Monday, May 15, 2006

Engineers vs. Irish

"They will beat us about nine times out of ten, but in losing we will learn a lot of football. We will gain a lot of prestige nationally. And when we win, it will be a mighty sweet victory." Coach William Alexander

So I enjoy watching a baseball game here and there, but I have a hard time getting into the Stanley Cup and the NBA playoffs. That pretty much means there is very little sports related news I can get excited about except for the World Cup “A ball can change everything” commercials on ESPN. While I am on that note, make plans to come up to Nashville on the 23rd to see the National Team warm up against Morocco in the Coliseum. It is going to be the closest some of us ever get to the National Team and it is an opportunity not to be missed. All of you who bellyached about not going to the Music City Bowl, this is your chance to show them how big they screwed up. Alright, enough on that tangent. Back to football.

For me, the first game of the season holds all of the excitement from the previous year in one game. There are no regrets, no what ifs going into that game. It is a fresh start, like crisp dollar bills. Maybe that is why we do so well in opening games. Since 1990, we are 11-5 in opening games. Since 1999 we are 6-1 with wins over Auburn, Syracuse, and Central Florida, among others. The tailgate party at the opening game is second only to the Georgia game. Everything is exciting, “Up with the White and Gold” is a little louder, the Wreck looks a little shinier, and even Buzz doesn’t seem as gay.

Maybe that is why I am so optimistic about this year’s game against Notre Dame. Terence Moore wrote an article in the AJC last week about what playing Notre Dame has typically meant for programs in regards to the boom a game with Notre Dame means to teams financially and in terms of national prestige. While I don't necessarily agree with Mr. Moore, in case you haven’t read it here it is. Playing Notre Dame in itself is exciting, but when two teams like Georgia Tech and Notre Dame square off, one cannot help but be giddy at the possibilities.

Since 1922, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame have met 32 times, with the Jackets only winning five contests and tying once. While those results seem pretty lopsided, so do the results of the Sox-Yankees series, but that does not keep it from being one of the best rivalries in sports. Now I am sure that Irish and Jacket fans alike will downplay this game in the overall scheme, much like when Georgia fans try and tell us that Florida is their biggest rival. While we may not be on par with Army, Michigan, or USC to Notre Dame, few schools have ties going so far back. While we have not played as often as some of their other opponents, the thought of Knute Rockne and Bill Alexander squaring off every year from 1922 to 1929 is exciting to think about. Even though Tech won only once in those eight games, 13-0 in 1928, these guys were Tech's original FSU. We couldn't seem to beat them consistently, but I don't think anyone would trade away the memories of some of the games between the two.

So we all know how hyped up the Irish were last year, but who are they going to be this year. A preliminary, uninformed analysis would say they are going to be in the hunt for the national championship. But my gut tells me that Tech has a legitimate shot at winning this one, and not just by squeaking one out. and ESPN have posted their Notre Dame previews already, and I recommend all Tech fans do their homework and scout the competition. Here are just a few things I found interesting from the previews I’ve read:

The Irish really have no backup QB. With our game being at the beginning of the season, injuries to Brady Quinn are probably not a factor, but if he goes down in preseason workouts or during the game, look for this to be an issue, especially since...

Notre dame has some key holes to fill on the offensive line. This plays right to our strength at defensive line. Hopefully we will be able to exploit this weakness and get pressure on Quinn so he does not have the time to exploit our weak secondary. All this will be easier if...

The Shark is Quinn’s only real option at receiver. With everyone else gone, Samardzija seems to be the only accountable option at receiver. Hopefully this will allow our secondary to shut down the passing game, forcing them to rely on an inexperienced O-Line to open up holes for their running game. On the other side of the ball...

They still have questions on defense. Notre Dame didn’t really light anybody up on defense last season and this one does not seem to be any different. They seem to have a weak pass rush, no real standout at linebacker, and a very vulnerable secondary. With all of our questions on offense, I think this is the best possible scenario.

These are my minimally informed and obviously very biased observations on our coming foe. A lot can happen in the three and a half months until our nationally-televised battle. In the eighty four year history of the series between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, wins for tech have come about once every 10 years and never twice in a row. With our last victory over the Irish coming in 1999 at the Gator Bowl, it may be too soon to expect another win. But coming out of Spring practice, the conditions are good enough for their to be more than just a chance that the Golden Tornado will once again triumph over the Golden Dome. -yb

Friday, May 12, 2006

So much to say...

Alright, so I know I have not been as dedicated to updating this site as I would like to, but there has been some news of note lately that deserves mention. Today we will cover the open letter from our new Director of Athletics:

The Good Word with Dan Radakovich
Message from the Director of Athletics
May 9, 2006
TO: Fans, Friends, and Supporters of Georgia Tech Athletics
, Georgia Tech Director of Athletics
I'm excited to launch
this series of letters to you, our supporters of Georgia Tech Athletics, to
outline our vision for excellence for your athletics program. "The Good Word"
will deliver to you regular updates on the issues facing our athletics program
as well as provide a forum for feedback and discussion on topics that are
important to you.
Our vision is simple but challenging: to position Georgia
Tech to be one of the top athletics programs in the nation - year in and year
out - for the next quarter of a century.
Let me begin this first letter by
telling you a few things that are important for our future.
First, Georgia
Tech needs to alter the way business is conducted in the Athletic Association.
We must become more transparent in our dealings and more cognizant of the needs
of our customers.
Second, we must grow our customer base. Our location in
the city of Atlanta provides tremendous marketing opportunities, but we must
provide value for the competitive entertainment dollar. We must make each
customer feel that no matter the outcome of the contest they have attended, they
made a wise choice by attending a Tech event.
Third, we must value our
product. College athletics has grown into a very large industry, one that
requires a substantial revenue stream each and every year. In subsequent
writings, I will detail more about our financial status, both present and
future, and how we may need to alter our current business practices to achieve a
level of financial stability.
Over my first six weeks on the job, I have met
with many Tech alums and supporters. One message has come through loud and
clear: There is a deep passion for the Institute and a great sense of
philanthropy. We must continue to capitalize on that generosity and grow it to
constituents who may reside outside the current Tech family. We need to announce
that there is room on the Ramblin' Wreck for everyone.
In the coming months,
through this correspondence, I will continue to paint a detailed picture of the
state of Georgia Tech Athletics so that you can have a better understanding of
our goals and plans.
We have some very important decisions to make in the
near future. We want you to play a role in the future success of Tech Athletics,
so we welcome your feedback at
While I cannot guarantee a personal response to every email that we receive,
please know that they will all be read, so I do encourage your participation in
this process. Some of your questions could become topics for future issues of
the The Good Word.
I also encourage you to share this letter with any Tech
fan who may not have access to the Internet. Our goal is to inform and engage as
many Yellow Jacket supporters as we possibly can.
I want to personally thank
you for your continued support of Georgia Tech Athletics as we move forward with
our vision for excellence.
Go Jackets!

Alright, I like the tone of this letter, and it paints a pretty picture. Based on this what can we expect from our new, more focused Athletics Association? I think the biggest thing to take from this is that we can expect to see a revamped effort to market our program in the Atlanta area and probably beyond. We should be at least able to pull in more than we have from the surrounding area. Cities like Chattanooga are ripe for the taking. Also, I think this guy generally gets it. In the world of big-dollar collegiate athletics there are two routes: stay above it all and hope you don’t wither up and die, or jump in and play ball the way the large programs do it.

I am not saying we should chuck academic standards and start giving Escalades to players. I do think, however, that we can learn a few tricks from the big boys. Get the program covered more on local news stations. Get some of the spring scrimmages televised on CSS or something. Get a feature about how awesome Calvin is on ESPN sometime other than during halftime of a Thursday night game. This is the spring lull, and the sports news agencies are clamoring for anything college football related. As long as it is well done, I think we can sell ourselves to anybody. Here’s another idea, get Bill Curry back in the mix. I know he may be a little disgruntled after not being hired, but the man is the face of Tech Football. Find something for him to do in or around the program. He makes a brief reference to our financial situation, I imagine that means something like more expensive season tickets, but I will hold off my take until after he puts out something more specific.

Here are some things I would like to see addressed:

1. Marketing. How do we plan to sell out the stadium? I think this all goes back to getting the word out about Tech, but we are surrounded in a sea of Dawg and Falcon fans. They are not instantly going to switch allegiance because we run a gay commercial with Buzz dodging defenders to score a touchdown. Who is our market? Are we just trying to energize Tech fans or are we hoping for converts from other teams that are not UGA or Clemson? A demographic analysis must be done to make sure we do not waste our marketing efforts.

2. Tailgating/Gameday Experience. I know this may seem like a minor issue, but it affects gameday atmosphere, which affects recruiting, attendance, national perception, and so much more. There needs to be an effort to encourage tailgating on Tech’s campus. Our urban campus does not lend itself to big RVs but there are plenty of spots that are totally underutilized. Here’s a suggestion: move the lame inflatable playground or something like it that is always set up on top of Peter’s to around the Campanile. Allow the top of Peter’s to be tailgate central. This is so close to the stadium, we need to make sure this is representing what we want the world to see. If you don’t want tailgaters, allow vendors to set up on top of the deck. Regardless of what happens to Peter’s, there should be a comprehensive effort to improve the gameday experience. Part of the reason tailgating is so popular at most colleges is that most of the fans of that school do not live in the small town that houses the college (see Athens, Clemson, Tuscaloosa). They live far enough away where driving to the game is a commitment but not prohibitive. This creates the desire for a whole day experience, which means tents, food, and beverages. Tech is at a disadvantage in this regard, but the point is still valid: if we can create a desire to spend a day on the Flats, not just the four hours you are inside the stadium, we will have a great gameday experience.

3. Ticketing/Seating. This ties into the previous two, but how we represent ourselves inside the stadium affects our image and prestige as a program just as much, if not more so than how great we are outside the stadium. For all intensive purposes this means a full and energetic stadium for every game. We need to look at the layout of BDS. Who sits where, how often they sit there, which parts of the stadium are generally full, which are empty, what games are they traditionally empty, what is our record at this point, does our record have an effect on attendance, which parts of the stadium are full or empty when our record is good, and what are the hardest/easiest parts of the stadium to fill are all questions that need answers. Steps in the right direction are being made, especially in the chairbacks, but we should look at the stadium seating chart with fresh eyes.

Obviously there will be more to come on this, but I don’t think I am alone in saying this letter is a nice first step. I look forward to hearing what Mr. Radakovich has to say in the future.

I have been lax in my efforts to keep this site updated. Thanks to a friend who came up with a good solution to getting stuff on this blog in a timely fashion. We will try the new system and hope it works well.

Coming up next: my official Notre Dame look ahead. -yb