Let’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail. …
Bobby T. writes: Bill, with the news this week that work finally is expected to begin in January on the long-awaited indoor practice facilty, now called the Indoor Athletic Facility, and that it’s going to be located along Rutherford Street behind Butts-Mehre, where Coach Mark Richt wanted it all along, the thought occurred to me that somebody’s name undoubtedly will get attached to the new building. This is a prime opportunity to honor the most storied athlete in UGA history, Herschel Walker! Over the three decades since Herschel played in Athens and led the Dawgs to a national championship, he has brought nothing but honor to his Georgia football legacy, and yet other than retire his jersey, UGA has done nothing that I’m aware of to honor the man who continues to this day to be cited as the epitome of Bulldogs athletic glory. I won’t get into whether the naming of the South Campus athletic grounds is sufficient honor for Vince Dooley or whether his name ought to be added to the stadium, but it seems to me that naming this new facility after Herschel offers nothing but positives. Heck, it’s also going to be used by the track team, in addition to football and baseball, and Herschel was a track star at Georgia as well! I’d hate to see the indoor facility wind up just getting the name of whoever donates the most money added to it when we could be paying tribute to the greatest college football player I’ve ever seen. What do you think, Bill? And who should we contact to urge that this honor be considered?
Bobby, I love the idea of the Herschel Walker Indoor Athletic Facility, and I agree with your reasoning. It’s long bothered me that UGA’s facilities don’t feature much of a nod to the athletes who were responsible for the school’s storied sporting past. Other schools put up statues of legendary athletes or rename streets around stadiums for them, but UGA’s campus mostly is devoid of such tributes. Naming the indoor facility after Walker, whose name has become synonymous with Georgia football and whose career is considered the benchmark against which all other Bulldogs athletes are measured, seems to me like a no-brainer. If you’d like to let UGA officials know of your support for naming the facility after Walker, you can email athletic director Greg McGarity at email@example.com or UGA President Jere W. Morehead at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camden Dawg writes: Bill, I saw in the report on the UGA athletic board meeting that they approved a $5 increase in the cost of football tickets. Since I recall last year they approved the hikes from $40 to $45 in 2015 and from $45 to $50 in 2017, I’m wondering: What season will the latest $5 football ticket increase take effect, and will that make the ticket price $55?
Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton says there was no ticket price increase approved at this week’s meeting. Apparently they were just discussing the financial impact of the previous increase, approved last September. That $5 increase goes into effect this year. Individual tickets within a season package were previously priced at $40 each and have now increased to $45 each. This results in a seven-game season ticket being priced at $315. Any single game tickets sold separately from the season package increased from $45 to $50, Felton said. And, yes, another $5 increase will go into effect in 2017.
Deputy Dawg writes: Bill, I’ve heard a lot of offseason discussion about the quarterback battle and who will play center and the defensive line, but the area of the game that concerns me the most appears not to be generating a lot of talk: special teams. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Human Joystick, Isaiah McKenzie, gives us a strong return man and I believe Marshall Morgan should finish off his career as placekicker with a strong senior season. But punting? It was a weakness for the Dawgs last year, and after watching Collin Barber’s pathetic kicks at G-Day, when he wasn’t even being rushed by defenders, I’m worried he won’t ever be able to flip the field against an opponent and, in fact, may well set them up for relatively short drives. Am I right to worry about this?
Yep. And you’re not the only one. Mark Richt is so concerned about Georgia’s punting game that he’s planning on having incoming freshman Rodrigo Blankenship, who specializes in those hard-to-handle rugby-style punts, compete for the starting job with Barber, whose average dropped from 44.1 yards per punt to 39.3 last season, The Athens Banner-Herald reported recently. Blankenship, who played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, signed at UGA as a preferred walk-on who eventually will go on scholarship. Of Barber’s performance at G-Day, when he averaged just 36 yards on seven punts, Richt said: “He’s just not been very consistent. He needs to have a good offseason. … When he does it right, it’s as good as anybody but we need eight or nine out of 10 of those instead of four or five out of 10 of those.” Blankenship told the ABH he’s always been a rugby-style punter and averaged 46 yards per punt as a high school senior. His longest punt last season was 66 yards and he had punts of 71 and 70 yards in 2013. Richt said Blankenship will “throw his hat in the ring” and you could wind up seeing both him and Barber punting, depending on the situation. Of course, this might be one of Richt’s motivational ploys, as when he signed Brandon Bogotay in 2009 to light a fire under Blair Walsh on kickoffs, but adding ruby-style punts to Georgia’s arsenal seems like a smart idea. Blankenship, who also is a placekicker, might be tried on kickoffs as well.
Gurley Gurl writes: Bill, I saw a report that they’d announced on Twitter that, due to fan requests, renovation of the restrooms on the South side of Sanford Stadium has begun. What about the North side restrooms? They’re in dire need of fixing as well!
As someone who sits on the North side, GG, I can back you up on that. While the restrooms added in the Reed Plaza area of Sanford Stadium a few years ago are fine — utilitarian and certainly not deluxe, but at least clean and functional — the ones along the main concourse in the older part of the stadium on the North side are flat-out disgusting. The restrooms are the No. 1 complaint about the stadium I’ve heard from fans, and the tweet from UGA Facilities about the South side restroom renovations appeared to acknowledge that when it said: “You spoke and we listened, Bulldog Nation!” I put the question about renovating the North restrooms to Claude Felton, and he said that while the South side renovation is being done this year, “the North side restroom renovation will take place in phases beginning next year.” He added that “there is also a South side Sky Club renovation taking place now.” So, I guess us Northsiders will have to put up with antiquated facilities for another season. Let’s hope they at least bother to clean and unlock all the restrooms in time for the opening game, unlike last year.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill 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.