It’s been a good first week here at The News-Times.
I’ve had the chance to attend a few basketball games and witness National Signing Day in full force, with numerous student-athletes selecting their colleges of choice.
As the winter sports come to a conclusion in the next few weeks, I look forward to throwing myself into the spring sports arena and getting to know local athletes, their coaches and school administrators.
Before coming to the Augusta area with my wife in 2010, I spent the previous five years covering high school athletics in Wuerzburg, Germany, and Okinawa, Japan. During that time, I attended a total of two signings, with both heading to Division III schools.
That’s not taking anything away from those participating in Department of Defense Dependents Schools around the world, especially since I attended Munich American High School in Germany my final two years, but rather to illustrate the amount of talent here in Columbia County and the opportunities that are available.
As a transplanted northerner from Bowie, Md., (while pointing out it is south of the Mason-Dixon line) where I lived for most of my childhood, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Maryland/ACC fan and root for professional outfits like the Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals and Baltimore Orioles. I claim the Washington Wizards only a little. I could still be considered young the last time they were really good.
After two years here, my affinity for those teams has not changed, but I have come to appreciate what we have locally and regionally throughout the collegiate and professional spectrum.
I hope fans here understand what they have. Early exits from the playoffs by the Falcons the past two years, potential underachieving by the Hawks and the late-season collapse by the Braves last fall are disconcerting, but there is something to be said about being in contention and making the playoffs each year.
When I first attended, then starting working, at Bowie State University in the 1990s, most of the teams had been bad for a while and it looked like the Bulldogs would never win any championships. By the time I left in 2003, however, a few disappointments in the conference tournament had spurred the Lady Bulldogs on to three consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball titles (missing a fourth by a last-second 3-pointer), the baseball team had won two conference championships, the men’s basketball team had won a conference title and made it to the NCAA Division II Final Four and other squads had advanced to the championship round in their respective sports.
So all that to say, I hope the area coaches who are potentially on the hot seat are given an exhaustive chance. Mike Smith might just need a few more pieces before the Falcons break through, and I’m glad Mark Richt was able to right the ship after the Bulldogs’ 0-2 start. They look like they’re right on track to compete for another SEC championship in 2012.
Maryland’s football team had a 9-4 record in 2010 and the ACC Coach of the Year in Ralph Friedgen when they decided to make a change. Enter Randy Edsall and a disastrous 2-10 2011 campaign.
I’ll still cheer for Maryland football in the coming year, but I might have to add a local team, although I have started pulling for Georgia Southern already. Steve Spurrier has done a good job making the Gamecocks relevant, but after what he did during his tenure with my beloved Redskins, I might have to look to Athens.