Six years ago, when I walked on Georgia Tech’s campus for the first time as a student, it was the first time I officially called myself a Georgia Tech fan, from football all the way to my personal favorites of volleyball and women’s basketball. I’m writing from the patio of Cluck N Mooh, the location that was Highland Bakery when I arrived in 2017 and took many of my dining dollars during the great “Bounty of Meal Swipes” academic year of 2017-18.
I got here knowing we played a unique brand of football. I knew about Coach Johnson and how he ran things being friends with some former players of his. But, pretty quickly, I knew something needed to be different if we were going to compete in the era of spread offenses and the air raid.
We all know the story since 2019, what we hoped was coming and then didn’t. I’m not here to rehash that. We’ve done that enough as is. What has happened in the last 12 months was more than enough drama for one team. But, to say it didn’t impact how much I cared about the team would be a lie.
By the time the UCF game ended, I along with I imagine many of you, were ready to just wait until 2023 to bother with this team again. At times it was embarrassing the level of play we saw on the field, a topic that came up more times than I would’ve liked at my usual watering holes in Atlanta. Then came Key, then came a couple big wins, and the healing process finally had permission to begin, of which I credit Josh Downs for being a primary catalyst.
We haven’t fully healed yet. There’s still work to be done to make a Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium a place that demands national attention. As much as we can do to make the gameday atmosphere better, it all starts on the field. I personally can’t make the on-field performance any better or worse, but being a supporter of this team during this upswing is a hopeful thing in my life.
One of my favorite parts of being a fan is not knowing how high my team’s ceiling is. At its best, I had that in 2017 & 2018 with Atlanta United. I had that in 2021 with the Braves, and still do. I think it’s fair to say Tech’s ceiling isn’t exactly championship level, or even conference championship level right now, but I’d be silly to rule that out in May. They haven’t even played the games yet!
Since the intense start of J Batt’s administration, the GTAA has shown they are willing to make hard decisions (Pastner, and who knows with Danny Hall), jump at unique opportunities (Ireland game), and just shake things up to see what will stick (tailgates on North Ave). The 10,000-person announced crowd at the spring game was easily the most lively in years, and it was genuinely a good time. Tech is not wallowing in the despair of its poor performances anymore, they are looking forward and actively getting things done.
For my fandom, all of that means I sit in earnest discovery. Earnest to see how good this team really can be, how good our coaching can be with Brent Key knowing this job is his, how much our alumni and fanbase will buy into this project that is Georgia Tech football.
In the latest episode of Ted Lasso, Pep Guardiola tells Ted, “Don’t worry about the wins and losses, help these guys be the best version of themselves on and off the pitch. That is the most important thing.”
Yes, it’s scripted, but that’s still Pep Guardiola saying that.
While the wins and losses are hugely defining of a program, that line was a reminder I needed today that these are just kids with their whole lives in front of them that may not include football. As much as Georgia Tech is a home to a rich culture of sports, it still is primarily a place for people to find out who they are and how to function as adults, student or student-athlete. I can’t wait for us to lift the CFP Championship trophy one day, but the team being a home for players to better themselves is just as important to me.
In my latest interview with Michelle Collier, she reiterated the same sentiment, and how that’s drawing recruits worldwide to Georgia Tech volleyball. If you can make your team a place you want to be, winning comes as a side effect.
I think the best way we can show our support for our guys is by showing up. Even if another season from hell comes, being at Bobby Dodd regardless of our record will do wonders. Our players seeing the alumni will be there for them no matter their record is the kind of imprint we can put people considering Georgia Tech as part of their future.
So, with 99 days before we kickoff against Louisville, I know I’ll be at Bobby Dodd with every chance I get in 2023, an attitude I did not have last year. I’m hopeful we can make something positive of this year, and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From The Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus