In the year-plus that I have been writing on this website I have learned how to transition from “orange-blooded-crazy-fan dude” to “reasonably-objective-fair dude” rather easily.
I still hate the sight of Crimson Red and Gator Blue but I have written fair stories on both while being “vicious” only a few times.
I can even write about Notre Dame with a lot less hatred than I used to. Those who know me realize that is a major step for me.
Unfortunately, however, there remains one program that I simply cannot hide my disdain for.
The University of Georgia football program has become the bane of my college football existence.
Maybe that’s because I have lived in Georgia for 27 out of the 28 years I’ve been alive.
Perhaps it’s because not only have I lived there, but I’ve been a diehard Tennessee fan for most of those 28 years as well.
I’m sure it’s because I have had many UGA-supporting friends who I love to mix it up with on occasion.
Most likely, however, it’s that some of those UGA fans are completely unrealistic and quite cocky when it comes to their team.
When Mark Richt took over for the fired Jim Donnan in 2001, the young coach immediately became all the rage in the SEC.
His dominance over a Tennessee team that won nine straight head-to-head battles with Georgia in the 90’s was the ‘Dawg-faithful’s rallying cry.
In defeating the Vols four straight times (‘00-’03) Georgia had won back many of the fans in my area that had switched to Tennessee orange during the Dawgs nearly two decade SEC championship drought.
Seemingly overnight, Georgia was actually relevant again—which I was cool with. I always wanted that rivalry to become a great one.
Richt made everything better quickly. Playing in three SEC titles games (winning two) and four BCS bowls (winning three) in his first seven years on the job was a great start for the programs best coach since Vince Dooley.
Even more effective was the fact that he closed off the borders to the state’s fertile recruiting ground. Sure the occasional four or five star left the state, but for the most part Georgia was getting the best of the best prospects from inside the state.
That fact hurt the Tennessee Vols program more than anything.
After raiding Georgia for years, Philip Fulmer had to go elsewhere to pick up the prime talent that the state has offered for years.
Georgia natives such as Jamal Lewis, Deon Grant, and others knew Tennessee because of proximity to the state. With Georgia competing for more Peach Bowl titles than SEC titles as one former Vol put it; the decision was an easy one.
When that same player ended up playing in two Peach Bowls for the Vols while the ‘Dawgs won an SEC title the transformation was complete. Mark Richt had turned the tide in the state.
Then came Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Two smooth talkers who could talk the devil out of his horns were suddenly making inroads in the state. For all his faults, Lane Kiffin even began to out-recruit Richt in Georgia.
Thus, in 2009 Georgia was left with nowhere near the talent that Richt’s early-00’s teams had. His team finished 8-5.
This season followed an ’08 season in which Richt’s ‘Dawgs were predicted to play for a national title but ended up in the Capital One Bowl before losing two of the nation’s best players to the first 15 picks of the NFL Draft.
It reached rocky status with the disappointing ’09 season and has continued throughout Richt’s long search for someone to coordinate the defense, his loss of a top 10 recruiting class, and the ever-plummeting attitude problem in Athens.
Yet, fan confidence is seemingly at an all-time high for some strange reason. At least on the surface it is. Deep down, Bulldogs fans don’t want to face the notion that Mark Richt just is not getting the job done anymore.
They see the ship sinking and they do not know quite how to take it.
Then to see a guy with the last name of Dooley take over the program of one of their fiercest rivals and to watch six highly touted prospects from the peach state sign on the dotted line for the younger Dooley apparently has fans and even players furious.
Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, a soon-to-be junior, recently posted this to his facebook: “Bacarri Rambo thinks [it] is messed up how all of UGA high school commitments back out on us but I’m telling you now when I catch you on the field I’m going to knock fire from you.”
Tennessee signee, Da’Rick Rogers, a longtime Georgia commit until a few days before signing day, responded via twitter with, “Who is Bacarri Rambo?” To which Rambo replied, “Tell Darick ‘pretty boy’ Rogers he doesn’t have to know me but I bet he will feel me!! Lol”
The verbal sparring match continued from Rogers, “don’t worry about me ha … that’s your choice … last time i checked a big hit =’s you getting knocked out.”
Rambo: “I compete against the best receiver in the nation everyday at practice. Why should I worry about that guy.”
Obviously Rogers got under the upperclassman’s skin a tad.
Of course this is nothing new to Da’Rick Rogers. He’s received threats via twitter and facebook non-stop since reneging on his Georgia commitment. Mostly from bitter ‘Dawg fans.
I’ve heard fans call in to talk shows and allege everything from drugs to bad grades in response to Rogers.
While it’s an extremely sad sign of where fandom has gone in today’s college football, it’s a clear snapshot of a fanbase and a program in denial.
What those fans should be focusing their attention on is how in the world Mark Richt and his staff allowed a majority of the state’s best prospects to leave for other schools. That simply did not happen in Richt’s heyday.
Maybe they’ll just continue to hurl threats at a bunch of 18-year-old kids whose minds can change on a whim at any given moment.
Perhaps they’ll just continue calling talk shows and posting lies on message boards.
I’m sure they’ll curse the name of Derek Dooley and then say a couple hailmary’s for taking his last name in vain.
Hopefully their little war of words will cease and they will all realize that they have a fight on their hands now.
It’s not ‘00-’03 any more.
Tennessee has taken four of the last six from Georgia despite the ‘Dawgs being on the upswing until the last two seasons. The Vols have done so in convincing fashion in three of the past four seasons beating Georgia by a combined 131-66 in ‘06, ‘07, and ‘09.
One week ago today, the Vols crushed the Dawgs off the field by taking six of the state’s best prospects–including the top prospect in the state who had been committed to the ‘Dawgs since the summer.
Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin threw down the gauntlet when he talked about beating Georgia head-to-head in recruiting to be successful.
Derek Dooley gets it too.
“One thing that is certain is that we have to do a good job in the state of Georgia, among other states,” the son of the former Georgia coaching great said. “There’s a lot of good football players in that state. In the past, in all my years watching this program, when they’ve won, they’ve had some very good players come out of Georgia.”
Yes, Derek, that is absolutely true. And apparently they are now yours for the taking.