Originally created 11/23/05

Gailey deserves praise, not scorn



For those Georgia Tech fans predisposed to not liking Chan Gailey, the majority of this story will clash your viewpoint. But hang with me just a minute.

Let's begin with a firm criticism. What in Sam Houston was Gailey thinking by letting Reuben Houston play Saturday night? There was nothing in the court order saying the accused felon must be reinstated to the team that said the coach had to let him on the field.

If Georgia or Miami or some other big-time program had suited up and used an alleged drug dealer under indictment, the national outcry would have been deafening and the criticism stinging. Gailey and the Jackets got a complete pass on even a local scale, perhaps because people felt the Institute had suffered enough already during a Jekyll-and-Hyde week that ranged from embarrassing to invigorating. Still, this was the most shameful chapter.

That said. Let's move onto the aspect of last week that got Georgia Tech Nation (if you can call it that) into a complete froth before Saturday night's stirring upset of No. 3 Miami. No, not the school's first-ever NCAA sanctions for lack of institutional control or the various vacated victories in recent years for using ineligible players.

What really got Yellow Jackets sniping at one another on various Web sites and chat rooms was the contract extension granted to Gailey and the unfortunate words of realism uttered by Dave Braine, the school's athletic director. Until Saturday night's unexpected victory over the Hurricanes, the pair's approval rating had dipped somewhere below presidents Bush and Michael Adams.

Earlier this year, a Sports Illustrated writer labeled Gailey the "worst" head coach in the country, which is stunning considering Chuck Amato (N.C. State) is right there in the same conference.

Apparently, a lot of Georgia Tech people agreed.

They're all wrong, of course. Personally, I believe Gailey is a heck of a football coach. Leading Georgia Tech to at least seven wins four consecutive seasons in THIS version of the ACC is pretty darn good. Not special, but pretty good and worthy of the opportunity to improve.

Yes, there have been glaring inconsistencies. But in case you haven't looked around the ACC and SEC lately, that's a universal problem hardly exclusive of the Yellow Jackets (see Maryland, Virginia, N.C. State, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas ...)

Gailey's Yellow Jackets have won twice this season on the

road against teams that are likely to finish the season in the BCS top 10. Can you name the last time Georgia did that? (Answer: never.)

If the Yellow Jackets beat Georgia on Saturday night at home - which is an entirely realistic possibility - they'll have the same record as the Bulldogs. No reasonable person could possibly think the Jackets didn't have a better season.

The Georgia Tech fans who believe Gailey should have had his contract revoked instead of extended are delusional. They claim Georgia Tech is "settling for mediocrity." They just want to plug in another coach every four or five years until they realize the next one and the next one and the next one aren't Bobby Dodd either.

Anyone who tries to compare modern college football to what was played in the 1950s have vacated rational thought. College football was still transitioning out of the era when service academies, Ivy Leagues and Duke were considered nationally relevant. I don't think Princeton or Army base their current expectations on such ancient history.

If you go back to Dodd (who incidentally won more than seven games only once in his last 10 seasons of coaching), the Jackets under eight different coaches have won more than seven games just seven times in nearly 38 completed seasons.

They finished with fewer than seven wins 21 times in that same span. I'd say Gailey is doing something right in an era when it's harder to win seven games than ever.

If this isn't the best-case scenario at Georgia Tech, you're right.

The Yellow Jackets should be capable of competing for a conference title every now and again, and Gailey is the best guy suited to reach that goal. If seven wins is the worst he can do, be happy.

People took issue with Braine saying Georgia Tech shouldn't expect to win 10 games every year (he's right) and that academic restrictions make it one of the tougher coaching jobs in the nation (he's right again, though his whacked-out ranking system that put them behind only Notre Dame and Army is totally ridiculous.) He probably shouldn't have said what he truly thought and everyone deep down truly understands.

Personally, I'm angrier at Braine than anyone wearing old gold and white ever should be.

If he had gone ahead and fired Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech like absolutely every other AD in the country would have done after four losing seasons and none better than 6-5 in six years, the Hokies would never have become the national contender they are today and would still be languishing in the Big Least.

Braine was right then, and he might be right now. Gailey - without the equivalent academic leniency or booster support - doesn't have a chance to do the same things Beamer can do annually at Virginia Tech or Richt at Georgia. But he's done everything required to deserve getting a chance to see if he can lift Georgia Tech to that occasional pedestal.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.