A few days ago, I wrote a rather pessimistic column about why football preview guru Phil Steele seemed in his assessment to overestimate the potential abilities of the 2010 version of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Allow me to place the shoe on the other foot for a few minutes and offer a more optimistic two cents.
Georgia athletic director Damon Evans stated today in an address to the Univ. of Georgia Athletics Association board of directors that he was less than pleased with the school's all-sports national ranking of No. 25 and stated that he expected the program to be much higher than it is.
Damn. Tough crowd.
It is true that Georgia athletics on the whole had a largely underwhelming year.
The football team had one of its least successful campaigns of the Mark Richt era, the baseball team was less competitive than an apathetic housewife, and the gymnastics squad failed to win a national title for the first time in five years.
For a program that has experienced extended success in all three of these sports, it was a perfect storm of inadequacy across the board.
My thoughts? So what.
While Georgia is home to far and away the best gymnastics program in the country, it would be naive to think that the squad could continue to win national titles on a yearly basis. The streak was bound to come to a close eventually.
Every football program has its ups and downs. Georgia is not immune. And while, as I stated in my previous column, the team has experienced its fair share of underachievement over the past few seasons, there is also plenty of reasons to be optimistic—starting first with the major changes in the defensive sector of the coaching staff.
And as far as baseball goes, two seasons ago, the team was five innings away from a national championship. A season ago, the team spent most of the regular season at the top of the national rankings. It has dropped consistently since the blown game in the championship series against Fresno State, but the team also consistently brings in a horde of talent.
This season was played without a number of key players from the past two. A No. 22 preseason ranking was always a bit optimistic in my opinion. And hey, the only direction for the team to go from where it is now is up. That has to count for something.
And to look simply at these three key sports would be an injustice to the rest of the athletics at the University of Georgia.
The men's basketball team had one of the most exciting 14-17 campaigns in college basketball history with close losses against top SEC teams Kentucky and Ole Miss as well as surprising victories over rivals Tennessee, Florida, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt.
With more consistency, the team could have easily been on the bubble come tournament time. Now expectations are high for the upcoming season as the team will be in its second season under head coach Mark Fox.
Top players Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie are both potential NBA first round draft picks and Marcus Thornton, a former Clemson commitment, and Mr. Basketball in the state of Georgia, was a pleasant surprise, capping off Mark Fox's second recruiting class.
ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz has listed the Bulldogs as a potential top-25 sleeper and a tournament run is well within the realm of possibility.
And it isn't just basketball either.
It's tennis and golf, both of which just finished up solid postseason showings.
It's swimming where head coach Jack Bauerle has established one of the best women's programs in the country and an ever-improving men's squad.
It's women's basketball which spent time in the top-10 and knocked off national powerhouse Tennessee before struggling down the stretch due to injuries.
And it's softball which will host California in a Super-Regional beginning tomorrow with a chance to go to the Women's College World Series.
The list could go on, but the point is that although Georgia sports may not have had its best showing in 2009-2010, there is no reason to believe that it won't spring back up the rankings in the coming year.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, no matter what was said a few days ago.
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