At the opening of the 1920 Republican National Convention, Warren G. Harding had just 39 delegates committed to his candidacy, putting him well behind frontrunner Leonard Wood and fellow contenders Hiram Johnson and Frank Lowden. When no candidate was able to poll a majority after nine ballots, however, GOP leaders met privately in Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel---the confab gave rise to the now-familiar term "smoke-filled room"---and selected Harding as the party’s nominee.
Harding had been the first choice of few delegates, but he was the second choice of most. Being everyone’s runner-up propelled the Ohio senator to the presidency.
Unfortunately, little in life works that way, and college football recruiting is one of the many aspects of our existence that does not.
At last night’s Under Armour All-America Game, Xzavier Dickson announced that Athens was his second choice, committing to the Alabama Crimson Tide over the Georgia Bulldogs. Insult was added to injury when, as expected, Quan Bray snubbed the ‘Dawgs in favor of the Auburn Tigers. There are indications that Isaiah Crowell may declare Georgia the runner-up in the battle to secure his services, as well.
After a disappointing haul last February, the Bulldogs need to bring in a stellar bunch of signees this year. While Georgia is putting together a very solid class, the Red and Black are losing ground relative to their rivals. Recruiting rankings are subjective, and high ratings in February do not guarantee championships in the fall, but no team can compete without high-caliber athletes, and nowhere is that more true than in the Southeastern Conference.
I fear that last night offered an early indicator of the answers to donkeydawg’s questions. I don’t want to go to the extreme of suggesting that the future of the program hinges on the decisions of a couple of kids who have yet to declare for whom they intend to sign on the dotted line, but, at this stage of the game, every little bit hurts. If a third straight disappointing season is followed by a second straight disappointing recruiting class, the downward trajectory may have entered a tailspin out of which the current coaching staff cannot pull us.
When Greg McGarity agreed to send the ‘Dawgs to Atlanta to face the Boise St. Broncos next Labor Day weekend, a lot of us thought that would make or break the current regime in a 2011 season that undoubtedly will determine the direction Georgia football takes for the future. We may learn the answer to that question sooner than we expect, though.
Mark Richt is a much better coach than Warren G. Harding was a president, and Coach Richt is ten times the man Harding was, but, if Georgia continues to be every elite prospect’s second choice, their careers may meet with the same sad fate.