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Mailbag 2/2

What’s your favorite non-Tech tradition?

Indiana v Ohio State

At the collegiate level, what sport do you think is the hardest to maintain a consistent level of success in? The easiest? - Pkaltman1

Ben: I would say football is probably the hardest to maintain a consistent level of success. For my example, I want to use Nebraska. Bo Pelini was named the head coach of Nebraska in 2008. Coming off of a 5-7 season, Pelini guided the Cornhuskers into a period of consistency that it has not sniffed since. In each of his seven seasons, including a transition from the Big 12 to the Big 10, Pelini’s Cornhuskers never once failed to win nine games in a single season. While there was some controversy around Pelini’s dismissal, the official reasoning for his dismissal was an inability to win the games that mattered most. In the seven seasons since Pelini was dismissed, that consistency has completely evaporated, with the Cornhuskers only having one winning season since. How many teams in college football, especially with as chaotic and unbalanced as it has become in the last several years would kill for that kind of consistency. Or listen to the Tech fans pining for the days of Chan “7-6” Gailey. That level of consistency (however you want to feel about it) is just difficult to achieve.

Chris: I’d probably agree with football being the hardest. There are just so many factors and variables that go into it. Obviously several programs have been enjoying a certain level of success for the last 10-20 years or so, but excluding that upper echelon I think it’s a mudfight for the rest of the programs out there. I also think it’s harder when you have such a “short” season - with only 12 regular season games each one can have an outsized impact on how successful your entire season is. As far as easiest I’m not sure; success in any sport at the college level is hard. Anecdotally I think you tend to see those extended years of success in the non-rev sports when there’s a particularly good coach and system in place (part of what makes football hard too is the coaching turnover and I think that’s lessened in other sports). Basketball may be “easier” in the sense that you really just need to have one really good guy every season - if you can recruit well then you can make that happen and just keep living star to star for years.

Jake: As much as I’m Mr. Not-Football, I would say football, as well. There are so many moving parts and so many weird undercurrents — it is definitely the “boosteriest” sport, for sure — that it has to be hard to maintain. Plus, there are so many players (even just looking at starters) that someone has to get quality players at. I think it is an easy decision to go with.

Logan: I actually disagree with the football comments. I think it varies from program to program, so maybe what I’m about to say doesn’t necessarily apply to GT, but football is one of those sports where you tend to get on a roll. If you have success for a period then you should continue to see recruiting and talent lead to wins for the following years. You can obviously reference the bigger programs across the country where they get good and tend to stay good for anywhere between half a decade to a decade before dropping off. You also have teams like LSU who drop off after a really good class, but generally those teams stay competitive and win games they shouldn’t. I will say that football is more punishing in how many games are played, so going from a 10 win season to a 7 win season looks bad on paper, but you can still be a competitive 7 win team which scare higher tier opponents.

Basketball is also tricky. The real factor with basketball is that you can have a good recruiting class one year and depending on how the team performs they can all be gone the next year. I feel like Basketball is the one most tied to how the coach recruits and is able to keep the team together due to the lack of players compared to football or baseball.

Lesser known sports if you have a good class they tend to stay the entire 4-5 years (unless they are a generational talent). I could do a dive on the specifics but generally in tennis, golf, track and field, and similar sports you will have an easier time staying consistent for long periods and have time to reload.

The answer to me is baseball. There are many factors for this. Because of the nature of the MLB draft you can have players leave after any season so there is no guarantee your star players will stick around for a long time. Despite being a team sport on defense, baseball is very much a 1v1 sport from batting. So if one of your stars has a bad series against a top opponent it can do serious damage to your playoff chances. There are more games in baseball, which is a benefit compared to football, but the games are grouped into series which means despite having more games you can still have your season impacted by a bad performance against one team. It’s not that baseball is the hardest sport to build a program in, but per your question of “consistency” baseball has the most factors where you can still have a good team but some things go wrong out of no where and ruin what should have been a good season. Baseball to me is the one sport that is hardest to find consistency in.

Sammy M: What’s the saying? Follow the money? It is difficult to establish dominance and consistency in football/basketball, but like others have said, once the right coaches are in place, recruiting pipelines have been established, and boosters have bought in, it’s somewhat easier to maintain that success in those sports. Sure, teams like UNC and Kentucky may have “down” years in basketball, but they still usually make the tournament and compete at a high level. In football, Alabama and Clemson’s recent down years have resulted in NY6 bowls and 10-win seasons... NCAAW basketball is clearly pretty easy to maintain consistency, at least for the schools at the top. Not much parity there. Gosh... I know I just made the argument that basketball is “easy”, but I think NCAAM basketball is one of the toughest. There is a lot of talent out there, not very many spots to fill, and the 1-and-done plus transfer portal shakeup requires constant adjustment even for teams that don’t reel in 5-stars every year.

Did the broadcast show what Pastner said/did to draw a technical in the second half against Miami? Didn’t seem like he was actually upset about anything until after they called the technical on him. - SullyGT

Jake: I couldn’t tell you what the broadcast divulged, since I was at the game. The technical seemed to fall out of midair, and as much as I hate to complain about reffing, I was extra shocked that it happened, given that Miami wasn’t called for their post-whistle shove of Devoe. All in all, a weird game Saturday.

Sammy M: Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch this one. But I was at the FSU game a week ago, and he was acting pretty dramatic on the sidelines. I hope everything is okay.

Related question: did the refs have it out for us or what? I know we missed enough free throws and layups to lose the game on our own, but it seemed like they were determined to negate any home court advantage. - SullyGT

Jake: No, I don’t think you’re crazy to ask this. I was thinking the exact same thing. The layups doomed us, but, man, the refs felt like we were playing 8 on 5. I honestly couldn’t agree more. The layups were brutal, and we needed to improve on that, but, man, did that take a lot of Tech chances off the board and place them squarely in the Miami column.

Logan: I always feel like the refs are against GT in some way, but that game was a particularly egregious example.

Sammy M: I strongly dislike refs, always have. On Saturday, there was a 50-50 ball that two players were hustling after, late in the game, the refs blew the whistle and called a foul on the good guys. Really a game-changing call. I stood up and yelled “THAT’S A JUMP BALL” which would have given us the ball and a chance to close the gap a little. Here’s the worst part - I was at a middle school basketball game. Watching Tech get the short end for 30 years has given me some really bad habits.

Has there been a worse time for GT football and basketball simultaneously in the somewhat modern era compared to now??? - Rbissman

Ben: Probably? I’ll defer to Jake on this one, but I know there are some low lows for both teams.

Jake: We won the ACC last year. We’re hardly under .500 this year with a team in transition. And, I know you must be only talking about men’s basketball, considering the women’s team is coming off a tie for their best finish ever last year and topping it with an even better one (including their best polling positions ever) this year. It feels like football is a hot, steamy garbage fire, but Tech basketball is in the okay-to-decent range. Without last year, though, for the men, and we might be close. I just don’t think we can turn up our noses so soon since banners fly forever.

Logan: I don’t know the history on basketball. I think we have certainly had worse periods for football, and despite having one bad to mediocre year right now in basketball that this is probably not the worst time in GT history for the program. Don’t get me wrong, its a bad time for our sports programs, but I think calling it the worst in our 100+ year history might be a stretch.

Sammy: I’m going to define the somewhat modern era as 1990-now because that’s my lifetime, and I don’t want to be called anything older than somewhat modern. If that’s the criteria, 1990 was incredible, and we’ve gone downhill since. National champs in football, smack dab in the middle of a nine-year NCAA tournament run for men’s basketball, with ‘89-’90 resulting in a Final Four finish. Basketball remained solid through the 90’s, football beat uga three times in a row at the end of the millennium. Hewitt had his run, then fell off, but also competed in the ACC tournament in the latter part of his Tech career. I’m honestly having trouble answering this. Mediocrity has defined us for a while. Football is at its worst, basketball has been worse. That’s the best I can give you.

Is it time to look at the AD. IMO Stansbury has made some pretty poor decisions when it comes to contracts with coaching. Giving lots of money without proven results/improvement, the extension for Pastner(I don’t believe Stansbury was around for the initial hire) and Geoff Collins contract seems to come to mind. Everyone is pointing at the coaches for underperforming, deservedly so, but is it time to start pointing a finger at the person in charge that has locked us into the current sad situation and perhaps start asking for him to be held accountable and ask for an AD change? - gtbadcarma

Ben: You get no disagreement from me. Obviously hindsight is 20-20, but at the time, many people (myself included) were big fans of the Collins contract, understanding that it was a rebuild. Unfortunately, things are not working out. Fans are tired of hearing the same tired platitudes and want to see progress on the field. I understand why Todd would obviously want to back up the guy that he hired. I feel like if you’re in a position like that, you have to gamble on yourself that you are doing the right thing. And a lot of times, when you gamble, things don’t work out. Which is unfortunate. I think Stansbury has done a lot of good for the program as a whole, but at the end of the day, football is the money maker, and if you want to keep your job for a long time, that’s where you have to impress.

Chris: Yeah, I think it’s a good conversation that people have started having over the last few months. He’s made some really great decisions as well, but I think he should be in pretty hot water if he makes a large-scale blunder.

Jake: The man broke records in giving during a global pandemic, hired Nell Fortner, and yet, I can’t help but somewhat agree. Pastner has some time left, and has won the ACC — and also was not originally hired by Stansbury — but, whew, the other main decision, football, has come up empty. Aileen Morales, Stansbury’s other big hire, is entering somewhat of a prove-it year for softball this season, too.

With Collins potentially coming up on his last season on the Flats, what are y’all’s thoughts on some realistic replacements? Personally, I’d love to see Mike Houston take the reigns. He’s been rebuilding East Carolina (with proven results) and with him being in the Carolinas he should have a good understanding of recruiting in the South. - Frodo Swagginz

Ben: I don’t know much in the way of names, but I want Tech to bring in someone who has engineered an actual rebuild. Someone who excels in player development could see moderate success early on. There is some serious talent on this team. It just needs to be developed.

Chris: I think that’s a good call. And agreed with Ben, I think a super results-focused coach with experience building a program is what we need. If we get someone new then get me someone with a strong track record.

Ben (again): I was reading back over responses before I scheduled this to post today, and I also wanted to bring this up. While I’m not super concerned about specific names, I don’t want to see Tech to just hire the first guy that’s interested in the job. It does not need to be a “Tech guy.” Go, do a thorough search, and hire the best candidate.

Sammy M: Mike Houston does appear to have a good resume. I also like defensive-minded head coaches. Any shot Clay Helton leaves Southern after one year? It would reduce the buyout by a couple million dollars... Anxious to see what he does down in Statesboro. Clearly he didn’t have a great run out west, but maybe a level-set at a G5 school will help.

If Tech goes 5-7, but it’s a “good” 5-7 (some upsets, no blowouts, decent play most games), does GC stay? - jabsterjacket

Ben: I think that’s a tough call, but my gut is that 5-7 is not good enough. I think, at minimum, Tech needs to go to a bowl game and beat at least one of the following: Ole Miss, Clemson, or UGA. I also think a lot of it will depend on if Tech is also looking for a new athletic director. I think a new AD will absolutely mean a new coach short of a miracle (which if that’s going to happen, I don’t think Tech is looking for a new AD).

Jake: I think the egos are too big for that to be good enough. 14 wins after 4 years is one more than the big rival up the road won last year alone. No bueno.

Chris: Should he? Probably not - personally I don’t think that’s good enough given the context of three straight three-win seasons. In Year 2 or 3 yeah maybe, but not in the fourth year. Will he? My gut says probably. That’s right in the sweet spot of “but progress!” and Todd has (at least publicly) been extremely supportive and willing to wait.

Logan: Nope, he dug too much of a hole for himself. Only way he gets an extension at 5-7 is if we beat uga which probably won’t happen. like a less than 1% chance we beat uga.

Sammy M: I think he will under those circumstances. The likelihood of that happening, however, is quite low.

Hello Friends,

Hope your week is treating you well. It got cold outside all of a sudden. I’ve been dealing with snow and ice where I’m at. Hopefully the groundhog lets us know spring is coming sooner, because I don’t know if I can deal with freezing anymore.

Question this week. I was watching some college basketball earlier and realized, “Man, fans do all kinds of crazy things” There are many fun traditions in college sports; Heck Georgia Tech has plenty of them on our own campus. My question today is do you have a favorite tradition from other college programs (You can talk about Georgia Tech if you want, but I kind of want to highlight other school traditions that are less well known).

Obviously a big fan of Iowa waving to the children’s hospital at the end of the third quarter. One of my low key favorites is UPenn’s “throwing a toast” onto the field after the third quarter. They used to throw alcohol onto the field, but when alcohol got banned fans began throwing actual toast onto the field. For some reason that just gives me the giggles. Also Liked Boise State’s dog who retrieves the kick off tee once the kick return ends, the pup passed away recently may he rest in peace.

Anyway, what are some of your favorite silly college sport traditions?


Klemens Von Metternich (submitted via email)

Ben: I’m not super familiar with a lot of these traditions, but as a band geek, one thing I love is Ohio State’s marching band. Specifically, I love that they have a sousaphone player dot the “i.” I just think it’s really cool. Also, I know y’all don’t like UGA, but I still think the Battle Hymn soloist is really cool.

Jake: I love the Kinnick wave too, even now more so that I am in my current occupation after graduation. However, of the other school traditions that I love the best, I remember growing up hearing about the Little 500 at Indiana from my mom, who went there, and I always enjoyed that. To stay in the same state (ironically) I do really love the Purdue Boilermaker Special and big drum, and the first college football game that I went to and really remembered was at Notre Dame, so as much as I do not like them these days, or at least as much as I try to do that, I must say, they have a rich portfolio of pregame traditions, too. For some non-Indiana traditions, my favorite tradition I’ve seen in person was probably the Clemson hill entrance at night, which was just electric. Just thinking about all this makes me miss baseball, though, which I quietly think has some of Tech’s best sports traditions.

Logan: I like the FSU rider throwing a spear into the field, and the USC trojan digging a sword into the field. Something about that just gets me hype for a game. As far as student traditions go... Allegedly Utah State was the group who started the “I BELIEVE THAT WE CAN WIN” Chant that has become popular in soccer recently. I’m not 100% clear on the history, but I’m a big fan of the chant. Also does Hawaii do the Hakka before games? I feel like I heard that somewhere but I might be wrong.

Sammy M: I grew up in Atlanta going to Tech games, but my Dad’s side of the family is mostly full of Florida State fans. My grandfather played football down there, so naturally we attended quite a few games in Tallahassee, as well. In the 1990’s, when FSU was at its peak, watching Chief Osceola and Renegade plant the spear was deafening. It’s a little subdued these days, mostly because the games are at noon and players have to stay behind a rope, but it’s still one of the coolest things to witness. The entire tradition behind the horse and the relationship with the tribe is interesting, as well. My brother went to Clemson, and I remember the first time I stood on the hill as Clemson ran down against South Carolina. That was pretty cool, if I’m being honest. I need to get up to Madison though and Jump Around with those guys...