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February 14, 2014

Where Is The Love?

For some, today isn't the most
meaningful of holidays.

Snowed in and slightly suffering from a dose of cabin fever, I was "enlightened" over the phone yesterday by a friend, who jokingly said I could ease any anxiety by finding out and then blogging about "the greatest Valentine's Day moment in UGA football history," he said with a laugh. 

Thanks for the concern.

Post-Signing Day, pre-spring practicethe lull in the year in regards to college football when the only news heard about your team is normally bad news, like player arrests and such.  You'd be hard pressed to find a memorable moment in Bulldog football history occurring during this period, even more so on the annual day of love.

Considering their seemingly nonstop hustle and bustle, it's a wonder if the coaching staff even observes Valentine's Day.  Apparently, the head Bulldog coach from exactly 20 years ago had totally neglected it altogether.

"When is it?" asked Ray Goff on February 14, 1994, when a reporter inquired if he had big plans for the holiday.  "I'm sure my wife and daughters will come up with something."

Besides perhaps Goff's question, the most notable Valentine's Day moment in Georgia football lore alas has nothing to do with love and affection, but quite the opposite.

Remember the Kevin Ramsey era as Georgia's defensive coordinatorall 13 months of it?  I touched upon it a while back when remembering the 2000 Outback Bowl victory, but here it is in a nutshell:

Ramsey, Tennessee's secondary coach at the time, was lured away from Knoxville in January 1999 by head coach Jim Donnan to coordinate the Bulldogs' defense, but mostly to recruitsomething he was supposedly very good at while at Tennessee.  Turns out, during his brief stay in Athens, Ramsey could do neither particularly well.

Despite all the talent, Georgia's defense was rather awful in 1999, especially against the pass (Ramsey personally coached the secondary).  Against rivals Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs allowed a combined 156 points, while the unit's yards yielded per pass attempt still ranks as one of the highest/worst in school history:

What Donnan giveth Ramsey in January 1999,
he taketh away on Valentine's Day 2000.
7.84- 1974
7.74- 2013
7.55- 1995
7.52- 1990
7.48- 1999
7.44- 2010

Speaking of overrated defensive coordinators, you'll notice Georgia's recently departed was at the helm for two of the worst six averages in UGA history.  And, speaking of 156 points given up, that's the same total Grantham's defenders allowed to Clemson, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia Tech in 2013.  Nevertheless, back to Ramsey...   
Spearheaded by Ramsey, Georgia's 2000 recruiting class finished ranked a lowly 29th in the nation according to Rivals, or just a single spot ahead of number 30 and recruiting power, Mississippi State. 

Ramsey was officially one and done as the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator, and was notified as such by Donnan on February 14, 2000.  Gary Gibbs, who had coached with Donnan at Oklahoma for five seasons but had been absent from the coaching profession for five years, was named Georgia's new DC.  Ramsey could stay on with the staff, but be demoted to secondary coach.  He was madfighting mad.

Probably only a handful of people really know what exactly occurred in Donnan's office when Ramsey was notified of his demotion, but legend has it, he showed no love for the head coach by ending a confrontation with a punch thrown at him.

Continuing to stay unclassy into the following day, Ramsey took verbal jabs at Donnan on his way out of UGA, calling the head coach "deceitful" for demoting him after recruiting was over and going as far as referring to Donnan as "Pontius Pilate."  Regardless, as far as the players, on the whole, they stood by their head coach.

"Coach [Donnan] did what he had to do for the best of the team," said Charles Grant on the day after Valentine's Day.  "He's trying to do things to help us in the long run.  I know he's gotten some criticism, but that's life.  I'm sure he'll overcome this."

The team, at least defensively, was indeed helped in the long run as the Bulldog defense of 2000 was one of the program's best in years.  Under Gibbs, Georgia surrendered just 313.5 yards per gamethe defense's best average in 15 seasonsand only 5.78 yards per pass attemptthe best in eight seasons.

Since then and over the next 14 years, Ramsey has worked six different jobs in coaching, and none of them as a defensive coordinator at a major college.  But, as Charles Grant said, that's life.

On this Valentine's Day, I'm glad for my friend's suggestion; some of my restlessness has been relieved.  I've been reminded that change has been established, and change is often quite good, whether resulting with a jolt to the head, or from a bolt for Louisville. 


Anonymous said...

Gotta give it to Ramsey for spotting Donnan as being "deceitful" though.

Anonymous said...

How so?