NOTE: This article was published in the April 2012 issue of Dawg Post the Magazine. Since that time Michael Adams announced his retirement from the University of Georgia effective June 30, 2013.
On the whole, the last ten years of sports at Georgia – particularly in the sports folks pay the most attention to – were better than the previous ten years. It’s going to be difficult for anyone, including Mark Richt, to replicate the success of the previous decade.
In that time many things have changed and some have stayed the same. But what will happen in the next decade of sports at Georgia?
Mark Richt Retires
Mark Richt won’t be the coach at Georgia forever – everyone knows that. It remains to be seen, however, just how much longer he will man the headsets in Athens. He’s 12 years into his tenure at Georgia now – the longest of any coach in the SEC. But will be make it to 25 years? I’m guessing that he won’t. The new agreement between Richt and the University is for five years. It remains to be seen – particularly if Richt adds a national title to his resume – if he will be around much longer than that. My guess is that he will make it at or near 20 years in Athens before calling it a day.
In a lot of ways Richt is already a relic of the past in the world of college football coaches. Sure, football pays his bills, but he’s not consumed by it alone. He has interests outside of the gridiron, namely his faith, which will likely mean that he not stay in coaching until his dying days. At the same time, being the head coach at Georgia gives Richt one of the biggest megaphones to spread his message.
Richt’s youngest children are not yet out of college, and he is still a young man. But when the day comes that Mark Richt is not longer the head coach at Georgia change will come in a big way. Richt has been in charge at Georgia longer than any coach not named Dooley or Butts. The Bulldogs have always struggled replacing coaches who have served for a long period of time. There is no indication that Richt is leaving any time soon, and perhaps saying that he won’t be here in the next ten years is getting ahead of myself. But in the topsy-turvy world of college football it does seem like a good bet that Richt won’t be the head coach at Georgia heading into the 2022 season.
New SEC TV Deal
The addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC is setting up for a change in the future landscape of college athletics and college sports on TV. The SEC led the way, along with the Big Ten, in pioneering big TV deals for their conferences. But now the SEC needs to renegotiate their TV deal. We are headed into the fourth season of two 15-year deals with ESPN and CBS worth more than $3 billion to the conference and its schools.
But those two contracts were done without the major markets of Houston, Dallas, St. Louis and Kansas City that are now considered SEC country. Mike Slive says the SEC has escape clauses in the contract, which allows for renegotiation. If that’s true, expect the contracts to be reworked, and for schools like Georgia to reap even more revenue in the future as a result. Right now Georgia, all the members of the SEC and the SEC itself get at least $15 million a season for the agreement (actually the number has been north of this amount in the first few years of the contracts). The addition of Missouri and Texas A&M should make that number go higher because of more interest nationally and locally in syndication in the new markets the conference has expanded to.
Does all this mean a cable network dedicated to the SEC? It’s starting to look that way. Cable fees for a SEC cable network would guarantee a different type of revenue to each SEC school rather than the typical payout from CBS and ESPN. Either way, Slive told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that a renegotiated TV contract was on the way.
“We have started discussions with both of our television partners. We feel adding Texas A&M and Missouri has strengthened us in lots of ways, but certainly strengthened us in television.”
That’s all you need to know. A new TV contract is on the way. The only thing to wonder about is the details that will come from it. How much more will each school get? Will there be an SEC cable network? Will the conference be forced to go to a nine-game schedule in order to get the best TV deal? Will SEC football games start being played regularly on days other than Saturdays in order to best accommodate TV?
Sanford Stadium Expansion
Change is inevitable. When it comes to Georgia and Sanford Stadium the more the Bulldogs win, the more change Between the Hedges. In the last 31 years Sanford Stadium has expanded five times. But the last expansion was in 2003, when the school added a third level to the 84-year old facility.
In the last ten years many of the improvements to the stadium have been out of the public’s eye. The press box, locker room and photographer’s lounge have all been redone.
It remains to be seen what the future holds in terms of expansion visible to the public, but many of the plans that could happen have been talked about for some time. One item proposed in 2008 by then AD Damon Evans was to close in the East end of the stadium – pushing seating capacity to 101,766. In that expansion the newest level, the 600 level that was added in 2003, would wrap around to the sky suites.
Another East end expansion could make East Campus Road, one of the main thoroughfares on campus, a tunnel right around the stadium. It is unclear how many seats this proposal would add.
No matter the end result it seems clear that expansion is something that will happen in the next ten years. It’s unclear by how much or where the expansion will take place, but it certainly seems likely.
Georgia has fought the stigma that it is a “football” school for years in the basketball world. But the truth is that excuse doesn’t float any more. Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio State and Texas have shown that an athletic program can be very good at both.
Greg McGarity, who has only been on the job for just over two years, has not had to make a major change in basketball, but in the next ten years it is likely that he will. Since 1965 only one head coach at Georgia’s, Hugh Durham, made it as coach at Georgia for longer than a decade.
McGarity showed in his time at Florida that he has an understanding of what it takes to win at a high level at basketball. Perhaps stability is the number one thing Georgia needs, but that’s never been the case since Durham left. Running around with its head cut off, Georgia’s basketball program has managed only two winning seasons since 2003. The task is monumental, and the market that is Georgia fans does not really demand it – if they did it would have already been done.
Georgia, in the end, is running out of excuses to be good in basketball. If Butler, Mississippi State and Baylor can be good at basketball over an extended period of time there is not reason the Bulldogs shouldn’t be good, too. So I will place a bet that Georgia will be relevant – not dominant – in basketball in the next ten years.
Georgia wins a football national title
This could happen sooner than later – specifically this fall. The one thing on Mark Richt’s side is time. He’s fought off instability, and followed that up with two solid recruiting classes. Georgia certainly had chances to play for a national title in the first ten years of his tenure in Athens – in 2002 and 2007 (one also has to wonder what would have been if D.J. Shockley had played vs. Florida in 2005 and was healthy against Auburn two weeks later).
Since 2002 only three SEC teams have won the conference and not played for the national title – twice those teams were the Bulldogs. The power shift on the field, and in the thinking off of it, is going the SEC’s way. Now the conference is given the benefit of the doubt – something 2002 Georgia, 2004 Auburn and 2007 Georgia were not given – and are more likely to play for the national title if they win the conference… or even if they don’t (see 2012 Alabama).
The future, too, could hold a playoff, and it is hard to make the argument that the 2002 and 2007 Georgia teams were not the best teams in the country that season. That argument wouldn’t have to be made if the Bulldogs were playing for it on the field.
One way or another, it seems more likely than ever that Georgia will have their chance to win a national title in the next ten years if for no other reason than the college football world doesn’t have much argument against the champion of the SEC.
Michael Adams’ Retirement
Nothing will shift power more in Athens than the retirement of Michael Adams. It seems hard to believe that Adams will be the president at Georgia when he’s 73 – ten years from now. But he’s held on for a long time… under some serious pressure from a slew of places. Still, longevity has a way of catching up with presidents – you almost always make enemies while in that spot. The movement to get rid of Adams in the middle of the 2000s, perhaps because it was unorganized and almost certainly undisciplined as it relates to message, was unsuccessful.
Adams has been president at Georgia for more than 15 years, making him one of the longest-serving presidents in the country. When he departs there will be a slew of changes at the University. It is impossible to predict what will happen in the world of Georgia athletics as a result, but make no mistake that Adams has always understood the power of the spotlight athletics brings to a school. He may have understood it better than most some time ago.
When I was in graduate school at Georgia at the turn of the century Adams spoke to my class for a day. It was two months after he’d fired Jim Donnan and replaced him with Mark Richt. As he spoke to our class, Adams said these very true words.
“There are five very important and visible people at our institution, and really at an institution of our size,” he said. “The president, the provost, the dean of students, the athletic director and the head football coach – and its not always in that order.”
Adams understood then what many failed to realize during the scandal that was Adams vs. Dooley. Sports were always going to get more attention when compared to academics. After all, no one broadcasts a political science lecture. But while the foundation of the University is academics – not athletics – one is more likely to draw attention from the public than the other.
In his 15 years of service Adams has been very involved in athletics. Even though his hiring track record has been suspect (after all he gave Georgia Jim Harrick and Damon Evans – both of whom left their jobs at Georgia in disgrace) he’s been a very big part of what Georgia sports have been. In many ways Adams is before his time with regard to involvement in sports. Now ramifications from decisions in athletics are not just big news, but big money as well.
The Old Guard is Gone
Suzanne Yoculan was the first to leave, but a slew of old coaches and administrators are soon to follow her into retirement. For years Georgia excelled in Olympic sports – winning multiple national titles in men’s tennis, men’s golf, gymnastics, equestrian and women’s swimming and diving. That’s not to mention a host of SEC championships in almost every sport the Bulldogs play.
But many of the coaches at Georgia responsible for the winning, Manuel Diaz, Andy Landers, Jack Bauerle and Chris Haack, have been coaching since the at least the 1990s – some much longer than that.
Georgia has been abnormally fortunate with their head coaches over the last three decades, but most of them will have to be replaced over the next decade. That will be the real challenge for Greg McGarity besides making basketball relevant. He will have to replace a slew of coaches Vince Dooley hired so many years ago.
Another of the old guard, Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, will likely retire in the future. While this might not seem like a major loss to fans it would be a difficult blow for the Bulldogs to take. Felton has been the sports information director at Georgia for more than three decades. He is one of the few people to have survived the transition from Vince Dooley to Damon Evans to Greg McGarity. He has tremendous institutional knowledge, which should not be undervalued. In many ways Felton softens the blow of any problems that come out of Athens. Losing him may not seem like a difficult problem for Georgia, but it will be. Felton will be near impossible to replace.
Interconference Games are Gone
Clemson vs. Georgia will likely be one of the many casualties of conference expansion. The Bulldogs won’t play anyone in a home-and-home situation outside of the SEC not named Georgia Tech. The reason? Unless the NCAA expands the number of college football games allowed in a regular season there will not be space in the calendar for Georgia to play Ohio State of for Florida State to play Notre Dame.
Conferences like the ACC are openly talking about playing nine-game conference schedules. Schools like Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State would then have to play the nine ACC games, games with their in-state foes and would have two “revenue” home games to make sure they: 1) become bowl eligible; 2) have revenue from at least six, but usually seven home games.
The appetite for interconference games, however, won’t dissipate. Fans will still want to see matchups like Southern Cal vs. Texas and Oklahoma vs. Alabama. But the practical reality is that those games are likely seeing their final days.