Originally created 11/27/02

Gailey preparing for first matchup with in-state rival Georgia



ATLANTA -- During his eight seasons in the NFL, Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey took part in a few rivalry games: Cowboys-Redskins. Steelers-Browns. Dolphins-Jets.

Do any of those matchups compare with the Yellow Jackets' showdown Saturday with No. 5 Georgia?

"Nope," Gailey said Tuesday.

Gailey, in his first year at Georgia Tech, will be a major part of the in-state rivalry for the first time. A native of Americus, he grew up as a fan of both schools, but he had a hard time recollecting any memories of the annual game from his childhood.

"My memory is so bad," he said.

Recruited by Georgia out of high school but not offered a scholarship - "There's a difference," he said - Gailey wound up at Florida. Again, the Gators had rivals, but because allegiance was spread among the other schools in the state, there wasn't one game that stood out.

Nothing like Georgia Tech and Georgia, that is, even though it's a nonconference game.

"There'd probably be a little more at stake, from that standpoint," Gailey said. "But other than that, there can't be much more at stake than bragging rights for 365 days."

Nearly two years ago, Gailey interviewed with Georgia after Jim Donnan was fired, but the timing wasn't quite right. Gailey, then the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, wanted to stay with the team through the playoffs, and Georgia wanted to hire someone quickly.

So Gailey stayed with the Dolphins, and came to the Yellow Jackets a year later. Soon, he was hearing from boosters about the importance of beating the Bulldogs.

"They wanted to make sure I knew the importance of the game," Gailey said. "It didn't take long to pick up on that and bring it up before they had a chance."

He's passed that on to his players.

"I think coach Gailey understood more about it than I did when he first walked in," linebacker Recardo Wimbush said. "Earlier in the year, when we played Florida State, he said he didn't understand what we didn't like about those guys until we stepped on the field.

"But he has an understanding for this Georgia game, because you hear about it all the time."

Georgia (10-1) already has locked up a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game, and any hopes of a chance to play in the national title game probably disappeared with Ohio State's come-from-behind victory over Michigan.

And since the Bulldogs handled Georgia Tech easily last season, winning 31-17 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, they could be looking past this game to where they might fit in the Bowl Championship Series.

"I hope they're not overlooking us, because that'd be a bad thing for them," Yellow Jackets wide receiver Kerry Watkins said.

Wimbush went even further.

"I'm sure they are overlooking us," he said. "They're thinking BCS, that's all they've been hearing lately. So by them overlooking us, they just might end up defeating themselves.

"We're not going to just be a walkover. If they overlook us, it'll be even better for us."