Georgia... the best program in the country

OMAHA, NE – Mark Richt was coming up the elevator pleading his case.

"The thing about Georgia is that we haven't just had success in football," he said on the phone. "We've won in swimming, tennis, and golf."

Mark Richt doesn't have to sell me on Georgia's athletic program – I'm all in Vegas style.

Still, Georgia is always looked at by the national media as a football school, which it is, but it's even more than that. This College World Series proves it, too. Georgia's appearance in the CWS caps a year of unprecedented success for any school in the three major sports. Richt shouldn't have to explain that to some guy on the radio, but he's the best spokesman for the school, so he's doing it.

No one in the press box could figure out the last program to win a BCS bowl game, go to the NCAA Tournament and the CWS in the same academic year. That's what Georgia did this year, and they were the only ones in the country to do it in 2007-08. Georgia baseball's success at the College World Series underscores that Georgia is the most successful athletic program in the country.

Don't get confused: Georgia won't win the Director's Cup – the all-sports trophy that is handed to Stanford each year – but that's not an accurate portrayal of the top program in the country. The top overall program in the country wins in football, basketball and baseball – like Georgia. In other words, it wins not only when people are not watching, but when a TV network in broadcasting the game, too.

Stanford powers its way to national prominence in sports the Dawgs don't even offer – any sort of polo should not count, and for most fans it doesn't. Georgia doesn't have rowing, lacrosse (men's or women's) or water polo. If tiddlywinks were a NCAA-sponsored sport you can assure yourself that Stanford and the rest of the California schools would be good at that, too. That's cool – rock that out – maybe even add surfing or skateboarding.

Stanford used to be the best at tennis – Georgia is the best at that now. Utah used to be the best at gymnastics – Georgia is now.

Basketball? Georgia beat four schools and a tornado in four days at its hated rivals' gym to win the most jacked up conference tournament ever. Lance Armstrong was impressed with the Hoops Dawgs' perseverance in Atlanta.

Football? Do I need to bring up the celebration in Jacksonville, the Blackout or the Bayou beat down of Hawaii? Everyone knows the power of Georgia football – that does not need to be explained. But its head coach explained to me the power of those teams in Athens that don't wear silver britches.

"We've been good (as an athletic department) for a very long time," said Richt. "Equestrian, tennis, golf, gymnastics…"

He rattled virtually every other sport off, too. Richt wouldn't throw the football program in there, but that's understood – he doesn't need point it out. The consistently modest Richt wasn't ready to anoint Georgia the best athletic department in the country quite yet, but he said that it should be in the discussion.

"We are one of the best, but when you start talking about the best," he paused. "There are a lot of good programs out there, but I think we would be in that discussion as one of the best."

What could be easily looked over after Georgia's loss to Fresno State in the CWS is the power of this athletic department – Richt is doing his best to see that doesn't happen.


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