Expectations for Kirby Smart, how best to honor Vince Dooley, the future of the Georgia-Florida football series and other offseason topics are on the minds of Blawg readers. It’s time once again to check out some recent Junkyard Mail …
Bill, Can Kirby Smart finally finish a game on top when leading a Saban team in the 4th quarter? It’s beyond frustrating to think that he has had an awesome game plan for three quarters against Bama both seasons, but then the pressure gets to him and the players in the 4th quarter. Will UGA come out on top this year if they play Bama? Clemson is the only team recently to finish the game ahead when holding a second half lead.
— Cohen Moore
You won’t get rich betting against Nick Saban, but, then again, Smart and the Dawgs have come close enough the past two seasons that it’s fair for UGA fans to expect that the odds are bound to tip in Georgia’s favor one of these days.
Could it be as soon as 2019? Sure. Bama certainly isn’t invincible, as Clemson showed, and the Tide faces some questions this season, what with player and coaching staff turnover.
Of course, Georgia is going through some changes, too. But, the return of Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift, most of the offensive line and most of the starting defense bode well for the Dawgs, as does the fact that Smart has been recruiting at an elite level the past three years, hauling in 5-stars like nobody else.
I remember riding the MARTA train away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Georgia’s National Championship Game loss to Alabama, and I told my son that I expected the Dawgs to be good in 2018, but I thought they were losing too many key players to pick up right where they left off. I said I figured 2019 was the year we should look for Smart and his program to win it all.
Despite having new coordinators and losing a few underclassmen Smart wishes had stayed for another year, I’m still feeling bullish on Georgia for 2019.
There is one major obstacle: The schedule should be considerably tougher this coming season, what with Notre Dame and Texas A&M both coming to Athens, and Florida on the upswing.
Still, Georgia does indeed have the preseason look of a national championship contender.
But, back to your question: Chances are that Smart and Georgia again will have to face the Tide in order to get where they want to be. As Ric Flair used to say, in order to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man. And, if Smart is going to take home a national championship trophy, he’s probably going to have to beat Saban.
What if he doesn’t do it this year? Or even next year? Is being in the national championship conversation every year enough, or will Smart be found lacking if he doesn’t win it all soon?
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic touched on that question this past week when a reader asked him, “Not to say Georgia will fire Kirby by any means, but if he doesn’t win it all in the next two years, there’s a problem, right?”
Mandel correctly noted that winning a national title “is very, very hard. There’s a reason only five active coaches in the country (Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Les Miles and Mack Brown) actually own a ring.”
But, he said, because Smart has come so close already, and because he is recruiting at a national-championship level, “I’m inclined to say, yes — if Smart doesn’t win a national title in the next couple of years, I would consider it a disappointment.”
Speaking of Smart’s recruiting success, he added: “In my time covering this sport I’ve only seen a small handful of coaches recruit at anywhere near this level year after year — Bobby Bowden, Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer and Saban. What do those five have in common? National championships.”
Bottom line, Cohen: While it’s fair to say that Smart blinked the past two times he went eyeball-to-eyeball with Saban, and made some coaching mistakes that allowed Bama to eke out wins over Georgia, I think UGA’s coach is smart enough to figure out what he needs to fix.
So, yeah, I think Smart will win the big one at Georgia. This coming season? That’s a definite maybe.
Bill, I just read a DawgNation article concerning the desire by many former athletes to add the name Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. I seriously disagree with such an addition. Any addition should be to the actual stadium name. It should become Sanford-Dooley Stadium. In honor of our winningest coach. It does not disrespect our former school president Sanford in any way. The field itself will always remain “Between the Hedges.”
— Jim Parry
Yes, the Augusta Chronicle reported recently that a group of about 450 of Dooley’s former players, led by Savannah’s Kevin “Catfish” Jackson and Herschel Walker, and including Kevin Butler, is pushing for UGA to honor their old coach by naming the football field “Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.”
“The man is in the Sports Hall of Fame of two different states — Georgia and Alabama,” Jackson told the Chronicle. “We’re not asking them to rename the entire stadium, but to name the field after him. There are a lot of politics involved with all of this, but I don’t understand what is so complicated about it. We want to do something good for a great man who has meant so much to the University of Georgia, and we’d like to do it while he’s still around. It’s about doing the right thing.”
He urged Dawgs fans to write letters in support of the move to UGA President Jere Morehead at the University of Georgia, 220 S. Jackson St., Athens, GA 30602.
While it’s true that the athletic complex located on the southwest portion of the Athens campus already is named after Dooley, and there’s a statue honoring him there, that’s about a 20-minute walk from the stadium and, in my opinion, is not good enough.
Dooley should be honored where his teams played and won championships. UGA legend Dan Magill wrote way back in 2001 that UGA should honor Dooley by going with Sanford-Dooley Stadium. However, opposition from the Sanford family to any hyphenated name, and the fact that then-UGA President Michael Adams and some members of the Board of Regents weren’t Dooley fans, meant nothing ever came of that plan.
Actually, I’d be fine with either Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium or Sanford-Dooley Stadium. I used to lean toward the latter, but I now prefer renaming the field and leaving the stadium name as it is. It’s an idea that has a lot of fan support, and there’s even a Facebook page promoting the idea. Its motto: “A statue is nice, but we want the whole damn field!”
Also, Jim, naming the field after Dooley wouldn’t change games being played “Between the Hedges.” That’s never been the name of the field; it’s simply a slogan describing the experience of playing there.
Whichever way UGA might go, I agree with Jackson and the other former players that it ought to be done while Dooley is still around to be honored in person.
Is there any truth to the rumor of UGA vs. UF being changed to a rotation of Athens, Gainesville, Jacksonville? I know Jacksonville will fight it because of the loss of dollars.
— Bobby McLelland
I very much doubt such a rotation — an idea Florida coach Dan Mullen has touted — is going to happen. Georgia and Florida have a contract to keep the game in Jacksonville through 2021.
The Jacksonville location is wildly popular with much of Bulldog Nation, particularly in South Georgia, and the unique status of it being a neutral-site game with an evenly split crowd and a legendary party scene merits a national CBS telecast every year, But, it’s also true that there’s a contingent of the fan base that thinks it’s a shame the Dawgs’ most vibrant rivalry doesn’t ever take place Between the Hedges. It’s also noteworthy that some former Georgia players talked recently about how they wish the game was played on a home-and-home basis. And, Smart has expressed mixed feelings about the game being in Jacksonville, chiefly because of NCAA limitations on recruiting at neutral-site games.
Generally, Smart gets what he wants. But, in this case, I think the dollar signs associated with the game in Jacksonville will trump even the head coach’s wishes. As DawgNation’s Chip Towers pointed out, Georgia makes $3 million for every home game it plays, which it would get only every other year in a home-and-home situation with Florida. Meanwile, UGA gets nearly $3 million (plus other costs) every year with the game in Jacksonville. So, the current arrangement is twice as lucrative for UGA. I think that will be the deciding factor in keeping the game in Jacksonville.
Bill: We can all agree that the experience at Sanford Stadium has improved in recent years, particularly with the 4th quarter “light up Sanford.” But I believe Georgia fans are missing out on an opportunity for a stadium-wide singalong. Wisconsin’s Camp Randall stadium rocks with the House of Pain song “Jump Around,” several college stadiums joyously sing “Sweet Caroline,” and, after Tom Petty passed a few years ago, the Swamp started singing “I Won’t Back Down.” These are great traditions that engage the entire stadium in a sense of community.
Dawg fans deserve the same. There are many worthwhile candidates in the Georgia songbook: Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” the B-52s’ “Love Shack,” James Brown’s “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs,” Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia,” or any one of a number of R.E.M. songs. I am partial to “Love Shack” — it is a catchy tune and easy to sing — but mostly I would just like to see Sanford Stadium belting out a song of our own every home game. Bill. if you agree, ask your many readers their opinion, let’s agree on a song and start a new tradition. Go Dawgs!
Interesting idea! They already do singalongs as part of the “Karaoke Cam,” but I think picking one tune that just about the entire crowd can relate to and doing it at the same time every home game would make it a more special moment, like you describe.
I think “Love Shack” might work, at least if it was edited down to focus mainly on the chorus. The only R.E.M. song I can think of that might work as a singalong is “Shiny Happy People.” Their other songs generally have too many complicated lyrics.
I asked a few fans of various ages what they thought, and found support for several numbers, including the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” (to maintain a Georgia tie) and, if you want to go with a tune that just about everyone knows, there’s my brother Tim’s suggestion of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
The folks who run the music at Sanford actually have used “Don’t Stop Believin'” before as one of the “Karaoke Cam” songs, and I think it had one of the better responses from the crowd at large.
As my friend Kevin pointed out, it needs to be something that bridges the generations in order to get the whole stadium singing. If it’s too recent a song, only the students sing. “I know younger people would want OutKast or something like that, but I think older fans would be turned off by that,” Kevin said. “The generational thing would be key. Something that older fans know, but younger fans still think is cool.” He thinks “Ramblin’ Man” qualifies.
My daughter Olivia, a 2016 UGA grad, would opt instead for Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” “That song would be so easy for everyone to sing,” she said, noting that the UGA connection would be that Athens/Sanford Stadium is viewed by alums and fans as heaven on earth.
Works for me. What do you think? Any other tunes you think would be good for stadium singalongs?