The No. 1 moment of Kirby’s press conference to open the fall dealt directly with his program’s commitment to be great. He was talking about strength and conditioning, and said the following:
“I know that the players are more willing to push through the pain and toughness to lift more weight. There’s a theory out there that sometimes it hurts to push a little bit more and lift a little bit heavier. Some people are willing to that and some people are not willing to do that. Our guys have shown from spring through the summer that they’re more willing to do that, to get under a bar that has more weight on it, to lift a bar that has more weight on it. Not only are they capable, but they’re more willing. I think that’s really important. There’s a difference between compliant and committed. For me, compliant is just doing what’s asked. Committed is doing whatever it takes. I think that’s where our kids are going. I don’t know if they’re there yet, but they are much past compliant and on the way to committed on the continuum right now.”
Again: “There’s a difference between compliant and committed.”
That’s been the problem at UGA for as long as I can remember. There is a difference in being “compliant”, in other words doing just enough to win, and “committed”. Kirby defended being committed as “doing whatever it takes” to win.
Can we really say UGA has “done whatever it takes” to win over time? I can’t. Can we say UGA is doing whatever it takes to win right now? I think its getting better, but, no, I can’t say for sure that UGA is doing everything it has to do to win right now.
Consider that for yet another fall camp, UGA had to cut short practice yesterday due to thunderstorms. That’s practice time this team, in theory, could get back over the next month, but what happens this fall when the program has to deal with two days worth of weather during the week only to play on a Saturday when the sky will be sunny?
Will they practice inside? Where? Will they travel an hour away to practice at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility?
This isn’t curing cancer, but it is serious. Right now UGA continues to be compliant rather than committed, and that’s not exclusive to the football program. But the football program is the one spot where there should be no question as to if there is compliance or commitment.
When the new indoor practice facility is completed in a few months it will essentially catch UGA back up to the rest of the SEC. The problem is that there is no new vision as to what is next, at least that’s been publicly announced, that will not just put UGA even with the rest of the conference, but above it.
I’ve seen what other schools have done around their campuses - Tennessee, Clemson and South Carolina - have all made major infrastructure investments at their stadiums to the point that you forget how much of a dump all three stadiums have been in the recent past. That’s just at the stadiums themselves. Texas A&M’s facilities appear to be able to launch rockets into space. Auburn, as much as you may hate it, has transformed itself into a beautiful area around the stadium and football facility that just happens to be in Auburn.
Then there’s the practical placement of things at UGA, and none of them are ideal. Often their placement is like trying to get an 18 wheeler parked into a “compact” spot in a garage.
The indoor facility’s local, which wasn’t decided by Kirby, takes away from the natural grass fields UGA can use for practice. Why does that matter? Because he’s running a $50 million company that needs all the bells and whistles to keep up with its competitors. This isn’t a matter of investing in the future with money you don’t have. Its great to have an indoor facility, but not at the expense of grass practice fields.
The indoor facility, which is about a decade overdue, is great, but the football program needs as much space as possible. Freaked out and paranoid football coaches, of which every football coach I have even met has been, would likely prefer practicing in a secluded location away from the heartbeat of campus. UGA doesn’t currently have that benefit. Its something to think about for the future.
Moving football’s offices and entire complex away from its land-locked location would make a lot of sense to me, but I’m sure that could involve a lot of arm twisting at the institutional level. It would also involve vision and a real acknowledgment in the UGA community of how important football is. I’m not necessarily holding my breath.
I am assuming that Kirby, if successful, will be at UGA for a very long time. After all, the last football or basketball coach to leave UGA for another job was Tubby Smith, and he left to win a national title at Kentucky. He’s the only coach in football or basketball coach in modern UGA history to leave for another school. Everyone else has been terminated. In other words, Athens and UGA is a destination job… you don’t leave because of the vast resources and potential you have there. But potential and living up to it, much like being compliant and committed, are not the same thing.
If Kirby is going to be successful it stands to reason that he’s going to be in Athens for a very long time. And while I completely believe in what he can do, Kirby is going to have to continue to push for real and substantive change at UGA. Part of that change is being committed, not just compliant in everything - recruiting as well as a practical facilities situation that serves as a long-term permanent solution rather than the hat dance UGA has been performing at the Woodruff Practice Fields over the last decade.
Compliant or committed?
We will see.