Rivalry Out of Options

The Institute ran out of options. A classic American rivalry, all but dead.

Georgia men’s basketball team won at the North Avenue Trade School in basketball 70-59 in front of a mostly-tepid crowd, while I was in attendance in my city.

These Bulldogs have now won on repeat trips to the Thriller Dome. Three, make it four hoops wins in a row, for a bonafide football school. Which, during that same time period fired its basketball coach, for losing. Mark Fox bested them three straight, on his way out of Athens.

Tech seniors in Atlanta have never tasted a hooping victory, over the school they considered themselves oh so superior to…in basketball. Even the once-drastic academic standards differences have evened out.

It has been said that only two major collegiate sporting schools cannot be clearly classified as either a football school or a basketball school: Syracuse and Georgia Tech. I now have ties to both.

My family, by sister’s marriage, are Syracuse people, good people, I became ordained this past summer to perform the wedding service of my new brother-in-law, who has become one of my best friends, as well, and my little sister, who is also one of my best friends of all-time. It was special.

I actually worked for Georgia Tech. When I changed from working for General Electric Transportation (“InterPark” division) to Lanier Parking Systems/Solutions, I was hired to manage the largest parking and employee transportation operation in the South, the BellSouth account. I was later temporarily forced to switch ships to Tech as they moved over into Midtown proper, once they suddenly noticed there was a city right there adjacent to them. They had major development issues with their parking decks – including an eventual partial collapse after I left the industry, which could have been fatal – which led to ops issues. They needed a comm major BA from UGA to explain civil engineering to them, I suppose.

And, I actually rode in the Ramblin Wreck, with Santa Claus. Awesome folks at Centergy, my clients, had arranged for the mythical creature to come around the bend of the building and up onto the plaza, with the beautiful old gold car full of Christmas gifts for local underprivileged children. I momentarily considered becoming a way better person, myself, it was so deeply moving, a truly Christian gesture of grace. (I wasn’t ready.)…

Anyway, I was responsible for getting Santa there, so I said I had to ride. Aboard astride the beast, across the car, I said, to one of its head handlers, “Did I mention I went to Georgia?”

Georgia Tech first won the college football national championship in the Roaring ’20s and last won one in 1990, a friend of mine from Marietta High School, Scott Sisson, kicking them to ultimate glory. When I enrolled in Athens – after a gap year clubbing on a fake ID in Buckhead and playing sand volleyball at the Falls and hardtop hoops in my hood – the rivalry was hot and heavy. We had pretty girls, but Tech had the upper hand.

Not that much later, exit Ray Goff and enter Jim Donnan. He coached at Georgia for five years, going 4-0 in bowl games after a tough 5-6 start, the last time Georgia failed to make a bowl. He lost three-in-a-row to Tech and got unceremoniously canned…Sanks!

Mark Richt was 13-2 against Tech. Before Richt, the programs were about even as far as both quite historic and fairly strong. If you don’t think of Tech as a key rival, you definitely are not very old.

THE SWEEP last year indicated that Georgia beat little Tech in men’s basketball, after beating them in football, then bested them in baseball. It is happening…again, with another Diamond Dawgs series win.

I don’t applaud people getting fired. I don’t cheer for rivals fading either, unless it is straight up taken from them via undeniable UGA excellence. Having rivals is easily one of the best things about sports.

Strong state football programs at various levels in Georgia: Georgia Southern, Kennesaw State, Valdosta State, can’t contend. Georgia State is better than Georgia, at basketball. GEORGIA is football.

Last year, Georgia was coming off a loss to Tech in football. A collapse I saw coming when the Bulldogs went up 13 late and quit scoring. WE lost by one. It was Bama-like…That was the last home football loss in Athens.

Tech lost to Ol’ Georgia last year in ATL – I was there, again – 38-7.

Rocket ship skyline view from up above field impressed upon me then, that day, that this should be an actual football power. The former SEC school has advantages, in a wide-open ACC below mighty Clemson, who have asserted themselves as the top program in the country in wins/losses since 1980. Playing in the nation’s oldest on-campus stadium, providing a great specialized education, their alumni wealthy, smart and connected. They play in the world capital of college football, y’all. I could recruit that.

This year it was 38-7 again…at the end of the first half. See, Tech had won twice consecutively Between the Hedges. That time period ended.

Paul Johnson is the end of the long Georgia Southern run, too. He won big down there in the small leagues. Built Navy into a legit mid-major, went to Tech and instituted the only triple option in the Power 5. At its best, it’s a thing of beauty. But, when a froshy Minnesota and P.J. Fleck row all over you on astroturf and put you to sleep, bro, you should be getting fired.

Instead, he had already quit.

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