The Arkansas Razorbacks: A Cautionary Tale for the Georgia Bulldogs?

Permit me to begin with a disclaimer: I, like most Georgia fans, can't stand Michael Adams, to whom I refer here at Dawg Sports as Il Duce.

Adams is self-important, self-aggrandizing, and self-serving. His handling of all matters great and small is so ham-handed and smug that, even when he chances upon a halfway decent idea, his execution of it is ruined by arrogant overreaching and a refusal to heed the opinions of others. He seems to view positive public relations as beneath him, yet, when he does condescend to be image-conscious, he comes across as shallow and silly.

All that said, a recent posting from Paul Westerdawg reminds us that, however justifiably negatively Bulldog Nation may feel about the means, Michael Adams produced one worthwhile end, as is underscored by the cautionary tale offered by the recent experience of the University of Arkansas.

As recently recounted at the Georgia Sports Blog, Razorback athletic director Frank Broyles has gone from being an asset to being a liability for the program he helped to build. Coach Broyles has come to epitomize the danger of allowing a school's winningest football coach to hang on as athletic director long past his prime and into his senescence, casting his lengthening shadow over the post he once held on the sidelines and hampering his team's ability to regain its fading former glory.

Coach Broyles guided the Hogs on the field from 1958 to 1976, winning 144 games and attending a Liberty Bowl, a Gator Bowl, four Cotton Bowls, and four Sugar Bowls during his tenure. More than three decades after the conclusion of his coaching tenure and nearly half a century after he took up the reins in Fayetteville, Coach Broyles continues to impede the progress of his successors.

Coach Broyles's replacement, Lou Holtz, went 60-21-2 with the Razorbacks before bolting for the seemingly browner pastures of Minnesota. Ken Hatfield posted a 55-17-1 ledger at Arkansas, then it was off to Clemson following back-to-back Cotton Bowl appearances. Jack Crowe was fired one game into the 1992 season and one game after attending an Independence Bowl. Danny Ford spent the waning years of his career with the Hogs before Houston Nutt came along and guided the team to six straight bowl berths, including appearances in a Citrus Bowl and a pair of Cotton Bowls in his first four years on the job.

Now, with the program unraveling in soap-operatic fashion, Coach Broyles is throwing fuel on the fire, criticizing Coach Nutt's assistants and lending credence to published reports demeaning the potential of the Arkansas program. Coach Broyles has become an embarrassing relic of a bygone age, permitting his legend to become an impediment to his team's success as his utility is surpassed by that of the rising generation of professional athletic directors and capable coaches who want nothing to do with working for him.

Obviously, Vince Dooley never became a source of shame and consternation to Bulldog Nation the way Frank Broyles has become to his program. The closest Coach Dooley ever crept to criticizing his successors on the sideline was to demand "significant improvement" from his former quarterback, Ray Goff.

Furthermore, although Coach Dooley came from a time when the title "athletic director" generally was viewed as a perk for a successful coach, he proved himself quite adept at managing a big-time athletic program with multiple competitive sports teams and using his pull to secure favorable bowl berths for the football team over which he no longer exercised direct control. In short, Coach Dooley's legacy, both as a coach and as an athletic director, is a proud (though not unblemished) one.

Can anyone doubt now that the University of Georgia has benefited from the changing of the guard in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, though? After concluding his playing career in 1992, Damon Evans hung up his silver britches and went to work as an intern in the S.E.C. office in 1993, eventually rising to the post of assistant commissioner for eligibility and compliance services for the league in 1997. After returning to Athens in 1998, Evans served a four-year stint as Georgia's senior associate athletic director for internal affairs, overseeing essentially the entire athletic program as Coach Dooley's right-hand man.

Upon succeeding his former coach at the helm, Evans wasted no time putting his impressive credentials to work. Evans is an articulate ambassador for Bulldog Nation who shrewdly manages the nation's most profitable athletic program. He has promoted Georgia as a national "brand." Under his direction, the renovation of Stegeman Coliseum proceeds apace. Are you looking forward to the Bulldogs' upcoming games at Arizona State, Colorado, Oklahoma State, and Oregon? You can thank Damon Evans, because you sure didn't see that sort of scheduling under Vince Dooley.

Years hence, we will look back on July 1, 2004---the day Damon Evans succeeded Vince Dooley as athletic director---as one of the great days in University of Georgia history. However deservedly beloved a figure Coach Dooley may have been and may still be in Bulldog Nation, it was time for a change.

The University of Georgia athletic program is vibrant, energetic, and booming under the leadership of a young, visionary, and professional athletic director who is not his school's greatest player or winningest coach, but who is among its most respected and accomplished recent alumni. The University of Arkansas athletic program is in a shambles, and its fan base is divided, even in the aftermath of a successful season, due partly to the fact that the school's sports teams are under the direction of an aging, outspoken, and entrenched ex-coach whose hidebound approach to his job prevents the school he claims to cherish from moving forward.

Would Georgia be as bad off as Arkansas if Vince Dooley were still on the job in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall? Of course not . . . but Frank Broyles provides a telling glimpse of where the road ultimately might have led, had not the natural order of things been allowed to take its course in the Classic City, with the pupil rising to the challenge of succeeding his former guide when the time for transition arrived.

John Mellencamp once wrote that there was nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands, but he was wrong. There may be nothing more glorious, but there is something sadder . . . and that is the refusal of one generation to give ground to its rightful heirs at the appointed hour. Frank Broyles is fighting a losing battle against a better future, dragging his athletic program down with him as he renders both it and himself increasingly more pathetic.

To the extent that there is glory, glory in Athens, Georgia, it is because the generations changed hands, by whatever means proved necessary. Much of what grandeur there was fairly might be attributed to Vince Dooley's former presence, but much of what grandeur there is, and a growing share of that which is to come, must be credited to Coach Dooley's current absence.

It is far easier for Georgia fans to revere Coach Dooley, whose legend endures undiminished because he is not a hindrance to the Bulldogs' future success, than it is for Arkansas fans to revere Coach Broyles, who, however unwittingly, is doing his darnedest to ensure that his legacy never will be eclipsed in Razorback country. Every denizen of Bulldog Nation should be glad that we were spared the risk of sharing that unhappy fate.

Go 'Dawgs!

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