Opinion Week: The State of College Athletics in Georgia, and How We Got Here

Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

Opinion week (and the 100 Days to Kickoff series) gets going with a look at the state of college athletics in Georgia, and the causes of how we got here.

Ed. Note: To kick off Opinion Week, we have one of our staff's newest writers, Grant Heffley. Please give Grant a warm welcome!

It’s Opinion Week here at From The Rumble Seat, a week dedicated to "drumming up discussion and better introducing our new writers to the staff", as our fearless leader Joey Weaver told us in an email a few days ago. "A great idea!" I thought to myself. An opportunity to publicly make fun of this hilariously ironic shirt I saw at the store the other day without damaging any more friendships than I already have during the inevitable tsunami of angry comments and arguments that always follows such posts on my Facebook page.

Which is actually an excellent segue into the topic I’ve chosen for my Opinion Week article: the state of college athletics in Georgia and how it got that way (read: why are there so many gosh-darned mutts fans at Kroger?)

Before I go any further, I’d like to start this analysis with a convenient simplification that will allow me to get away with all of the sweeping generalizations I’m about to make: Georgia’s sports-watching population consists of two and only two parties, Tech fans and uga fans. Sure, there are plenty of other schools with athletics programs in this state, but in my experience even Georgia Southern/Georgia State fans and students tend to lean to one side of the Tech-uga rivalry. For the duration of this article, this statement will be assumed to be true.

A duality/bipartisanship/whatever you want to call it like this leads you to believe the fan distribution in Georgia is probably close to an even 50-50 split. In most states, this is pretty true: for example, look at Michigan-Michigan State, South Carolina-Clemson, Florida-Florida State, Alabama-Auburn, and so on. However, for those of you who live or have lived in Georgia, you know full well this is not the case. A conservative estimate of mine puts the equilibrium at about 70-30 in favor of the pups. But why is that? Why are there so many of them compared to so few of us?

Here’s my breakdown. UGA fans dominate this state because:

1. It’s a bigger school with lower admission standards. More degree options, easier to get into, and easier to get out of – which is what a lot of people look for in a college. I’ve had high school friends grow up Tech fans, but when college applications roll around and they don’t get accepted, they go for the next best thing – Georgia. Georgia casts its net wider than does Georgia Tech, in a variety of ways.

2. Georgia grads have more public influence. With majors like journalism and education (both of which can’t be found at Tech), third-parties that are otherwise neutral to the Tech-uga rivalry are exposed to more UGA bias on a daily basis. Think about it. Most of the newspapers (the AJC in particular) will give more focus and slant to Georgia athletics. Most kids growing up in our public schools are taught primarily by Georgia grads. Most stores carry two or three times the amount of Georgia merchandise than Tech merchandise.

3. Georgia grads stay home. This one is a controversial opinion and is tricky to prove, but most Tech alumni are scattered across the country and the globe due to their nationally recognized degrees. In my experience, a lot of my friends who graduate from Tech end up leaving the state for work opportunities, while most Georgia grads set up shop here in the ‘burbs. Again, hard to prove, but there is anecdotal evidence (my own experience) to support it.

4. High school seniors want to go to Georgia. I can speak from experience, the difference in the public opinion between the two schools among high school seniors is staggering. Tech is made out to be one of the hardest, most stressful schools in the nation with a dangerous campus and a nerdy, male-dominated student body. Georgia, on the other hand, is the rural campus in a great college town where the drinking age doesn’t matter and neither do classes. Pretend you’re 18 again: which would you pick?

The worst part is, these all lead to a vicious cycle. More "neutral" people adopt UGA as fans, more recruits want to go there, they win more games, and more people start watching. Simple as that.

So how can Tech turn this around? In my opinion, it starts with the students and alumni base. This year’s accepted freshman class shows progress towards a larger student body with more female students, increased public interest/awareness, and the ability to attract elite students from all over the world, all while maintaining the same level of high academic standards. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

I’m interested to see what FTRS’s loyal readers have to say about this topic. What will it take to snap this cycle the state of Georgia is trapped in?

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