Georgia Bulldogs: Culture Change Needed


The Georgia Bulldogs lost to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday in their own house. It is the first loss to Tech since 2008. The team finished the season with a 9-3 record that will have many Georgia fans saying it’s not enough, and even more Georgia fans saying that getting 9-10 wins a year keeps you relevant. Whether or not you think that Georgia needs a new head coach (I personally do), at the very least, you have to understand that Georgia needs a culture change.

I’m originally from Dallas, TX. I came to the University of Georgia in 1999, and I’ve been living in Atlanta since 2003. I can say with pure honesty that there are phrases uttered in this state that I’d never heard in Dallas in my life, or any other big sports city I’ve visited. Let me give you some examples.

“Well, this year I hope we’re in the discussion at the end.”

“At least it was an exciting game, even though we couldn’t pull it out in the end.”

“Our coach is a great man, even if he makes mistakes.”

“Our coaches are amazing recruiters, and our players do great in the NFL!”

Here’s the problem I have with all of that. If you said in other big program towns that you just hope you’re in the discussion, you’re getting punched in the face and thrown out of the bar. Other fans don’t care if a game is exciting if they lost. The game stinks if you lose, period. People winning championships don’t care about their coaches religious affiliation or donation record. Go ask Florida State or Auburn or Alabama fans if they care if their coach is a nice guy. They don’t. They may lie and say they do, or they may pretend he is, but if he suddenly stops winning he’s a jerk and deserves to be fired. Auburn fired a coach two years after winning a national title. They care that he wins.

The last statement is the worst in my mind, and the biggest indictment of the Georgia Bulldogs coaching staff. They can recruit the pants off the rest of the teams, have the guys underperform while in school, and then suddenly end up as front line starters in the NFL. Great in high school, average in college, great in the NFL. What’s the issue there? Could it be the coaching here in Georgia? You think? Maybe!

Georgia fans, you’ve been conditioned by this coaching staff and Athletic department to accept failure with a flourish, and to defend it with your life. Most of you don’t even realize you’re doing it, but you are. Whenever someone brings up your record and the lack of championships, and you respond about integrity and morals and well-we-got-to-the-game’s, you are defending failure. Don’t think so? Think I’m nuts? Allow me to explain.

  • Mark Richt is 9-15 in games against ranked opponents over the last five years – Go ahead and explain to me how that’s acceptable. I’ll wait. For a team that’s in one of the top four recruiting areas in the USA, and is in the top 10% in football programs producing NFL talent, if you can explain to me how this record isn’t related to coaching, I’ll eat my left sock. The fact is that in big games, Georgia consistently falls over, and it’s not a talent issue. Why do I say that it’s not talent related?
  • Georgia has averaged the 10th-rated recruiting class in the country over the last five years – Georgia is picking up more and better talent than 118 college programs out there. Many failure defenders will say that Georgia still falls behind teams like Alabama who finishes at #1 quite often. And? Do you honestly believe the falloff between a #1 and #10 recruiting class is that harsh? If it was, how did a team like Auburn manage to win a championship and win the SEC last season? They are only between 7-8 on recruiting classes in that same time frame. Is the difference of one or two slots that big? I would contend no, since teams like Florida have been finishing in the top 10 for the last five years too, and losing badly. But we believe Will Muschamp is a moron, and Mark Richt is a saint.
  • Most of Georgia’s wins could be won by any coach – Don’t believe me? Let’s do a quick exercise. Go ahead and remove any cupcake games (that is games like Southwestern Slippery Rock Carolina who get paid to lose), and any games against teams that aren’t bowl eligible that year. See what Richt’s record looks like over the last five years. I already did the math, so I’ll tell you. If you remove the non-bowl eligible wins, and the cupcake wins, Mark Richt has a 21-21 record in the last five years. Essentially, I’m telling you that 24 of Georgia’s 45 wins in the last five years are against sub-par, non-bowl eligible teams. That’s more than half. If there was ever stat-padding in college football, Mark Richt is the hugest proponent of it. Maybe that’s when, in a recent press conference, Mark Richt said that he wished the playoff committee would let teams schedule one FCS opponent a year without penalty. I’m sure you would, Mark. I’m sure you would. He says it’s for the health of the game in America. In reality, it’s to pad his record so he can keep the failure defenders on his side.
  • 2014 was the worst SEC East in years, and Georgia lost it – Just look at the competition. Missouri won the whole thing, and they lost to both Georgia and Indiana. Indiana is 4-8 team in the god-awful Big Ten that won’t go to a bowl game. Your SEC East champion going to the Georgia Dome to play Alabama lost to that team. They lost to one of the worst teams in the Big 10, and I’m supposed to believe that somehow Missouri can compete against Alabama? Get real. As for the rest of the East? The bottom five teams in the SEC East have a combined 26 wins. That’s the lowest in a decade, and probably longer if I bothered to look past 2005. Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee barely reached bowl eligibility this year with six wins. Kentucky and Vanderbilt didn’t reach that number. It’s the worst it’s been in a long time, and Georgia still couldn’t manage to win the dregs that is this division. How can we as fans say that this program isn’t on the decline?

Now take those elements and ask yourself if you can defend what Mark Richt is doing. Bear in mind this is the same coach who told his fans that something besides winning is important in college football. Of course he would tell you that, because he wants you to buy into his philosophy of failure just like all his players. Basically, Mark Richt is telling you, his bosses, his players, and the rest of the fans that losing a few games a year is fine if we produce quality people here. You know the biggest problem I have with that philosophy? Georgia doesn’t even do that correctly.

UGA has players get arrested and suspended like clockwork for offenses ranging from theft to sexual assault to DUI to gun charges. There is nary a season that’s gone by without at least a few players suspended for the first two games, if not more. Even this year, the Georgia Bulldogs had a Heisman candidate suspended for NCAA violations, a player arrested for an aggravated assault charge, four players arrested for a check cashing scheme, and another player arrested on a DUI charge. That’s just in 2014. But God bless them, Richt has control and he’s building men here. Just stop. Stop.

Another excuse I hear is who would we replace Richt with? Are there any great candidates out there? In short, yes there are tons of quality head coaches who have elevated programs in the last five years. Gary Patterson of TCU has taken that program from WAC obscurity to possible Big 12 champions. He’s won five conference titles in 14 years, 3 or 4 in the last 6 years. Art Briles at Baylor has turned Baylor into a program that produced a Heisman winner and possible two Big 12 titles in a row now. Mark Dantonio for Michigan State won the Big Ten for the first time in almost three decades for that school. James Franklin went up to Penn State after making Vanderbilt relevant. He actually beat Georgia at one point. Again, he made Vanderbilt relevant. That’s almost impossible. David Cutcliffe did the same at Duke. He took a team that has no real recruiting chance and put them in an ACC title game. What could those guys do with the fertile recruiting ground and resources of a UGA?

And don’t get it twisted, UGA has massive resources. I’ve already pointed out that they are in one of the top four states in recruiting in the country. I pulled up the Georgia Athletic Association Form 990 Tax Filing for 2013. Georgia had over $97 million in revenue last year. They netted after all expenses, grants, scholarships, buildings, etc, over $1M in “profit” for a non-profit entity. The Athletic Association is sitting on $68M in just cash in their bank accounts. They have over $43M of investable other assets on their books. That means that the Athletic Association at the end of 2013 was just clanking around over $100M in cash or investments. Do you honestly think they can’t buy out any coaches contract? They could pay a coach $9M a year to run this football team, and it wouldn’t put a dent in their finances. Period.

From a pure business standpoint, the Georgia Bulldogs don’t need to win. They’ve proven that time and again. The program hasn’t won anything since 2005, and yet they are making more money than ever. You and I as Georgia fans are continuing to buy up tickets, buy up jerseys, watch the game, consume the drinks and popcorn, and pay for gear. We are lining UGA’s pockets without any regard for success. We are not demanding that as one of the highest revenue producing programs in the USA, Georgia should deliver the highest success rate for the fans.

But what is success? Is 10 wins success? Maybe if you are improving off a bad situation it might be. But 14 years into a coaches tenure, it’s no longer about just winning a bunch of games. It’s about winning championships. After all, why in the world would you keep a coach around for a long time if it doesn’t give you an advantage? What advantage does Mark Richt give this Georgia team? What are we as Georgia fans afraid of when it comes to making a change?

If you talk to many fans, and I do, they all express fear over getting on the coaching carousel. Look at Tennessee or Florida they will say. That could be us. We could go from 10 wins to 6 wins in the blink of an eye. First of all, I don’t believe that for a second. Georgia can never become Tennessee for the simple fact that our state produces better high school recruits than Tennessee. Second, even bad SEC programs can still recruit. Tennessee and Florida finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in recruiting in 2014. If you’re in the SEC, and you aren’t Vanderbilt, or in Mississippi, you can likely recruit a class in the top 25 by rolling a helmet out on the field. Third, I’m not suggesting that Georgia hire some young unproven idiot that might cut and run the second another job comes calling. UGA has the resources to hire an actual head coach with real experience. Florida and Tennessee tried the hot coordinator route, and they got burned. And no, I don’t count Lane Kiffin’s coaching for the Raiders as real head coaching experience. That’s more like being a ringmaster of the worst circus in town. There are scary clowns in that circus.

But even bigger than that, so what if Georgia has a couple of 6-8 win seasons? We’ve already had two of those under Richt in the last five years. Exactly what are these Georgia fans holding onto? Getting wins and being “in the discussion?” Being in the discussion means nothing if the team loses badly in week 12 and knocks itself out.

You know what I think? Fans are all terrified of any type of change. They’ve been beaten down for so long that UGA fans don’t really believe they have the right to cheer for a champion anymore. They’ve been conditioned like victims of Stockholme Syndrome to identify with their captors in the UGA Athletic office, and pour out their support in defense of a money-making machine that thrives on human despair.

Let me tell you something, UGA fan. You have the right to demand an SEC champion, and not apologize for it. You don’t have to settle for some ridiculous low standard set by the fact that the rest of this state’s teams can’t seem to get over the playoff hump. Don’t just buy into the defense of failure. Demand excellence in yourself and your programs, and understand what true success really is. I’m not saying that Georgia should win every year, but they should, at bare bones minimum, win once every 6-7 years. That is not too much to ask when there are only 6-7 legitimate contenders for the SEC championship each year. By simple odds, Georgia should have likely won one by now.

The change has to start with the fans. At some point, if we really want a champion, we have to make it known to the athletic department that enough is enough. Sell off some of your tickets instead of going to all the games. Don’t show up to the cupcake matches. Write letters to the AD. Lower your donations to the bare minimum. Don’t buy that jersey. Don’t buy that Coke. Change your attitude about what success really looks like for this team. We have to hit them in the wallet, social media, and in the athletic department headquarters. The only change that will make this stop is when the fans demand more.

In short, stop apologizing for your team, Georgia fans. Stop making excuses for your coaches. Demand better. And most importantly…

Just win, baby!