With nearly seven months to go before the kickoff of the 2006 college football campaign, the corner of the blogosphere concerned---oh, all right, obsessed---with intercollegiate athletics has begun to while away the hours in ancillary pursuits, oftentimes to good effect.
Dan is a good enough sort, but, strangely, although he credits me with providing the impetus for his weblog, he doesn't have a link to Kyle on Football. That's not meant as an animadversion against Dan; I'm just pointing out the oddity.
At his new location, Ryan was kind enough to offer his thoughts on The Movement. In pertinent part, these are they:
"From a fan's perspective, a fan of college football in general, I completely agree with his notion of these two traditional powers hooking up one fall. Most college football fans have enjoyed the Texas/Ohio State, LSU/Virginia Tech, Tennessee/Notre Dame, Auburn/USC type matchups, and this would be another in a group of fantastic inter-sectional matchups. . . . These types of matchups are great for football and it will be a real experience to see LSU in a similar game against Virginia Tech next year in Tiger Stadium."
Although he endorses a Georgia-Michigan home and home series in principle, Ryan highlights a practical factor which would have to be considered. As he points out, "possible beatdowns" or "shaky performances" could be a consequence of scheduling the game as the season opener and, although it "would certainly work out well" for the Bulldogs and the Wolverines to meet on the second weekend in September, "some scheduling constraints" pose potential problems.
Ryan is right. Having decided to play the game, the teams next would have to decide when to play the game. When the Southeastern Conference began divisional play in 1992, S.E.C. East rival South Carolina became the Red and Black's annual opening opponent. When the league slate was reshuffled somewhat starting in 1996, the Gamecocks became the second foe Georgia faced each fall; only once in the last decade have the 'Dawgs faced any squad other than the Palmetto State Poultry in the season's second contest.
In the first five years of the Mark Richt era, Georgia's schedule through the first of October invariably has included a tussle with South Carolina, an open date, and at least one patsy opponent. The Bulldogs' 2006 slate features 11 straight games, followed by two open dates between Auburn and Georgia Tech, with a trip to Williams-Brice Stadium in the season's second outing.
The Fighting Irish have tended to move around a bit more on the Maize and Blue's schedule, as the Wolverines have taken on the Golden Domers in the season's first (1998 and 1999), second (2004 and 2005), and third (1997, 2002, and 2003) outings during the Lloyd Carr era.
Nevertheless, the Michigan-Notre Dame game has been played on the same Saturday as the Georgia-South Carolina game in each of the last four seasons. The Wolverines face the Fighting Irish in South Bend in even-numbered years and in Ann Arbor in odd-numbered years. The Bulldogs face the Gamecocks in Columbia in even-numbered years and in Athens in odd-numbered years.
If The Movement succeeds, it would be best if Georgia played at Michigan in an even-numbered year (when the Bulldogs get Georgia Tech between the hedges but the Wolverines must travel to Columbus to face Ohio State) and Michigan played at Georgia in the following odd-numbered year (when the Red and Black would face the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta and the Maize and Blue would host the Buckeyes in The Big House).
This would require the 'Dawgs to play road games against Michigan and South Carolina not only in the same season, but likely in the same month. Such an undertaking would not be without precedent in Georgia football history: the Red and Black won at Columbia, S.C., in 1920, 1937, 1938, and 1940 . . . and, within four weeks of each of those road victories over the Big Chickens, the Bulldogs left the Classic City to play Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.; Holy Cross in Boston; Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.; and Columbia in New York City, respectively. However, in the 21st century, such scheduling would only be feasible in a season in which the Red and Black faced a weak rotating opponent from the Western Division.
The season's initial stanza would need to look something like this: opener at home against a Conference U.S.A. opponent on the first Saturday in September; South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium on the second Saturday in September; open date or Division I-AA/Sun Belt patsy tune-up game on the third Saturday in September; Michigan at Michigan Stadium on the last Saturday in September; cellar-dwelling rotating S.E.C. West opponent at home on the first Saturday in October; Tennessee at home on the second Saturday in October. It's difficult, but it's doable.
Are these logistical issues the folks in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall are going to have to confront within the next few years? Perhaps; shortly after 5:00 p.m. on February 7, the following response from Bill Martin appeared in my e-mail in-basket:
"Kyle, Many thanks for your note. We do indeed view Georgia as one of the outstanding football programs in the country. It would be a wonderful game; our challenge is scheduling enough home games to 'pay the bills'. It's hard to leave 110,000 loyal fans with no football in the nonconference schedule. We have a long term contract with Notre Dame. We'll discuss and I'll chat with Damon in the near future. All the Best, Bill."
A few points bear making here.
Secondly, the Michigan fans who have spoken out in defense of Bill Martin as a man who takes the time to answer his e-mail (or to have it answered) have had their claims verified and it is very much to the U.M. athletic department's credit that the time was taken to provide such a prompt response to someone who, in essence, was a non-constituent. (I have not yet heard a response from Damon Evans, although, to be fair, I sent a letter to the physical location of his office, rather than an e-mail or a letter to a post office box, so I have no way of knowing when it arrived or to whose desk it was directed.)
Finally, The Movement ultimately may come to nothing, but I find the final sentence of Martin's e-mail at least somewhat comforting.
The penultimate sentence read, "We have a long term contract with Notre Dame." That statement easily could have been followed by, "Your suggestion is not practical at this time, although we will bear it in mind should circumstances change in the future" or, "Nevertheless, we will give this proposal some consideration and determine whether such a series might be feasible" or, "While we question whether such obstacles realistically might be overcome, we wish the Bulldogs the best of luck and hope to meet them in Orlando or Tampa in the near future."
Any of those endings would have been polite, deferential ways of dismissing the idea with an inoffensive bureaucratic brush-off . . . but, instead, Bill Martin or the person authorized to speak for him in such matters wrote: "We'll discuss and I'll chat with Damon in the near future."
Of course, that could be a flat-out lie, but, while I am not naive about the political realities of managing a big-time university athletic department, I doubt seriously whether a man competent and canny enough to rise to such a position would lie when administrative jargon and linguistic obfuscation would have sufficed nicely.
Bill Martin didn't have to tell me that, after the U.M. athletic department discussed the idea, he would talk to Damon Evans, but he did it anyway. The fact that he made a commitment he easily could have avoided making suggests to me that he is being honest, inasmuch as the other alternative is that he is a fool and I cannot believe a man in his position is stupid.
Maybe Bill Martin is pulling a Bill Clinton; just as the statement "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" was uttered with the understanding that the president could hide behind a legalistic definition of a term he knew millions of Americans would interpret much more forthrightly, the statement "I'll chat with Damon in the near future" may have been intended to make me think he will be talking to Georgia's athletic director about this idea, when, in fact, they will be talking about wholly unrelated matters.
That could be the case . . . but I have a tough time viewing this man as a Machiavellian and his e-mail did not appear to have been crafted with the painstaking precision of a diplomatic communiqué. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that, although I have not changed any of the wording of Martin's response, I did correct a couple of typographical errors.)
Maybe The Movement is going nowhere, but, if nothing else, it looks like we've gotten the conversation started. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and, maybe---just maybe---the game we've waited 40 years to see begins with a single chat.