Dawg bites: Taking gimmickry out of black jerseys, turning heat up on practice facility

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Mark Richt would like to see Georgia's black jerseys worn for one game per season. (AJC file)
Mark Richt would like to see Georgia's black jerseys worn for one game per season. (AJC file)

Mark Richt would like to see Georgia’s black jerseys worn for one game per season. (AJC file)

The annual should-they-or-shouldn’t-they black jersey debate came and went quickly this year, with Mark Richt initially raising hopes in the back-in-black camp on his Monday night radio show before shooting them down Tuesday in his weekly press conference.

After Monday’s tease, social media lobbying for the Dogs to wear black against Georgia Tech in their Nov. 29 game had increased. However, asked Tuesday whether the team will wear black jerseys this season, Richt said “No. Maybe next year.”

Richt added: “My goal would be to have one game next year where we could to do that. Maybe even have a planned event before the season starts and not have a big secret about it. But just know that that’s part of our uniform combination and do it at a time where we’re not wearing black jerseys on a sweltering hot day. But we are the red and black. … for us to be in black one game a year would make sense.”

I agree. I’ve always liked the black jerseys and I like the idea of reintroducing them in a low-key manner that doesn’t smack of gimmickry.

Last year’s Senior Day against Kentucky, when Aaron Murray had gone on record as saying he wanted to wear them, would have been perfect, but UGA dropped the ball on that one and didn’t have any black jerseys ordered. Apparently they didn’t do anything about it this season, either. So … next year.

Meanwhile, I’m glad Richt has indicated he’s not going to use the team wearing black as a surprise motivational ploy any more, but rather as a regular thing.

In that regard, rather than trying to decide whether to roll them out for a particular big game (say, Alabama in Athens next year), I’d prefer to see the black jerseys designated to be worn for the final conference home game of every season. And if that game happens to be Auburn, well, so much the better!

Some fans have said maybe they ought to be worn in bowl (or, if the Dogs are that lucky, playoff) games, but I think the black jerseys are a treat that ought to be reserved for Sanford Stadium, where the Georgia fans can share in the obvious excitement they generate.

I realize that the faction of Bulldog fandom that blames the black jerseys for UGA’s loss to Bama in 2008 will see this as heresy, but it’s time Richt stopped letting objections based purely on superstition prevent him from utilizing a uniform option that the players, potential recruits and most of the fans love.

If UGA is going to be ruled by the black-jerseys-are-jinxed crowd on this, they might as well slice open a bird at midfield before a game and let a soothsayer examine the entrails to determine which side of the coin Georgia calls, or even whether they play the game!

I do recognize, as Richt does now, that sometimes in the past he’s tried to rely on unwise motivational gimmicks. The awful-looking black helmets and black pants combination against Florida in 2009 was a desperate coach trying to rally a team that had lost faith in itself. I have a feeling most fans would have hated that look even if Georgia had somehow won that game (although perhaps the superstitious folks would have called for us to look like Grambling in all future Jacksonville games!). But, predictably, it didn’t work because they just weren’t a very good team.

As for the much maligned Power Rangers uniforms worn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, that was ESPN’s idea and Georgia didn’t lose to Boise State because of them. At that point, the Broncos were just the better team. And, again, even if Georgia had won that game, I think most fans would have voted not to ever see that hideous uniform again.

Knowshon Moreno looking good in black. (Associated Press)

Knowshon Moreno looking good in black. (Associated Press)

The black jerseys, on the other hand, look really sharp. And even though some old-school fans might blanch at the idea, the fact is that kids today really love the idea of alternate uniforms. Recruits are attracted to them and players get really excited about wearing them.

Plus, as Richt pointed out, Georgia’s colors are red and black and other UGA teams routinely wear black uniforms. So if they can be brought back for football without the motivational aspect, I’m all for it.

Every Georgia fan I’ve talked with about this seems to agree that giving the alternate jerseys a generic “last SEC home game” status or something like that, where it can’t be taken as “fake juice,” is the best plan for getting the Dawgs back in black.


It was very interesting to see defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt publicly holding athletic director Greg McGarity’s feet to the fire Tuesday on the indoor practice facility issue, something his boss, Richt, has never opted to do.

Jeremy Pruitt isn't shy about letting his bosses know what he thinks is needed. (John Kelley / UGA)

Jeremy Pruitt isn’t shy about letting his bosses know what he thinks is needed. (John Kelley / UGA)

Pruitt spoke to reporters in a post-practice appearance for the first time since September after the Dogs had to curtail practice because of the cold conditions outside. Instead, they were forced into the Nalley Multipurpose Facility, which isn’t really big enough to play football in unless, as Pruitt joked, you’re talking about a game featuring the coaches’ children.

Of course, Pruitt didn’t come right out and criticize the UGA athletic administration for its snail’s-pace movement on getting the Dogs an indoor practice facility. Instead, he focused on the fact that other schools are using it as a recruiting tool against Georgia, something he knows since he used to recruit against UGA.

“I know in recruiting — because I’ve been on the other side; I’ve recruited against Georgia — that hurts player development,” he said, adding a positive spin: “But I know we’re fixing to take care of that. This will be the last football team that Georgia will have that will have days that it won’t get better because Georgia doesn’t have an indoor facility. I know our folks upstairs are going to get it done.”

Pruitt noted that FSU broke ground on its indoor practice facility the January he started there and had it ready for that year’s football season, and indicated he didn’t see why that couldn’t be the case for UGA.

Hold up, McGarity said Tuesday night, that’s just not possible. UGA has only recently begun the process and hasn’t even settled on a site or design yet. So, he said, despite Pruitt’s optimistic outlook, “2015, it’s not going to happen that quickly.”

What Pruitt forgot in citing FSU’s example is that, while they may have gotten their facility built in seven months, there were no doubt months and months of permitting and designing that went into it beforehand.

Still, it’s good that the Georgia football program has someone like Pruitt who’s willing to light a fire under an administration that too often in the past has been glacial in its approach to change.

Since he arrived, Pruitt already has shaken up the way the Dogs structure their practices, and after last Saturday’s shutdown of the mighty Auburn offensive machine, he’s got a nice bit of credibility/capital he can throw around in getting the tools he thinks he needs to recruit even better players.

I’ll admit, in the past when some fans harped constantly on the indoor practice facility (an issue that goes back to the Jim Donnan days), I thought too much was being made of it because of the small number of days a year that it’s really needed. But the fact is that most schools have them now and, in recruits’ eyes, Georgia’s lack of one looks like a lack of commitment.

Plus, if it’s built as a multipurpose facility, it can be used by all the other sports at UGA and even intramural teams, university classes and community groups. And not having one makes you a glaring exception nowadays; even ACC schools like UNC and Wake Forest and, yes, Tech, have them.

Bottom line: UGA has piddled around with this idea for too long, and it’s like a breath of fresh air to have someone like Pruitt in the program who’s willing to shake things up and give the folks upstairs a polite but public kick in the rear every now and then.

Nicely played, sir.

Go Dogs!


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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

Junkyard Blawg mugBill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.

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