Not a Proud Day in the Bulldog Nation
Lewis Grizzard, in 1980, wrote about the firing of coach, Doug Barfield, a good and decent man who gave nine years of his life to Auburn University. Grizzard wrote this:
“A man named Charles Smith, a member of the Auburn Board of Trustees, made all sorts of noise about finding a coach who would be tougher on the players than Barfield.
“Charles Smith runs a laundry in Montgomery. Can you imagine having some guy who runs a laundry deciding how well you were performing in your chosen profession?”
Grizzard went on to describe what happened the week after Barfield “resigned.”
“Monday, Barfield was in Montgomery. He had been summoned for federal court jury duty. Each prospective juror was asked to stand before the court and give his name, place of residence and occupation.
“Doug Barfield stood and said: ‘Doug Barfield. Auburn, Alabama. Unemployed.’”
Grizzard, closed as only he could, with this dagger. “War Eagle.”
Congratulations, Greg McGarity. You have turned us into Auburn.
I have made no secret that I have supported Mark Richt. If the next Georgia coach wins 13 of 15 against Georgia Tech and 10 of 15 against Auburn, etc, I will support him, too—if he does it with dignity and class—and that is a huge if.
I like to win. I like to win as much as anybody. I coached high school ball for more than 25 years and I venture that anyone who ever played against my teams would agree that I was, if nothing else, a competitor. I hate losing as much as anyone who ever lived or coached or sat on his ass in Sanford Stadium bitching about the job a group of 19, 20 and 21 year-olds were doing on the field.
I wonder how many of you have raised children to adulthood? I wonder how many of you would want your paycheck to depend on what your children did from Saturday to Saturday when they were 19, 20 or 21?
I understand that everyone wants to win—but Mark Richt HAS won—at a more consistent pace than any coach in the history of the University of Georgia. But the program is “down” lately. Right. It has been three years now since we fell five yards short of being the very best team in the nation. Three whole years. And we have only had one or two ten win seasons in those three years.
We have a statue of Vince Dooley outside the Butts-Mehre building, as well we should. I have been trying to get them to name the field after him. Mark Richt has won much bigger than Vince Dooley won in his first 15 years. I guess Coach Dooley would have never made it to the one national championship he delivered if there had been ESPN and the Internet in 1979.
I have written recently about the joy being stolen from my college football Saturdays because money has taken over. A wise man reminded me Sunday, as I was fretting over the firing of Mark Richt that three things were involved in the decision. A quest for the almighty dollar was one. Power was another. Third? What have you done for me lately?”
Mark Richt wasn’t Greg McGarity’s hire. I suspect that has been a root of much of the dissatisfaction McGarity has shown toward Richt. Greg McGarity might not admit that or even believe that, but I do. Money, of course is an issue because the money people—like old Charles Smith at the laundry in Montgomery, get to push their weight around because they have money. They think they can buy a national championship, and perhaps they can.
Auburn did, but not with Doug Barfield’s replacement—it took them 30 years and five coaches to get one. They fired that coach, what, three years later?
And lest you say I disparage Auburn needlessly, they are third in history for number of times on probation and first in number of years banned from bowls and number of times banned from bowls. And I know they never found the bagman in the Cam Newton incident.
But my point is that I have always been proud that Georgia has never been an Auburn. We have always valued, or at least so I thought, integrity and class. We will never hire a coach with more integrity and class than Mark Richt. Before you say, but we want someone who can win, see above.
And I do not agree that we had bottomed out or even plateaued under Richt. Every career has peaks and valleys and I firmly believe that we were on the brink of greatness, just like Coach Dooley’s team was after the disappointing 1979 season.
We played 24 freshmen this year. Our defense had come light years. We had the best quarterback in the nation ready to enroll and Nick Chubb and Sony Michel coming back. After the best 15 year run in Georgia history our coach deserved an opportunity to experience next year.
But power and money and the what have you done lately mentality of the rest of the world said no, and proved that Georgia is really no different than Auburn.
Makes me think about a conversation that took place on G-Day, the first year that Greg McGarity was on the job. I was with my children and a good friend, Craig Scroggs, and we have reflected on that day often. We ran into Greg, whom I truly like, by the way, just as I am certain he would tell you that he truly likes Mark Richt. My daughter, Dr. Jamie Leigh, told him that she expected nothing but victories over Florida now that he had returned from the dark side in Gainesville.
Greg laughed and said something that has bothered all of us to this day. “I don’t know if we can reach that high yet. We’d better try to be as good as the Auburns of the world first.”
Five of us heard that and it pissed all five of us off.
Well, congratulations, Greg. You accomplished your first stated goal.
PS. We just beat Tech for the 13th time in 15 tries. No other Georgia coach has ever come close. To hell with Tech.
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.