Time to break the silence and take a stand.
In a fight over a name that has been capably handled by peers at this newspaper and in the community, another voice seemed superfluous. All of the research and public sentiment painted such an obvious picture of what is right that it appeared inevitable that common sense would ultimately reign in the end.
The power of administrative foolishness, however, was sadly underrated.
After the president of the consolidated Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities basically told large crowds during two open forums Thursday that they could take all of their passion and conviction about the school’s gruesome new name and collectively shove it, my own personal choice in this matter became crystal clear.
For as long as my opinions run in this corner of the local sports section, the name Augusta State will live on.
Augusta State will join the permanent ranks of preferred archival lexicon whenever I write about anything related to the Jaguars’ sports program. It follows precedence in cases of other name changes that for one reason of another were deemed unsuitable for personal tastes.
The New Year’s Eve football game in Atlanta is forever labeled the Bowl formerly known as Peach due to a long-standing loathing for corporate monikers.
The upper classifications of college football remain Division I and I-AA because the silly “subdivision” designations were too complicated and a transparent attempt to legitimize the absence of a real playoff.
The guy who claims to have surpassed Hank Aaron’s all-time home run standard has an asterisk affixed to his name as a Scarlet letter because evidence suggests his power was impure and he was routinely a jerk about it.
The team that Clemson beat for the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship last season remains VPI to me because I went to its rival school and know it bugs them.
Now Augusta State’s teams will always be called Augusta State because the Jaguars represent Augusta and should be honored as such.
I have never met this Ricardo Azziz person who puppet-mastered this hostile takeover of the university’s name and turned it into universally reviled punchline. But I’ve spent enough time in Georgia to recognize institutional arrogance at the presidential tier when I see it.
“I would hope the community can move beyond the name,” Azziz said while issuing his final edict despite angry declarations of lost trust by his constituents because of his flagrant disregard for their wishes. “The community is not just Augusta. It is the whole state of Georgia.”
Pardon me, Mr. Azziz, but you don’t get to speak for the community since you clearly have little understanding of it. Long after your reign inevitably ends, Augusta will be stuck with a name no one respects or understands.
No doubt the university and its revered medical school will survive by any name. But my perspective is in athletics and dropping the Augusta will have a deleterious effect on the Jags – especially its high-profile, internationally recognized golf program.
(This of course assumes they’ll still be called Jaguars and not become the Fighting Izzies or something similarly unpalatable.)
Former Augusta State golfer Mitch Krywulycz, a member of the 2010-11 national championship teams, believes the new name will cost the school its lifeline of overseas recruits because it will no longer be instantly recognizable as hailing from the home of the Masters Tournament.
“It sounds like you play for an online school,” he said of the unspeakable new name.
Having that distinctive “A” on team uniforms was a point of pride for the program and the community.
Now it will be relegated to just a footnote. The name Augusta State will disappear from the annual collegiate golf rankings, forcing coaches to explain the relation to it’s maiden name and where the vaguely labeled school is located. Talented golfers such as former Ryder Cup qualifier Oliver Wilson, of England, who signed with Augusta State sight unseen because of the name alone, might pass right over recruiting letters because they don’t want to go to some place that sounds like a lower division commuter school.
(Side note: the last team to win back-to-back national golf titles in the mid-80s before Augusta State was named after its home city as well – the University of Houston. Still is, in fact.)
None of this obviously matters to the puppet-master or the out-of-town Board of Regents who ignored research studies and opted to bolster their own selfish pride instead.
So since the president and regents don’t want to be identified with Augusta, it’s up to us to not “move on” and keep the community at the heart of the school alive.
My advice is to ignore the new name and keep wearing the big “A.”
If we all keep stating “Augusta,” Augusta State will never truly go away.