clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Throwback Dawg Day: One-Time Ball State Coach Takes UGA Job...Then Resigns

NCAA Football: Insight Bowl: Texas Tech vs Minnesota Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, it's hard to find many tie-ins between Georgia and Ball State.

The Cardinals’ alumni include David Letterman. I’m not sure he has any ties to UGA except that some may have spent late nights in freshman dorms watching him. Ball State’s alumni include John Schnatter, better known as Papa John of the pizza you have probably eaten if you can stand long lines at halftime at Sanford Stadium.

BSU also has ties to one of two UGA athletics head coaches with an undefeated record - former Cardinals assistant Glen Mason. He and Babe McCarthy both have the distinction of being hired at Georgia and resigning before even beginning practice.

Georgia football is filled with what-ifs.

What if Herschel does not turn pro in 1982?

Does 1981 turn out differently if the disastrous day in Clemson had not happened?

Is Pulpwood Smith a household name in Georgia lore if his career in Athens lasted longer?

What if Robert Edwards was able to stay healthy?

How would the 2002 team have fared against either Miami or Ohio State?

Is Richt still the head coach is the pollsters don't screw over the 2007 team?

What if Erk Russell ends up the head coach in Athens?

Naturally, that leads to yet another what-if.

How different would Georgia’s fortunes have been if Glen Mason had not gotten cold feet after taking the job in Athens?

Going back to his hiring, the mandate was to improve the standing of the program. The goodwill toward Ray Goff had finally run out despite him being highly regarded as a former player and assistant. In the 1990s, Steve Spurrier throwing it all over people and running up the score ran the pressure gauge up, and with both Tennessee and Florida controlling the fate of the SEC East, everyone was looking up at the two of them on the field and recruiting trail. That included Georgia, and the next step was to bring someone in one way that was unlike Goff - someone with proven head coaching experience.

Mason was what you’d call the hot coaching candidate of the year. He had taken a downtrodden Kansas program to a ten-win season in 1995, tying them for second in what’s now the Big 12 conference. That obviously attracted Georgia’s interest, so much so that an offer was extended to him to be head coach.

As is well-known, Mason never coached a game in Athens, resigning after initially taking the job in the first place and even being introduced at a press conference on Dec. 18.

He’d in turn significantly alter the Christmas plans of then-Athletics Director Vince Dooley, legendary Georgia Sports Information Director Claude Felton, UGA staffers other media members as within days, Jim Donnan would be hired as head coach.

Over time, it was clear he apparently was seeking other avenues as he’d end up the head coach of Minnesota in 1997.

One challenge Mason would have encountered would have been the SEC and the lay of the land. Other than his time at Ball State as a defensive line coach in 1974, his coaching stops as an assistant prior to Kansas were at Allegheny, Illinois, Ohio State, and Iowa State as well as being the head coach at Kent State.

In case you notice a trend, it’s that zero of those schools were in the south.

That’s not to say Mason could not have adapted, but there would have been challenges such as what you have seen Bret Biliema face at Arkansas.

Over time, Mason would prove to be a solid coach at Minnesota, guiding the Golden Gophers to three seasons of eight wins or more, the best being 10-3 in 2003. It’s worth noting that in the Big Ten with Mason, Minnesota finished no higher than fourth.

You can argue that Mason got as much as he could out of the Gophers in a conference with Ohio State and Minnesota. That’s a solid coaching legacy, but it will be a mystery of how successful Mason would have been with Georgia’s talent and resources.

In the long run, Georgia would end up with Donnan. Like Mason, he got tangible results including thrilling wins over Florida and Auburn, but in the end would be done in by being unable to match the level of Georgia’s rivals, leading to the hiring of Mark Richt.

Go Dawgs!