Is it the Shoes?

ATLANTA – Is it the shoes? It was a question that powered Nike to being one of the top retailers in the world.

I couldn't help but think of Nike's innovative Spike Lee commercial from the early 1990s when I had a conversation with someone while watching the finals of the Georgia high school playoffs at the soon-to-be-destroyed-for-no-reason Georgia Dome.

In the commercial Spike Lee keeps asking Michael Jordan why he is "the best player in the universe" – Is it the vicious dunks? Is it the haircut? Is it the shoes?"

Jordan: "No."

Lee: "Money, it has got to be the shoes."

Lee was pretty close – it not the shoes… it's the money. To be clear in the commercial "Money" is just a nickname Lee has for Jordan, but in the terms of this discussion the shoes are money – confused?

People in and around college sports always think that money is the end all be all cure to everything. I think that's a good question – can you spend your way to a championship? In college sports the answer to that is usually no, but you can get real close. One thing is certain if you don't spend you will lose – or at least come up with results you don't want.

Forbes recently released a report called: "2012 College Football Team Valuations". It named Georgia as the 5th most valuable football team in America – behind only Texas (has its own TV network), Michigan, Notre Dame (has its own network contract) and LSU.

Valued at $99 million according to Forbes, Georgia ended the year with a football profit of $52 million – not bad for any business. Georgia, like the rest of schools in the NCAA, is a non-profit institution. In other words, it can't be taxed on any so-called profits it makes each year.

But the thing that sticks out to me, and a lot of other people, is that the Bulldogs are the only program in the top ten of Forbes list not to play for the national title in the last 30 years except one other – Arkansas.

That begs the question: Is football really important to Georgia the way it is at other SEC schools? The short answer is no – Georgia fans are not killing trees and sexually assaulting fans on Bourbon Street. I've yet to read the story about someone being shot because they are not "Georgia enough".

But they aren't that far from that, either.

93,000 travel to Athens six or seven weekends a year. About 42,000 travel to Jacksonville each year. Georgia fans care about their team – they just don't act like the rest of the nutballs they are surrounded by all of the time.

The question always persists (really everywhere): does Georgia spend enough of its surplus to win?

That's a tricky question. If the answer is yes the statement that follows is a simple one: then why hasn't a national title happened since Hershel Walker? If the answer is no, then that's a convenient excuse to be thrown up whenever it doesn't happen (which, as is the case across the nation, happens more often than not).

Nothing is preventing Georgia from winning a national title in football – nothing. Not money, not its coach, not its players – certainly not its fans. A case could certainly be made that its schedule makes the path particularly difficult, which is true, but that path is also a legitimate path many other programs don't get the chance to take.

Also, success in other sports at the school shows that if you want to win the national title in a sport, then Athens is a great place to be. Since 1980 – the last time the Bulldogs won the national title in football – Georgia won a national title 39 times in other sports. This is not about "wanting to win" being the problem at Georgia.

There is little doubt that football in the SEC is the most competitive climate in college sports – more competitive than the other sports where Georgia has won it all. Football in the SEC is a 364-day a year job… you get Christmas off. You have to want to win – there is no question about that.

So what is it, then, that's prevented Georgia from winning the national title? The short answer is four more yards. The long answer? Georgia was dysfunctional for a decade, or more, before getting its act together by hiring Mark Richt, who has taken the program to new heights – just not quite as high some of Georgia's peer institutions in the conference.

Georgia also has not been able to back into a spot in the national title game over the last 30 years. Several times an SEC national championship has backed their way into a national title spot – 2013 Auburn (playing for it), 2011 Alabama, 2007 LSU, 2006 Florida and 1996 Florida. The Dawgs have not had such fortune – Miami didn't lose to Virginia Tech on the last day of the season in 2002; LSU jumped five spots after losing their final regular season game in 2007 and Chris Conley caught the ball in 2012.

Had any of those three gone a different way Georgia would have its crown. But we don't live in that world. We live in reality. In 2005, the last time the SEC champions didn't play for the national title, Georgia won – it has been that sort of decade for the Dawgs… really bad timing several times over.

For Auburn in 2013? The absolute opposite was true.

In the end, however, you have to do it. All of the other "woe is me" stupidity you hear is for losers. Win as much as possible every single season. Build a legitimate indoor practice facility – not because it is needed to win it all, but because you have the money to do it and it should be done the right way this time.

Worry less about the NCAA and start getting aggressive with the way in which you recruit – because is the NCAA isn't going to burn up Auburn (Cam Newton) or Miami (everything) then they are not going to touch Georgia.

Its not necessarily about the money – its certainly not about the shoes. It's about breaking down the door – not knocking to see if someone will let you in.

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