I feel like a hypocrite. Well, sort of.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the academic mission at my alma mater, the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation, located in Athens, the Classic City of the South.
I evince that support with an annual gift to UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The funds help underwrite a professorship in crisis communications leadership as well as award student fellowships. It is my wish that the Grady College becomes the go-to place for media seeking expert analysis on the current crisis de jour as well as for scholars to share research on the issue.
Why am I connected with such an effort? I like to say that I am an expert on crises, having caused as many as I attempted to solve. In truth, I was involved in some high-profile crises such as the divestiture of the old Bell System and, years later, the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. In both cases, I had earned a seat at management’s head table with the opportunity to have my views considered in the decision-making process.
That has led me to put my money where my heart is and try to encourage the next generation of communicators to earn their seat at the head table and influence decisions in the external environment.
At the same time, I am a longtime season-ticket holder at Sanford Stadium and was attending games there when Georgia was getting beaten like a drum by anybody and everybody. That all changed when Vince Dooley arrived. You remember Dooley, don’t you? He is the Hall of Fame coach for whom the field at Sanford Stadium should be named, as has been done with other legendary coaches at most major college venues around the country.
Why influential lettermen whose lives were forever changed for the better by this good man don’t make this a priority while their coach is still around to enjoy it is a mystery to me. Maybe they will tell me. So far, I haven’t been able to get my phone calls returned, seeking an answer. And don’t tell me it can’t be done. It can.
I have often been critical of those who rate UGA only by its success on the football field. I have suspected that many of the rants on social media come from those who didn’t go to school there and don’t give a tinker’s dam about academics. Not me, except — uh, well, ahem — this is where the hypocrisy sort of seeps in.
During Mark Richt’s 15 years as head coach, I came to expect that our teams would usually be pretty good with little expectation they would be great. You may recall that in 2008, Georgia began the season ranked No. 1 and ended up 13th, despite having future pro stars Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green on the field together.
But having sat through enough 4-6 seasons in my time, a 10-2 or 9-3 season was OK with me as long as the Dawgs beat the You-Know-Where Institute of Technology every year, which Richt did 13 times out of 15.
I still get night sweats from remembering how Bobby Dodd’s teams dominated us for eight long miserable years, or roughly 2,920 days, until Macon’s own Theron Sapp broke the drought in 1957 at Grant Field, of all places. Praise his name.
Richt left and in came the pride of Bainbridge, Kirby Paul Smart, a former Bulldog defensive back, to take up the reins of the football program. All of a sudden, just being good doesn’t hack it anymore. The Bulldogs end up playing for the national championship in only his second year.
Not only can Smart coach a tad, it looks like he can recruit pretty well, too. At the recent G-Day scrimmage, he put eight of the top 25 recruits in the country on the field, including quarterback Justin Fields of Kennesaw, the nation’s top-rated quarterback. I understand more blue-chippers are on the way. Happy days are here again.
So, while I will continue to strongly and faithfully support the academic mission of my alma mater, including my beloved Grady College, with my time and tithes, I must confess I am big-time stoked over where the football program seems to be headed, which is up and up.
Is that being hypocritical? Heavens, no. It is being a proud Georgia Bulldog. Woof! Woof!