After a three week layoff from our last issue, to say there have been a tremendous amount of developments regarding our subject matter (University of Georgia football) is a gross understatement. Of course, it was during this time that Georgia and Mark Richt parted ways (which resulted in Richt becoming Miami’s new coach) and the announcement was made that former UGA player, coach and alumnus Kirby Smart was bestowed the tremendous honor and responsibility to lead our beloved football program moving forward.
Personally, I was glad to have these weeks of reflection as it allowed both the Bulldog Nation and myself to fully digest the changes. Like so many, I too was a fan of everything Mark Richt embodies, so saying goodbye certainly hasn’t been easy.
But I have found great resolve from Coach Richt’s answer to my question (on the day of the announcement of his departure) as a message from him to the fans who were upset.
“You could tell everybody that I’m going to be fine. My wife and I will be fine … I would just say to the fans too, as soon as a new guy gets named there’s going to be electricity around here. There’s going to be a lot of excitement and a lot of momentum. Support him and support his staff, and obviously sup-port the players. Georgia football is going to be around a whole heck of a lot longer than I’m going to be alive, and it’s been around for over 100 years. I just appreciate everybody and how they’ve treated me and my family.”
Coach Richt nailed it as far as I’m concerned. My wife Cheri and I, with the help of Jeff Dantzler, started Bulldawg Illustrated because of our love of the University of Georgia and its football program, but more than anything the community of its supporters (the fans).
So now it is time for everyone to turn the page, but we definitely couldn’t do that with-out a proper Bulldawg Illustrated send off to Coach Richt on page 14. BI’s veteran writer Murray Poole did a marvelous job of reflection on Richt’s 15 years, including his Top 5 victories. We certainly wish Coach Richt nothing but the best in sunny south Florida leading the Hurricanes. And we thank him for his years of service to Georgia and for the countless occasions that he made time for our publication.
Godspeed to Mark Richt and his family!
Wow, that wasn’t easy, but I am very excited about the future of Georgia football under the leadership of Kirby Smart. As expected, Kirby hit the ground running on the recruiting trail during his first week on the job. Next week, he will head back to Alabama to complete his duties of defensive coordinator as the Tide participates in the College Football Playoff.
Now, like in everything these days, folks have their opinion on whether they think that makes sense. To me, what Kirby is doing speaks volume of his character. No one has given him more opportunities and tutelage than Bama’s head coach, Nick Saban. So for him to finish things the right way for the Crimson Tide was a given. Not to mention, he has a natural obligation to his Tide defensive unit to finish what they have started. And for recruiting obsessed out there, Kirby being identified as Georgia’s future head coach countless times on national television the next month is branding gold for the Bulldog Nation.
Still, like you, I’m ready for Kirby to be completely back home. The reason is simple, he has learned from college football’s best and I can’t wait to see how he leads our men in red and black in the future.
On the day of Kirby’s announcement in Athens, I asked him about what exactly Sa- ban/Bama’s “the process” encompasses.
“The process is hard work, that’s what it is,” he said. “It’s hard work through commitment and doing things the right way. A commitment to excellence on the field, off the field, in the classroom, and every social aspect we have for our players. The only way you achieve that is by getting a great organization, a great support staff, surrounding yourself with great people and great coaches. That’s what I hope to do here at the University of Georgia.”
Thankfully with the announcement of a new offensive coordinator (Jim Chaney) and offensive line coach (Sam Pittman) and defensive staff position (Glen Schumann), Kirby is well on his way to creating a great organization that will hopefully yield a championship team. Still, I do encourage all of us fans to do our best to exercise patience. Something easier said than done. Any transition normally takes time to fully implement itself.
Looking back on the 2015 UGA football season, a new offensive coordinator, an un-tested quarterback and a young defense probably should’ve signaled some red flags. But for most of us, that wasn’t the case because of the deep passion for our football team.
Now, I know no one wants to hear this, but looking ahead to 2016, there will be even more uncertainties . . . new coaches at practically every position, including at the top. And yet again, the season will begin with concerns at the quarterback position. I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer, but like I said above, some patience for Coach Smart will go a long way.
With that being said, I must now tie a holiday bow on our final 2015 issue of Bulldawg Illustrated. It’s been a wild and bumpy ride this season, but the future certainly looks bright thanks to a “Smart Move” as our cover reflects and Jeff Dantzler discusses on page 5.
Of course, our current team has one more game to be played in the Tax Slayer Bowl on January 2. I encourage everyone to make the trip to Jacksonville in support of our team. You will find plenty of info to get you ready for the bowl game inside this issue. Also included is JD’s Dirty (Bakers) Dozen Bowl Preview (page 12) and our junior BI correspondent Hamilton Culpepper’s Second Annual SEC Hammy awards (page 13). And on the social side, enjoy fan photos from the Georgia Tech victory and the Senior Gala, where Coach Richt was rightfully honored (pages 8-12).
Now I must go because I’m way over my word count, but I do wish everyone a happy holiday season. And while our print publication goes on an off-season hiatus for awhile, I do encourage you to keep up with UGA sports and fan happenings on our web-site and social media. And finally may 2016 bring much prosperity to our university, our football team and both our new and former coach.
Make sure to check out Bulldawg Illustrated’s latest print issue: Smart Move, Welcome Back Kirby, digital issue available for free online. CLICK HERE.