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December 6, 2000
open letter to Santa Claus
By Tim Thomas
The Jackson Herald
December 6, 2000
Fans UGA's worst problem
Note to Georgia fans: Want to be able to consistently beat Tech, Tennessee and Florida? Try having a positive attitude for a change.
There is no more fickle college football fan than the one who wears red and black. Well, maybe those up in South Bend, Indiana, but they're Yankees. Southern folk should know better.
Is it just me, or does anyone else remember a hedge-mauling celebration in Athens earlier this season? Jim Donnan had to be ushered from the field for his own protection from the adoring mob. Now that same mob hangs him from the goal post they stole that gleeful night.
Sure, Donnan's firing was done by UGA president Michael Adams and the executive committee, but make no mistake: the influence of fans and the alumni cash machine was the force behind the move.
Part of the blame does have to lie with the coach himself, but only because of his poor PR moves. Putting your son on the coaching staff can't be a good idea. It's a lose-lose proposition. It just doesn't look good, particularly when your team is the one picking up the L. But that wasn't Donnan's only PR mistake.
The old Dooley playbook has a full chapter on talking to the press, and rule number one is to always make it sound like your team couldn't run its way out of a wet paper bag.
Donnan's comments about this year's Dogs being the team he'd waited all his adult life to coach put the slobberin' mutts in the stands on full alert. From that point, one missed step would have been enough to set the fanatical headhunting machine in motion, and there had been multiple missed steps this fall.
Ask any coach, and they'll tell you that fan support is a crucial element in having a successful football program. That support is often measured in attendance figures, but money spent does not necessarily translate into support given. Such is the case in Athens.
Call-in shows and Internet venting outlets have been inundated with complaints about Donnan, his coaches, and his players. The season began with fans handing quarterback Quincy Carter the Heisman Trophy. Now many want to hand him his hat. The kid may have looked like a professional at times, but he's still a kid, and hearing fans call out "Quitsy" from the stands and over the airwaves isn't going to do much to motivate him.
Donnan's ousting isn't going to solve UGA's football problems. There have been rumors floating about that Dooley may be about to leave. That would help.
There can be no doubt that Dooley is Georgia's King Arthur, but he casts a long shadow across Sanford Camelot that engulfs whomever is on the sideline. The further away that shadow is cast from, the better.
Still, the success of the Georgia football program lies in the fans' hands and wallets. UGA alumni will continue to pour obscene amounts of money into the program, but until the shower of negativity is turned off, the Big Three will loom large on the Bulldog schedule.
Tim Thomas is a reporter for The Jackson Herald. He may be reached at 367-2348, or via email at SpeckCh@aol.com.
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