Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Georgia could find itself in Hewitt/Longoria spot with Mark Fox

Despite a couple of questionable late-game strategies, or lack thereof, Mark Fox's first two years have gone according to script. He's taken a team that was generally a bottom dweller in the SEC East under Dennis Felton, and promptly turned it into a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, it's been a team that has proven it can take virtually any team in the country right down to the wire (you'll recall a heart-breaking double OT loss to 2-seed Notre Dame earlier in the year).

As is the case with all successful coaches at schools not rich in tradition (at a particular sport) "big-time" schools and schools that consider themselves bigger-time than UGA are bound to come a-callin'. It's already rumored that NC State could be looking into making a play for Fox, though I don't know too many folks that consider NC State to be some giant leap up from Georgia basketball.

Whatever the case, UGA basketball doesn't have the same cache as UGA football (yet). So, Greg McGarrity and the Georgia athletic department could have some decisions to make.

Although for more monetary reasons than anything else, Georgia Tech was more or less forced to give Paul Hewitt a ridiculous contract based upon his early successes at the school. After all, he was recruiting well, and took the school to its first Final Four appearance in 15 years. As it turned out, he and his teams gradually slipped into mediocrity, even in a less powerful ACC. Basically, they felt they needed to do everything they could to ensure Hewitt would stay, rather than lose him to a school like Texas, Kentucky, etc. It bit them in the ass.

Conversely, much was made of the long-term, big-money contract given to Tampa Bay 3rd Baseman Evan Longoria when he'd accomplished little more than being named the organization's top prospect. Being a smaller market team, though, they knew they'd lose him to free agency as soon as he was eligible if they didn't. In their case, it worked out splendidly, as they're now paying him well below market value.

Sure, two different situations, and different to Georgia's, but the underlying concept is the same. Georgia will have a tough time convincing its head basketball coach to stay if he's courted by a traditional power. We saw it happen when Kentucky came for Tubby Smith, and don't forget that the Duke job will likely be opening in a few years.

So, Georgia may be forced to give Fox a big, long-term contract based upon a relatively small, albeit impressive body of work.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is there a problem with Richt's statements regarding Crowell?

Even the most casual of Georgia fans have, by now, heard of Isaiah Crowell, the 5-star all-world running back set to enroll at UGA and play for the Dawgs this fall. If you've seen any of his highlight reels or read any of the comments made by those in the know, then you can understand the excitement surrounding his eminent arrival on campus. The Bulldogs are in need of another superstar back like Charlie Sheen is in need of a ball gag and about 20 new publicists.

However, as we've seen time and again, high school accolades and highlight reels don't always translate to success at the collegiate level, so it was surprising to read and hear coach Mark Richt saying that he wouldn't be surprised to see Crowell toting the rock on that first play against Boise St. this fall. Lest we get ahead of ourselves, he did include the caveat "if he does what he's supposed to," which could mean any number of things from just being academically eligible to actually having to be the best running back on the team. Still, to the best of my recollection, he's never come out with such a strong statement regarding an incoming freshman who's yet to step foot on campus (as a member of the football team).

The question becomes, was this some calculated statement that Richt felt would help motivate Crowell that much more? Was it something he used to actually try to motivate incumbents Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, whose careers have been somewhat lacking, at least in comparison to what was expected? Or, was it just something he was using to up the excitement from a deflated fan base after a poor 2010 campaign?

One thing is for certain. If Richt truly believes Crowell will be 'the guy' come September, then, to quote Clark W. Griswold, Jr., I think we're all in for a real treat.