Georgia Tech made a money grab this week.
The Yellow Jackets moved their Week 3 game against Central Florida to Friday night Sept. 18, so it could be televised by either ESPN or ESPN 2.
In the release the sports information department sent out, athletic director Todd Stansbury made the move sound very “rah-rah” for the fan base.
“We’re appreciative to ESPN for its desire to showcase Georgia Tech football and city of Atlanta in primetime,” he said. “Georgia Tech football under the lights and in the shadow of the Atlanta skyline is one of college football’s great settings, and we’re happy that our student-athletes and fans will have the opportunity to experience night games at Bobby Dodd Stadium twice in the first three weeks of the upcoming season.”
It’s Stansbury’s job, along with the sports information department, to put a good spin on this, and while it might seem on the surface to be a good thing, it is alienating the very people who need to be able to see coach Geoff Collins’ team — the potential recruits he needs to bring to campus.
How? Because now Tech is playing at the same time all those recruits are.
Friday night is for high school football. It’s for the communities, especially in the South, to come together, tailgate, and watch all those players who may one day get to play at the next level.
While the fact that the Jackets will be playing on Friday night bothers me, it doesn’t bother me as much as the big deal Tech made in the release of the fact that Collins contacted “dozens” of high school coaches before making the decision.
“We’re grateful for the support of the campus community for collaborating with us to take advantage of this opportunity to showcase the Institute,” Stansbury said. “We’re also appreciative of the support of the many high school football coaches that coach Collins reached out to before we accepted this opportunity. Friday night high school football is an institution in Georgia and we wouldn’t have considered this rare opportunity without consulting with local high school coaches first.”
While it has been reported that Collins contacted some of the coaches in and around Fulton County before making the decision, it is beginning to appear as if he forgot that some of the best high school football in Georgia is played in Cobb County, which is home to Marietta and Harrison — the current state champions in the two highest classifications — not to mention the home of seven current players on the Jackets’ roster.
I emailed all 21 GHSA football coaches in the county. A little more than half replied back. To this point, not only were our coaches not contacted by Collins or anyone on his staff, but if he would have asked them about moving the game to Friday, the coaches as a whole would have said it was not a good idea.
“I think it takes away from the great thing Cobb County has going with high school football,” one coach said.
“I think it’s a bad idea for any college to play on Friday night. It’s the high school’s time to play,” said another.
Another issue that should be front and center is the fact that by playing on Friday night, Collins’ staff loses an opportunity to go and watch those potential recruits who are the lifeblood of college football. And, lets face it, considering the Yellow Jackets went 3-9 last season, and Collins has to completely retool an offensive roster that was recruited to run the triple-option, they need all the face time they can get with the coaches and players in the Atlanta metro area.
The 2020 high school football schedules are due in to the GHSA next week, and so far, here are some of the Cobb County games the Georgia Tech coaches will miss that Friday: Wheeler vs. Lassiter, Kell vs. Kennesaw Mountain, Pope vs. South Cobb, North Cobb vs. Etowah, Harrison vs. Westlake — as well as all of those from everywhere else around the state.
For a new coach and a new coaching staff wanting to turn a program around and bring it back to the top of the ACC, this is not the way to build those strong relationships. It gives the appearance that the Jackets are turning their back on the coaches and players in the area for a few dollars.
In the end, colleges play on Saturday. If Tech wants to take advantage of a prime time TV slot where there aren’t any other college games, it should leave the ACC and join the Mid-American Conference so it can play on Tuesday.
For future reference, leave Friday night alone.