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Gary Stokan Has Been a Failure as President of the Atlanta Sports Council

You read that headline correctly: Gary Stokan, the president of the Atlanta Sports Council, is an abject failure at his job.

Need proof? Consider his long track record of mistakes, misfires, and just plain misses. He tried to lure the NASCAR Hall of Fame to Atlanta but lost out to Charlotte. He tried to bring the 2009 and 2010 Super Bowls to Atlanta, but they instead went to Tampa and Miami, respectively. He tried to get Damon Evans to move just one out of four Georgia-Florida games to the Dome; the Jacksonville mayor was never worried about losing custody of the Cocktail Party and the powers that be in Athens ultimately unanimously approved keeping the game by the St. John’s River through 2016. Stokan’s efforts to bring World Cup matches to Georgia, even after Sanford Stadium hosted Olympic soccer in 1996, properly are viewed as long shots.

In short, Stokan regularly plays the role of Peach State Icarus, embarking on ill-fated flights of fancy based upon his erroneous belief that Atlanta is a legitimate sports city, and he continually loses out to other cities around the region. If that isn’t failure, what is?

Just kidding.

Gary Stokan has, in fact, been wildly successful as the head of the Atlanta Sports Council. Thanks to his energetic efforts, the Chick-fil-A Bowl is an increasingly visible part of the college football postseason and the season-opening kickoff contests held at the Georgia Dome each Labor Day weekend have been successful, as well. Stokan helped bring the 2000 Super Bowl, a PGA Championship, a pair of Final Fours, and all-star games for the NBA, the NHL, and major league baseball to Georgia. The latest feather in Stokan’s well-stocked cap is the College Football Hall of Fame, which will be moving from South Bend to the City Too Busy to Hate.

By any reasonable measure, Stokan has been a huge hit in his present job. The rare occasions on which he has fallen short have been the result of his belief that you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.

Stokan’s example is one worth considering when one reads nonsense like this:

If this was Mark Richt’s plan, he has serious deficiencies as an administrator.

Richt made a conscious decision to go after Bud Foster, John Chavis and Kirby Smart — three of the highest profile defensive coordinators in the nation, none of whom were lacking in job security, none of whom were upset about their current situation, none of whom were looking to leave.

There’s nothing wrong with shooting high. There is something wrong when you’re made to look foolish by three consecutive candidates who play the game publicly but ultimately leverage job offers to get themselves raises at their existing schools.

Once you cut through the business side of things and the emotional tugs and whatever special place Athens may hold in the hearts and minds of some of the world’s defensive coordinators, it really comes down to this: Foster, Chavis and Smart weren’t going any place.

Richt should have known that. Any humiliation the school or the football program has suffered is on him.

Those are the words of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz, who, it should be noted, has never won a pair of SEC championships, guided the Bulldogs to a trio of Sugar Bowls, posted 90 wins in nine seasons, or recruited a quarterback who was selected first overall in the NFL draft.

Coach Richt has aimed high and achieved much. Gary Stokan only was able to accomplish what he has accomplished as the president of the Atlanta Sports Council by shooting for the moon, but guys like Schultz would look at Stokan’s shortfalls and write, "Once you cut through the business side of things and the emotional tugs and whatever special place Atlanta may hold in the hearts and minds of some of the world’s sports entrepreneurs, it really comes down to this: the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party weren’t going any place."

Perhaps, but, in a couple of years, I’m going to take my son to the College Football Hall of Fame, and I’m not going to have to drive to South Bend to do it. I’m probably also going to get to take my son to a BCS national championship game, too, and it will be because men of boldness and vision like Gary Stokan and Mark Richt aimed high, not because the likes of Jeff Schultz sat in judgment demonstrating their ignorance of Theodore Roosevelt.

Go ‘Dawgs!