basketball.


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