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Kirby Smart refuses to engage in war of words with Dan Mullen

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If there is one thing Florida head coach Dan Mullen has enjoyed doing since his arrival in Gainesville last year, it may be in stirring up the pot. Though he is certainly not going to be mistaken for Steve Spurrier when it comes to verbal jabs at conference and division rivals, Mullen is ready to take some subtle jabs at his foes from time to time. But Georgia head coach Kirby Smart isn’t about to get caught up in the fun in such a fashion.

In an interview with ESPN’s Paul Finebaum last week, Smart took the high road when asked about one of Mullen’s more recent troll jobs using the spring game attendance to remind everyone just how long it has been since Georgia won a national championship (it’s been 39 years, or 476 games for those keeping score at home, and at least one Florida fan was absolutely keeping score).

“If I go out and do that as a coach, how do I look to my players? It is not something that I enjoy doing or want to do,” Smart replied (as transcribed by Dawg Nation). “I just want to go work really hard and grind and play the game and may the best team win.”

Smart continued on this thought with more emphasis on wanting to let the play on the field do the talking.

“I just don’t think you need that. That is not going to make Georgia great,” Smart said. “We are not going to move up in the rankings by what I say. We are going to do it by how we play. We want to talk with our helmets. That is what we always talk about – we want to play a physical brand of football and not do it with our mouthpiece.”

It’s worth a reminder that Georgia has won the SEC East each of the past two seasons and the Bulldogs let their helmets do the talking last year against the Gators with a loud statement. But after Georgia got humbled by Texas in the Sugar Bowl and Florida thumped Michigan in the Peach Bowl, Mullen probably as a good reason to be feeling pretty good about where his program is heading.

Perhaps this is a demonstration of the two different approaches Mullen and Smart take to running their respective programs. Mullen is attempting to breathe life into the Florida program and bring back the kind of swagger once enjoyed by Spurrier on the sidelines, and he’s willing to have some fun with his statements in doing so. Smart is the polar opposite, a brand off the Nick Saban coaching tree. Like Saban, Smart is focusing his energy into simply having a team that will go out and beat you up on the line of scrimmage and wear you down on the field. There is no right or wrong way to go about running a program, and what works for Mullen may not work for Smart and vice-versa. Just take the last few national championship head coaches, Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. Both coaches run their programs differently with the same goals in mind, and both have been successful on the biggest stage in doing so.

But if this is just going to add fuel to the fire of the Florida-Georgia rivalry, keep it up. Watching this rivalry will continue to be fun watching unfold in the years to come as long as Smart and Mullen are in place.

Jim Delany was highest paid conference commissioner in 2017-18; NCAA president Mark Emmert’s salary climbs to nearly $4 million

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The life of a conference commissioner is not an easy one given the amount of criticism from just about every level but at least they are well compensated for their troubles.

Really well in most cases.

Thanks to the latest round of 2017-18 tax returns from the various Power Five conferences and the NCAA being released, we now have a good picture at how everybody stacks up and business booming has resulted in even larger paychecks for most. Here’s the latest figures for the Power Five and NCAA President Mark Emmert:

  • The Big Ten’s Jim Delany moved into the top spot as the highest paid commissioner thanks to a reported $5.5 million paycheck, per USA Today.
  • Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was not far behind his Rose Bowl counterpart with over $5.2 million in compensation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
  • Big 12 head honcho Bob Bowlsby was bumped to a total of $4.1 million.
  • ACC commissioner John Swofford took home slightly over $3.5 million.
  • SEC leader Greg Sankey was by far the best bargain of the group, with the most recently appointed commissioner making right around $2 million last year.
  • Emmert’s salary was the biggest mover of the group of power players as Yahoo! Sports notes his take-home pay jumped 60% by going from $2.4 million the previous year to $3.9 million. All told, the NCAA’s public face has seen his salary jump by some $2 million since 2015 alone.

As you all know, the compensation for the student-athletes officially remained at $0 in pay for the same time period.

Alcohol sales expected to be hot topic at SEC spring meetings

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It just means more… beer?

It certainly could in the SEC as early as this upcoming season depending on how the league’s annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla. go next week. As Sports Illustrated reports ahead of everybody’s trip down by the beach, repealing an archaic conference rule banning alcohol sales in the general public sections of stadiums is expected to be the hot button topic that will drive the conversation among school presidents, athletic directors and coaches:

Many of the conference’s high-ranking administrators are optimistic that league presidents will not only seriously discuss the alcohol ban but will overturn an archaic policy that exists in no other major conference. The bylaw will be “front and center” during the four-day event at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort, says one athletic director; another AD says it’s “the main thing.” The administrators spoke to Sports Illustrated on a condition of anonymity.

It probably goes without saying that SEC fans have been clamoring for overturning the rule and expanding sales beyond the club areas where adult beverages are currently allowed to be sold. The conference is one of the few holdouts in this area as college football has swung back from being relatively dry the past decade-plus. Half the Big Ten will permit sales in 2019 and other programs like Oklahoma became the latest big program elsewhere to join the trend earlier this month.

There’s two positives supporters of an SEC repeal will no doubt trot out next week, the first being the increased revenues schools can make by opening up sales and the other being the decrease in binge drinking just prior to kickoff. The latter in particular is not something likely to escape the conference presidents given some of the game day atmospheres in the league.

We’ll see if things ultimately get over the finish line in terms of a repeal after a few years of discussion but it probably speaks to the health of the league that throwing a few drinks back is the topic de jour down in Destin this year.

Thanks to resurgence under Kirby Smart, Georgia donors have contributed $140 million the past two years

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Kirby Smart is just plain good for business at Georgia as much as the head coach is for the Bulldogs on the field.

Like, really good for business.

The Athens Banner-Herald recapped a number of the financial figures for UGA athletics’ recently approved 2020 budget and while the overall $153.89 million figure was notable and the projected $44.5 million distribution from the SEC Network somewhat striking, it was one nugget buried in the story that was really eye-opening:

‘Fueled by the football team’s success the last couple of seasons under coach Kirby Smart, donors have contributed about $140 million total over the last two years.’

$140 million over two years!

“Sustainability in college athletics is an ongoing challenge and we are fortunate to be one of the few institutions being on solid ground,” AD Greg McGarity told the board.

We’ll say. That $140 million figure over two years is slightly more than what fellow SEC peers Kentucky and South Carolina brought in just last year in terms of total revenue, per USA Today’s finances database, and even if you split it in two is still a figure that greatly exceeds most Group of Five programs entire budget. And keep in mind this is just donations for the Bulldogs, not revenues from media deals, ticket sales and other items.

Given that UGA has made the national title game and the Sugar Bowl the past two seasons, it’s probably not a huge surprise to see a big uptick in donations but that quite the whopper of a figure thanks to the Smart-led resurgence in Athens.

Wyoming set to ask the state for funds to help with War Memorial Stadium renovation

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Add Wyoming to the long, long list of FBS schools hoping to complete a facelift for their home stadium over the next few years.

According to the Gillette News Record, the Cowboys are all set to ask the state for nearly $50 million in funds to help with the renovation of War Memorial Stadium and other athletics projects such as a pool.

“On the lower west side, the treads and the risers in the bleacher section and the press box are far below Mountain West Conference standards and we need to find a way to upgrade that,” athletic director Tom Burman told the paper. “We’re going to need, as part of our vision, to make fans feel better, whether it’s back-rests or chair-backs or better concessions. They have an expectation level of what Saturday football’s supposed to be like and it’s very different from what we provide.”

The total cost for the stadium and pool, which are not being separated in the request to the state for funds, is expected to cost $74.2 million. Some $24.6 million is expected to be fundraised by the school with the rest covered by the money provided by the legislature.

War Memorial Stadium seats just over 29,000 people for Cowboys home games but has really only seen minor renovations to upgrade the venue in 2004 and 2010. Given that the venue was built in 1950 and only expanded to near its current capacity in the 1970’s, it’s understandable why the school wants to upgrade the home football experience as a result.

Wyoming opens their 2019 season in Laramie against Missouri on August 31.