Friday, December 22, 2006

Ball's Out for the Gator Bowl

BuzzFor the first time in four seasons, the Georgia Tech Football Team will be quarterbacked by someone not named Reggie Ball, well there was that one start last season when he was too sick to play, but our opponent that day was UConn! Unfortunately, this is Ball's last game as a Yellow Jacket and would've been his first New Year's Day bowl game - the last three bowl games were minor affairs after mediocre seasons. But this time, we're playing a high powered, high scoring West Virginia team with a quarterback that seems to find a way into the end zone more times than not!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Reggie Ball will be replaced by his backup Taylor Bennett, who's only other start during his 3 years on the Flats was the earlier mentioned UConn game, in which he threw a touchdown on his first snap from scrimmage. Reggie Ball has been ruled academically ineligible and will have to sit out the last game of his college career.

NCAA rules require that players be in good academic standing. They also require seniors to pass at least six hours in the fall semester to be eligible for a bowl. Tech rules require seniors to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to play, according to the athletics department Web site. Academic advisers and assistant coaches track athletes' academic progress, but Head Coach Chan Gailey is quoted as saying with seniors, "you rely more on their evaluation [of whether they're in trouble academically]."

Though, often maligned as not being "media-friendly," aloof, and worse... Tech fans are indebted to Reggie Ball for producing 4 winning seasons, 4 bowl appearances, more starts than any other Georgia Tech quarterback, the second most wins by a Georgia Tech quarterback, 2 clutch wins over Auburn (one at Jordan-Hare Stadium), 2 big wins over Miami (one at the Orange Bowl), and this season's trouncing of Virginia Tech. The biggest blemish on his record has been Tech's inability to slay those dreaded Georgia Bulldogs during the last 4 seasons (even though the last two outings were close games that were won on the last possession of the game).

The ACC Championship Game was the second big letdown for the team and the fans, after losing to Georgia to end this season. Ball didn't have his best game and we ended up losing the ACC Championship to an inferior Wake Forest team. Wake Forest goes to a BCS Bowl (Orange Bowl)... and Georgia Tech was relegated to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.

UPDATE 12-23-2007: The AJC reports that Reggie Ball will appeal his "D" grade in a class that made him academically ineligible, but it won't get him back in Georgia Tech's bowl game.


Next, congratulations to my Kappa Alpha Psi frat brother and starting Georgia Tech tight end Michael Matthews. Big Mike will be playing in his final game as a Yellow Jacket in the Gator Bowl, but more importantly, he received his degree from Georgia Tech last week! I wish him and his family all the best because his future is so promising.

Reggie BallNow, I can pontificate on this Reggie Ball situation. I hate to see this young man go out like this. He has played on one of the biggest stages (prime time national television) and has stared down some of the nation's fiercest opponents, but Reggie Ball is still a kid, his best days are before him. I'd be loath to "pile on" someone who is barely out of his teens for failing to keep up his grades while being at the helm of a top(?) Division 1-A football program since his freshman season (his very first game as a freshman was a rousing upset of visiting Auburn - yeah, that Auburn with Jason Campbell and Cadillac Williams!).

And this also begs the question is how can someone be at Georgia Tech for 4 years and then SUDDENLY not be able to play the last game of his career because of academic problems? Grade problems don't just crop up during the last week of a semester. Since the loss to UGA, there has been a LOUD cry for his backup to play; I have a sinking feeling that if Georgia Tech had won one of the last two games, he'd be playing on New Years Day!

It is a tough row to hoe, being a college student and a semi-professional athlete at the same time. These young men have to practice, attend study sessions, review game film, go to class, meet with classmates and professors, pay their bills, deal with their families and friends... and then put on a show every Saturday afternoon in the fall. Some guys will handle this better than others. Some guys will succeed where others will not fair so well. Georgia Tech is a tough academic environment, there were times when I struggled at Georgia Tech, and I didn't have to worry about running from 290 lb linemen every Saturday who's main intent was on rearranging my bone structure!

Some will say that these young men get paid with a free education. I say that is BULLSH*T! Georgia Tech will receive more than $4 million dollars just for showing up at the Gator Bowl, their payout would've been over $10 million dollars if they had beaten Wake Forest and gone to the Orange Bowl! These young men are pimped by college athletic programs for their god-given talents and entertainment value. The colleges and universities always get much more than the value of tuition, room, and board.

I feel bad for Reggie Ball and I'm glad that I didn't use my season ticket status buy tickets (and rent a hotel room and buy plane tickets) to attend the Gator Bowl. I think it is an affront to my intelligence and the intelligence of the fans to think that we couldn't figure out that when BIG MONEY is involved, these college football programs will do almost anything to appease the fan base. I hope we beat West Virginia, but I have a feeling that Pat White & Company is going to run us out of the gym (i.e. score ALOT more points than us)!

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