Posted: 10:49 pm Thursday, November 24th, 2016
By Jay Black
If you are a Georgia Tech fan, no game, no moment, no single event matters more than beating Georgia.
You sing about it in your fight song.
You talk about dropping battle axes on Georgia’s head.
It’s evidently the good word.
365 days a year, it’s all about beating the Dawgs.
Your coach has taken your team to two Orange Bowls and won the school’s first ACC title since 1990 (which has since been vacated). And yet, he’s starting to wear out his welcome in part because he’s only beaten Georgia twice and never at home.
However, Georgia Tech’s leader is now the dean of coaches in this state because the last guy at Georgia was fired the day after he won his eighth straight game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The guy the stadium is named after only won the state championship seven times on that field.
Mark Richt went 13-2 against Georgia Tech. If you’re a Georgia fan, it’s doubtful that’s the first argument you made if you believed Richt deserved to stay. If you thought he should go, you said there are more important things than dominating Tech.
Nobody was wrong.
For most Georgia fans, this game just doesn’t mean what it used to. At least those of a certain age.
“It’s a large rivalry game,” said UGA head coach Kirby Smart. “Especially for our older fan base, the history of this rivalry is really important to a lot of people. It’s really important to me.”
For those “older” Georgia fans, this game does mean more than all the others. But for the younger crowd, can you hardly blame them for not obsessing about the Yellow Jackets as much as young Tech fans do about Georgia?
The younger portion of Georgia’s fan base would be stunned to hear that UGA lost eight in a row to Georgia Tech in the 1950s and that the guy who scored the winning touchdown to end the drought is one of only four players to have his uniform retired.
There’s two people you can blame for the declining state of state championship: Georgia’s old coach and Tech’s current one.
If you ever told the older section of Bulldog Nation that a UGA coach would be fired after going 13-2 against Georgia Tech and 8-0 in Atlanta, they would have asked “what did he do to get thrown in jail?”
Yet Mark Richt was canned after his 13th win over the Yellow Jackets. That victory came 15 years after he replaced Jim Donnan, who was fired in part because he couldn’t beat Tech.
That’s where Richt raised the standard at Georgia. UGA must win trophies. And there are more important trophies than the Governor’s Cup.
If you’re a Georgia fan, this rivalry has become so one-sided, there’s not much reward in beating Tech. Now the pain in losing is still there, but it’s more of an embarrassment. It’s like a loss to Vanderbilt or Kentucky (by the way, Mark Richt was also 13-2 against those two schools).
Beating Florida brings jubilation. Beating Tech means the world will remain on its axis.
But Richt isn’t completely at fault for punching a stake into the heart of this rivalry. Paul Johnson is his accomplice.
Part of what matters in a rivalry game is in-state bragging rights. The other is getting a one up in recruiting. How often are Georgia and Tech fighting over recruits anymore?
That’s because Paul Johnson doesn’t even bother trying to woo the same kids that Kirby Smart wants. Johnson does his thing and he wants the players for his system. He’s never cared about stars or recruiting rankings. For better or worse, Johnson is shopping in a completely different store than Kirby.
Smart is hanging out at Bloomingdale’s. Johnson is at some specialty boutique (first time I’ve ever used that word in a football column).
So the spoils for a Georgia fans just aren’t the same. It’s hard to keep celebrating what happens every year and recruits aren’t making their decision because of what happens on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
I’m still a firm believer that Georgia Tech is still the Dawgs most important rival, because you have to beat your little brother before you do anything else. UGA must always keep the firm upper hand.
But the Yellow Jackets have a lot of work to do to make this game matter to anyone outside the state again. Frankly that’s the only way all Georgia people will truly hate “the nerds at that north Atlanta trade school” again.
Georgia Tech people have been obsessing about this week for the last 51.
For Bulldog Nation, many of them just started caring once the black uniforms were taken off last week.
It’s a bit sad, but that’s where we are.
I guess that’s the last thing you can thank Mark Richt for.