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Gailey hears the boos

POSTED: November 7, 2007 5:05 a.m.

ATLANTA — There weren’t many Georgia Tech fans left at Bobby Dodd Stadium when coach Chan Gailey appeared on the video board during the fourth quarter to deliver a public-service announcement.

Those who were still there decided to express their feelings about the direction of Gailey’s football program.

They booed. Loudly.

"I honestly didn’t like it," said receiver James Johnson, one of the few bright spots in a 27-3 loss to No. 11 Virginia Tech on Thursday night. "It hurt me as well. I’m pretty sure it hurt every other player."

With the Yellow Jackets sure to come up short of expectations this season, Gailey had better get ready to face questions about his job security the rest of the season. At least one segment of the fan base — those willing to stay until the bitter end of a blowout — made it clear where they stand.

"That’s disappointing," quarterback Taylor Bennett said. "It’s tough when they boo. That’s just the game of football, I guess."

Winning is the name of the game, and the Yellow Jackets (5-4, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have yet to have the sort of breakout season that keeps boosters happy since Gailey took over for George O’Leary in 2002.

They came closest last season, winning the ACC’s Coastal Division. But even that triumph was marred by a dismal end to the season: three straight losses, each of them by three points.

Still, with most starters returning from a nine-win team, Georgia Tech was projected as one of the ACC’s leading contenders this season, a view seemingly supported by their performance in the first two games: a 33-3 rout at Notre Dame, followed by a 69-14 destruction of Samford. But a 24-10 home loss to Boston College started a slide that knocked the Yellow Jackets out of contention for another trip to the ACC championship game and left them chasing some familiar goals, such an improving their standing in the minor bowl pecking order and trying to get their first win over Georgia in the Gailey era.

"It’s my responsibility to keep us focused on what is at hand," Gailey said. "We’ve still got things to play for this season. We’ll talk about this with the team on Sunday night when we come back and start getting ready for the next game at Duke. There’s a ton to play for."

Well, that might be overstating it a bit. The Yellow Jackets should win their next two games against the woeful Blue Devils (1-7, 0-5) and almost-as-bad North Carolina (2-6, 1-3), setting up a game that could have a major impact on Gailey’s future.


The coach has yet to beat the Bulldogs, losing five in a row. Overall, Georgia has a six-year winning streak in the series, just one victory away from equaling its longest run of success against its state rival.

If Georgia Tech knocks off the Bulldogs on Nov. 24 and gets a decent bowl bid, that surely would be a huge boost to Gailey’s prospects.

"Coach Gailey is working as hard as he can to coach and whatever bad things have happened, it’s not all him," Johnson said. "I don’t know why they just think it’s him. It’s a team thing. You can’t just put it on one person."

Well, that’s usually the way these things work out. Gailey has won some big games at Georgia Tech, but his overall record is only 42-31, a lot closer to mediocrity than being a perennial championship contender.

While the expectations are certainly lower in Atlanta than they are for football powers such as Southern Cal and Florida, athletic director Dan Radakovich expects the Yellow Jackets to be one of the better teams in the ACC on a regular basis.

Gailey has blown off any speculation about this future, and Radakovich says he’ll evaluate the program at the end of the year as he always does.

Until then, as is usually the case in these situations, the coach can count on at least one group to have his back. The players.

"We’re prepared for it," Johnson said. "We feel like coach Gailey is our head coach, and he’s a great man. He’s brought me this far. What life teaches us and what this games teaches us is you’ve got to take the good with the bad. You’ve just got to learn to deal with it and trust the guys in the locker room."


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