Junkyard Mail: How much hitting is too much, recruiting, stadium upgrades, pay hike for Mark Fox and more!

How much hitting should Nick Chubb experience in practice? (Getty Images)
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How much hitting should Nick Chubb experience in practice? (Getty Images)
How much hitting should Nick Chubb experience in practice? (Getty Images)

How much hitting should Nick Chubb experience in practice? (Getty Images)

Let’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail. …

Roosevelt Peele writes: Bill, I’m wondering how much work Nick Chubb is likely to (or should) get in spring practice this year. He’s going to be such an important part of the Dawgs’ offense this coming season, and everyone already knows what he can do. So do you think the coaches will be tempted to slap a green jersey on him most of the time, and will we see much of him in the G-Day game? And, overall, considering how thin we are at some spots, how much full-contact hitting should be allowed?

Mark Richt has gone back and forth on this issue over the years, but the bottom line is that during the seasons when he’s cut back on the hitting in practice to protect his starters, the play of the team in the games that count has tended to fall off. Although I expect the coaches might be tempted to go with “thudding” (not tackling to the ground) with Chubb some of the time in practice, and we might not see more than a couple of quarters of him on G-Day, I believe overall you just have to roll the dice and practice hard. Trying to get by with anything less leaves you with an ill-prepared team and, especially, inhibits the learning process for the younger players, of which Georgia has a lot. Full-tilt boogie, I say.

Several readers wrote in response to last week’s Blawg on the state of Sanford Stadium. Jarom Smartt writes: Bill, I sit in Section 106 and I completely agree that it is time for an upgrade to the bathrooms in the older parts of Sanford. A thought on facilities that I have had over the years is a potential upgrade from bleachers to permanent chairback seats in additional parts or even all of Sanford. Are additional permanent chairback seats a possibility? I love going to Jacksonville and the Georgia Dome where you get a much more comfortable seat with a cup holder and don’t get squeezed as much by those around you (and the squeezing is not always by someone who has a ticket for that section/row). Or would putting in permanent chairback seats require reducing the overall number of seats thereby cutting revenue? I realize there are temporary chairback seats available for rent each season but they aren’t as good as the permanent ones and it feels like I am getting gouged a bit by paying even more money in addition to what is required to have season tickets.

Switching to individual seats as opposed to the current bench seating would indeed reduce the stadium’s capacity and also would make it impossible for folks to “squeeze” in a friend, which might not bother a lot of fans but wouldn’t go down very well in the student section. Also, in opting for seats with arms and backs, there’s always the problem of accommodating larger fans. Cramming yourself into a too-small seat (as we all have to do on airplanes nowadays) isn’t much fun and, with Americans getting larger all the time, likely would make for a less than enjoyable game day experience for many. Overall, I think the current bench seating with the option of renting a chairback (or bringing your own from home) is the best scenario in the stands.

Long delays are the norm for concession stands, even in the Reed Plaza area, during the game. (University of Georgia)

Long delays are the norm for concession stands, even in the Reed Plaza area, during the game. (University of Georgia)

Pat Rice writes: Bill, You are so right about the needed upgrades to Sanford Stadium. I wrote the AD’s office earlier this season about the ridiculous amount of time it takes at the concession stands. You can lose the better part of a quarter of football if you get in line at the wrong time! They immediately responded to me with a nice, nongeneric response that clearly shows they not only understand the problems but also are actively trying to fix them. They did not indicate the fix would come anytime soon, so who knows how long it will take. Hopefully your article will help speed up the process. Thanks for raising the issue in a public forum.
Go Dawgs!

Thanks, Pat. It is indeed ridiculous how long it takes to go to a concession stand at Sanford Stadium. As a number of fans have pointed out, part of the problem is staffing the stands with volunteer groups raising funds for their organizations. Many of them seem poorly trained, and it really slows down the transactions. Also, like I said in the original Blawg, they need to move all concession stands out of the dangerously clogged old concourses and set up more perimeter areas like Reed Plaza. Having more concession salespeople moving through the stands (and on a more regular basis) also would be a big improvement.

Spears Mallis writes: Below is [a portion of] a letter I wrote to the Athletic department after this season. I cannot believe how far behind UGA is in upgrading facilities:

I am writing this letter to help illustrate what is keeping people away from Sanford Stadium on football Saturdays. Over the past 11 years I have been a season ticket holder. … Holding season tickets was a great honor for me because some of my greatest memories growing up were at Sanford stadium with my family cheering on the Dawgs. … The amount of money and time that is invested into supporting the Dawgs each home game is significant for me and my family. I feel it is time for the university to invest some of the money it receives from donations back into the stadium. First, the restroom situation is ridiculous. Second, the concession stands have become so mind-numbing that I would rather not stand in line for a drink or food no matter how thirsty or hungry I am. Finally, the traffic situation leaving the stadium is embarrassing.

First the restrooms are so outdated and inefficient. Why is it that a women’s bathroom only has four stalls? Why do some of the restrooms only have one door? … I feel in the plazas in the Southeast side of the stadium you should have a restroom plaza. The area is more that big enough to have one on the main level and one on the upper level.

Second, the concessions stands need to be run by professionals and not by volunteer high school members. Every game this year I have been in line to get something from a concession stand and each time they are out of something because they do not know how to prepare for the crowds. I understand the tradition but the concession stands are a true embarrassment for the university. The high school students cannot even figure out how much change to give without a calculator. When you have 100 people in line this causes even more of a delay. It is time for The University of Georgia to hire professionals to run the concession stands.

Finally, the traffic situation leaving the stadium is embarrassing. Why are all of the traffic signals not manned by police officers to get traffic to flow? You need UGA, Athens-Clarke County, and/or Georgia State Patrol officers at each light on Lumpkin, Baxter, Millege and Broad. Going to away games shows just how bad Athens is with traffic control.

With all the games on TV and the quality of the picture on the TVs you are competing against an opponent that will continue to win if you cannot enhance the fan experience. Nothing makes me sicker than to see Sanford Stadium with empty seats. I feel we will continue to see more and more empty seats if the university cannot address these three major issues.

I hear a lot of complaints about postgame traffic. And I agree that the lack of public safety personnel directing traffic is a real puzzle. I remember when I was growing up in Athens all the major intersections were manned by Georgia National Guard members who controlled the lights after a game let out and the traffic seemed to flow much more smoothly. Granted, there was a lot less traffic in those days, too, since the stadium only seated 50,000, but I wonder why something like that couldn’t be tried again.

Scott Young writes: Bill, I agree about Sanford Stadium needing modernization. At halftime I go down below under the bridge end. It is like a dungeon. The concessions stands are run by people who can’t count and move in slow motion. I’m going to bring a couple old flat screen TVs I’m not using and put them on Greg McGarity’s desk. Hopefully he will take them and replace the monitors down there now that are so small you could buy them new for less than $100. Can’t we afford some big screens with sound that works?

The addition of flat-screen TVs so fans in line can keep up with the game was a good idea, but you’re right that they certainly could be larger.

Is discussing stadium problems for fans before signing day a problem? (AJC file)

Is discussing stadium problems for fans before signing day a problem? (AJC file)

Brett House writes: I agree with almost, if not all, of the points that you made in your article [on the stadium].  But I don’t understand why you would publish this one week before national signing day.  Why not sit on it for another couple of weeks?  Again, I agree with the content of your article but I think the timing was poor.

I don’t think the state of restrooms for fans is something any recruit would worry about or even think about. Heck, they reportedly don’t even care that much about indoor practice facilities, despite the negative recruiting that goes on about that subject. So, no, I don’t worry that discussion of fans’ needs in the stadium might negatively impact recruiting.

Speaking of recruiting, Taylor B.A. Dogg writes: Bill, I really enjoy your writing and love the evenhanded analysis you provide while still giving us a fan’s view. One thing puzzles me, though. I’ve noticed you don’t get into recruiting very heavily in your Blawg and I wondered why that is. After all, it’s such an important part of the game! I think you could add some valuable insight.

Thanks, Taylor. Recruiting is indeed important, though I sometimes think those who are obsessed with it tend to put the cart before the horse a bit. As I heard someone who’s not obsessed with the subject say the other day, some fans seem to wish Georgia had won a couple of more games this past season in order to help recruiting!

As for coverage of the process of recruiting, first of all, there are plenty of other outlets, both free and paid, that specialize in it, so those who are looking to follow every twist and turn of that silly season should have no trouble doing so. For me, it’s just not worth getting invested in the daily tweets and rumors about what’s going on in the mind of a 17-year-old or which way this recruit is leaning on this particular day or what his grandma supposedly wants him to do. It’s like those hourly tracking polls leading up to election day – essentially meaningless and quite often misleading.

The whole idea of verbal “commitments” has become laughable thanks to this “flipping” phenomenon. In the past, giving your word to a coach that you intend on signing with his school might have meant something, but that’s now a quaint, horse-and-buggy notion.

To me, it’s not the process that’s worth paying attention to, it’s the results. So I don’t worry about UGA’s recruiting class until they’ve faxed in their signatures and we can see who actually signed. Then and only then can we assess whether the coaches got what they needed and if they landed any signees with above-average potential.

Even then, you never know whether a recruiting class truly is going to pan out (“Dream Team,” anyone?) until after they’ve started playing the college game. Frequently, coaches end up getting as much, if not more, out of an under-the-radar three-star recruit as a heavily hyped five-star. I think spring and preseason practices are much better indicators of what’s happening with the program.

If you’re a “recruitnik,” and you get a lot of pleasure out of having your stomach in knots over what a teenage boy says from day to day, by all means have at it. I’m glad there are lots of outlets that cater to your desire for nonstop recruiting coverage (including my esteemed colleague, Michael Carvell, who’s among the best at it). That’s just not something I’m interested in doing. If you want to know what I think of the 2015 recruiting class, though, check the Blawg after we finally know who’s in that class.

Greg Wardlaw writes: Hi, We all talk about helping the players by giving them money to take out their girlfriend to dinner and a movie and things like that. But, nobody can come up with a way to do that. Why don’t we allow businesses to help out by letting the players in free for a movie or a restaurant could let them eat free. Then, to help the business, make it tax deductible. Obviously, there would have to be limits and exclusions (no free new cars or high dollar items). Just a thought.

That’s an arrangement that would require a major revision of NCAA rules, and considering the potential for abuse of such perks, I think that’s not very likely.

A fan wants Bulldog Nation to show its colors leading up to signing day. (Jim Connah)

A fan wants Bulldog Nation to show its colors leading up to signing day. (Jim Connah)

Jim Connah writes: Hey, Bill, It’s time to display our “national” flag. Not only are we celebrating the 230th anniversary of the founding of the greatest educational institute in the history of the world, but it’s also important the Bulldog nation wave its flag this week leading up to signing day. Don’t ever forget, we own this state!

For those who might not know, the signing of the charter that made the University of Georgia the nation’s first state-chartered university took place on Jan. 27, 1785, and the university celebrates with Founders Week each year. Since that does come shortly before national signing day, Jim’s right that it’s a great time to show your school colors.

Jim Noble writes: Hi Bill, Have you looked at the staff Mike Bobo had put together at Colorado State? It’s taking shape and I would like to point out that he does have a special teams coach. Interesting!

Indeed. Who says an old Dawg can’t learn new tricks?

TJ Legge writes: I am an 82-year old “Dawg.” Class of 58, and I survived Reed Hall. There is only one thing I want the Dawgs to do: beat Georgia Tech every year for the rest of my life by at least 30 points minimum. The last two years in overtime, why? I saw Theron Sapp break the drought. My first Georgia game was with my Dad at the Georgia/Auburn game featuring Charlie Trippi, in Columbus. 1946. I fear another bad year is coming up All I ask is beat Tech. My mother graduated from Georgia in 1928. My mother hated Georgia Tech so bad all of her life it was remarkable.

Sounds like your mother raised you right! While there are a couple of major questions to be answered about the 2015 Dawgs, I’m pretty optimistic. As for Tech, I’m with you all the way. Losing to the Jackets is never acceptable, and a win by the biggest of margins makes for a wonderful day. As for why the games in the past two years have gone into overtime, that’s at least partly because Tech has improved. The 2014 Jackets showed that against teams other than Georgia.

Should UGA basketball fans be worried that Mark Fox has not signed his contract extension? (John Kelley / UGA)

Should UGA basketball fans be worried that Mark Fox has not signed his contract extension? (John Kelley / UGA)

Jim Cooney writes: With UGA men’s basketball playing very solid and winning basketball it is a great time for UGA hoops!!! After last year’s success, a deserving contract was offered/extended to Coach Fox. Is there any cause for concern that 10 months later, this two-year extension has not yet been signed? I find it odd that it has not been signed yet because a senior member of the Athletic Association abruptly offered his resignation. Any insight to this bizarre situation would be greatly appreciated.

As has been reported, Fox said that while he has yet to sign the two-year contract extension that was approved for him this past spring, there are no serious issues between him and the athletic association. Apparently the resignation of the athletic association’s chief financial officer, Frank Crumley, delayed the finalizing of the deal and then Fox didn’t want to deal with it once basketball season started. As he put it: “I don’t think it’s fair to my team to have to try to deal with that.”

Fox said contract terms are not a problem. However, while details of the extension were not made public, it was widely reported that it did not include any pay raise over Fox’s current $1.7 million per year, which has led some observers to surmise that Fox might be dragging his feet a bit, hoping that if his team makes a decent tournament run, the terms might get yet again renegotiated and include more money.

I don’t know if there’s anything to that, but I do believe that if Fox’s team makes a good postseason showing it would not be surprising for him to get a pay hike.

Mike "Big Dawg" Woods is in the hospital. (AJC file)

Mike “Big Dawg” Woods is in the hospital. (AJC file)

Finally, here’s wishing a speedy recovery to my Athens High School classmate Mike “Big Dawg” Woods, who personifies the Bulldog fan engagement and loyalty that I wrote about recently. Mike and his painted head show up at just about every UGA happening in Athens. He had triple-bypass surgery this past week at Athens Regional Medical Center and I’m told that while he’s still in intensive care, he’s now sitting up and appears to be on the mend. Get well soon, Big Dawg!

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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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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