Pulling Back the Curtain

ATHENS – It's hard to pull the curtain back and watch.

That's pretty much what Sports Illustrated's George Dohrmann did in his excellent piece on the UCLA basketball team of the last few years in an article for this week's magazine.

The story immediately made me think of my time playing college basketball, and of the years I've covered Georgia. It's not that I played for a program that was out of control (hardly) or that Mark Richt's program at Georgia is out of control by any stretch – but so many of the details in the piece made me think of players in Athens or at Coker, where I played so many years ago.

The article made me remember how much of a juggling act being a part of a team can be, and how many different people from different walks of life have to get together to try to make something work. It's difficult for the coaches, players and support staff.

The fighting outlined in the article? I still remember the practice I was at when one of my teammates (a junior) leveled another teammate of mine (a freshman) and started a brawl between two guys no one wanted to get in the middle of. I vividly remember a friend of three of my teammates pulling a screwdriver (I know… who pulls a screwdriver?) on me in the parking lot after I told him the night before night to mess with a girl. My teammates looked on dumbfounded at the entire event before pulling back their friend and apologizing later. I remember seeing (but not writing about) fights that have happened on the practice field at Georgia. I've seen fights in the parking lot at Butts-Mehre (pre-Mark Richt Era) with guys swinging water coolers at each other.

But fights are fights – if you play sports in college fights are going to happen.

The drugs and drinking? Please. That can't be a surprise. There were times when guys hadn't recovered from partying the night before in time for our traditional 5:30 AM Friday morning runs, which were the worst – I still hate them to this day. If you were throwing up Coach knew you'd been drinking a few hours before… and that was never a good thing – particularly if he could still smell the liquor. I remember one time he got all of us on the baseline and started screaming at us about how the man at the gas station had seen some of the guys getting beer the night before… Coach was not pleased. A Saturday night after a win in college seemed like a green light to go. It was never supported by our coach – never. But you can't tell me 15 years later that he didn't suspect the team was out hours after a big win. You can't tell me things like that don't happen at Georgia (not that I judge that – because I don't… this is college after all, and guys need to live).

But partying is partying – if you play sports in college partying is going to happen.

Divas and bad apples are also part of the game. Some guys are just more naturally talented than other guys – that's why there is NCAA Division I for the stars and Division II for the rest of us. Even in lowly DII we had divas and turds, and you don't have to be overwhelmingly talented to be a diva; almost anyone can be a turd. We had a kid on our team who would not cut his fingernails… I still don't know why he grew them out or why he never cut them. But when you got done playing against him it your arms and chest were almost cut in some way – and sweat never feels good inside of a cut. Many guys didn't like this, and at times it was a reason to go. I am certain Georgia has divas and turds – perhaps some are both.

But divas are divas – if you play sports in college divas happen.

What I couldn't get past in reading Dohrmann's piece was how free everyone was with the information. That… that specifically is a major problem and is the leading indicator that something is very, very wrong at UCLA. You can't tell on your teammate – you certainly can't have everyone turning their guns on the head coach publically. That can not happen. For every person who is quoted publically in a story there are probably five other folks who agree with them, but would never go on the record. Georgia, as it turns out, has never had this problem.

Mark Richt isn't perfect – that we all know. But none of his former or current players were willing to do him in during the difficult stretch that was 2009 to the start of the 2011 season. If that had happened with current players it would have been time to seriously reconsider Richt's leadership.

People always want to know the inside scoop on everything that's going on… but I'm not really sure they want to know everything. Actually judging from my experience I am pretty sure they don't.


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