When I was a kid, circa, early 80s, we had Herschel, and we had Dominique. My father talked to me about basketball even as a young man. I remember a game, not sure whom, but the score was around the 100s, and my Dad told me "they can’t even do that in the pros". His point was the scoring was insane. I didn’t understand basketball Xs and Os like I do football and baseball, but I played a lot, a lot, a lot of pickup basketball. In fact, my gym class at UGA was basketball. Admittedly, I am not as smart on the recruiting and perhaps a few of the finer points of the game, but I also will say, I am no dummy to the game. And it drives me bonkers that a school with as much pull, power, money, influence, connection, boosters, et all hasn’t had a basketball team worth much of anything in 30 years. It’s simply unacceptable. You should care about UGA basketball. So here are my top ten reasons why you should care about UGA basketball.
10) It helps football recruiting. Most kids that play football enjoyed or played more than one sport as a kid. Playing basketball as two sports is very common. And the young men are often friends. Recruits are routinely brought to basketball games in January. Which is, if you think about it, a little embarrassing. If there is nothing else you need to know about why we need changes in our basketball program and support of it, it is this: Basketball can help football. Remember UF winning those titles in football a few years back? Remember they also won basketball titles? Think that was an accident?
9) Contrary to belief, we aren’t a football school. Personally, and no offense to those that say it, I don’t really like that statement very much. Hear me out please. Oh, sure, that is where the money is and where the interest is mostly in terms of volume, but most of our titles are in swimming/diving, gymnastics, and certainly tennis. We have also faired very well at softball and equestrian and are currently fielding the best lacrosse teams around. So, let’s drop the BS about being a "football school". We are UGA. If we can do well at every single other sport around, we can do well at basketball. It’s just a lazy way of thinking to say "We're just a football school". We're not. There are UGA fans that could care less about football but never miss a gym meet. We aren’t just a football school. We are one of the largest athletic programs in the nation fielding many, many sports, with much success in many of them. We have tons of money, great facilities, and plenty of support in everything but basketball. We can do better.
8) March madness is fun. All those folks that want a playoff? Well, the NCAA tourney is the SUPREME playoff. The NCAA tourney is everything you could ever want ever in a playoff. It’s a playoff wet dream. I think 230 teams get to play in it*. And we are virtually never one of them. We were excited last year just to make the tourney, even with no hope of going far. Imagine being in it every year, with a chance of maybe going to the 16, or even 8, or by dream of dreams the final four? How much fun would the Steg and Athens be if we were part of that annually?
7) Damnit, basketball is some quick fun. The games are only a couple of hours. You can watch the fox hounds play and go right about your evening without planning an entire weekend around it. Same thing for attending in person. It’s some easy fun. It’s a great way to spend that time between the first week of Jan and March when perhaps your interests turn to other sports or warmer weather. Show up on time. Be loud. Go crazy.
6) Kentucky is better at basketball than us. No, not just a little, a lot. UK. Seriously. If they can field the number one team in the nation, you mean to tell me UGA, with all of it’s money and facilities can’t field a competitive team? Weaksauce.
5) Aren’t you sick of your office pools and mustache growing and smack talking and it never involving UGA? I mean, you’re ok with this? I'd like to throw my dollar in the hat on UGA once more than a decade or two.
4) We could OWN Atlanta. Georgia Tech athletics are just kind of falling apart. Right now we could pull the state if we got behind our program. Now is the time to go for broke. Now is the time to hire someone that can hit Atlanta hard and bring a lot of talent to UGA. Just show them the Gym Dawgs and their facilities.........(just saying)
3) Attending an intense game is crazy fun. I challenge you to dial into a Kansas or a Kentucky home game and watch their fans. It’s like a mini Mardi Gras. 10,000 people all in school colors screaming their heads off at the opponent is just cool.
2) Basketball is a truly nationally competitive sport. Over 300 Div 1A teams. All you need is 12 guys and a court. It’s also a truly American sport. It’s an amazing concept that a place, like say, Wichita, Kansas, with a small little school, and virtually not a sports town at all can field a nationally competitive basketball team every year. Think about that. Kansas has two schools that put together top basketball teams annually. There is virtually no other sport where you get that true level of national competition. We should WANT to be part of that, and embarrassed we can’t even pull 2 great recruits a year.
1) Did I mention we are UGA, and field great teams in virtually every sport but basketball? Seriously. It’s our own apathy that is causing this. We also have had great women’s basketball teams, so the concept we just can’t have a great men’s team is ludicrous. We can. We simply have not invested as fans and as administrators to bring the best winter sport to our school.
I want to throw in some some concluding points. Although Coach Fox may not recruit as well in Atlanta or Georgia, that can be fixed by adding someone to his mix that can. When it comes to coaching fundamentals and Xs and Os, we have a great coach. What he needs is administrative and fan support. I also want to say I realize that traditionally people have not been into basketball as much – partially, in my opinion, due to apathy, but also because we have so much else going on. But what I am asking, is give it a chance. Watch some of the major schools and think "that could be us." I really want us to be part of it. It's a lot of fun.
My top ten list may not be complete. Tell me your thoughts, your ideas, your dreams. What’s on your top ten list. And feel free to vent on why it sucks everyone in your office is talking about the tourney, and UGA is one of the worst teams in the SEC. Make it a top 100 list.
*yes, 230 teams get in the NCAA tourney