Arts & CultureBlogCulture Briefs

ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ Comes to Athens, Paul Finebaum Speaks

Will be-buzz-cutted ESPN talking head Kirk Herbstreit stop into Mr. Haircut for a little off the top?

Workers were setting up the ESPN “College GameDay” stage in Myers Quad today for what promises to be an absolutely insane football Saturday against LSU. (Pro tip: Unless you’re going tailgating or to the game or to a bar to watch the game, DO NOT, under any circumstances, leave your house tomorrow.)

Gabe Vodicka and I had a chance to talk this morning with ESPN personality Paul Finebaum (whose intelligent and caustic Birmingham Post-Herald columns I grew up reading). Here are his thoughts on Georgia fans, the Dawgs’ title chances, Mark Richt, Michael Adams and whether UGA fans should boo Zach Mettenberger.

Check back at 3:30 p.m. Saturday for our live blog. It’ll be fun, we promise.

Georgia fans are ‘cerebral’? Really?

I’ve always criticized Georgia fans because I don’t think they’re angry enough. We got into this debate a couple of years ago, where I was asking the question, and Georgia had just had a mediocre year, and the fans are still defending Mark Richt. I’m like, they’re not like Alabama fans. Alabama fans were ready to fire Nick Saban after losing one game… Georgia fans are a little more cerebral. I think they appreciate who Mark Richt is, and I do, too. I’ve been critical, and I can’t run away from that. But I have seen the other side of Coach Richt. I was invited a couple years ago to hear him give his testimony and it was truly, and I wrote this in SI at the time when I was working there, it was one of the more remarkable speeches I’ve ever heard from a college football coach. I just thought, “Who else in the SEC could get up in front of 1,000 people and be that raw and that honest?”

On Georgia’s chances of winning a national title:

For Georgia’s sake, and again I’m not here being the bearer of bad news, but my image of Georgia football, unfortunately, is no longer of championships in the SEC, of what happened from before most of you were born with Herschel Walker. It’s that unbelievable frustrating, exasperating shot of Aaron Murray in the end zone at the Georgia Dome, not being able to get that in because one more play and Georgia would’ve been the national champion. It was that simple. And instead of talking about how great Nick Saban is, we would’ve been talking about how the so-called greatest coach in modern SEC history choked the biggest game of the year.

2013-09-27 11.41.22.jpg

Paul Finebaum

On Michael Adams’ reaction to the loss to Alabama last year:

It was College Football Hall of Fame dinner, and I stayed over an extra day and was on a panel for the sports business daily at IMG, and I was on a panel with three other people, including the president of the University of Georgia at the time, Dr. Adams. I’m sitting there at breakfast, and I knew him a little bit, and I just said, “Well, Dr. Adams, how are you doing?” And he looked at me and said, “How do you think I’m doing?” And we started talking about the game. I don’t think I truly understood what that game meant. This is now Thursday, the game ended Saturday night and this man, who’s the president of the university, who has quite a reputation and a record, he can barely talk. He said, “I’ve never been through anything like that in my entire life.”

With all the GameDay hoopla and the crazy fans and social media, has college football gotten too big?

That is true, but that’s like McDonald’s saying, “We made the Big Mac too tasty.” There’s a demand.

On LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s redemption after Mark Richt kicked him off the team for getting fresh with a server at a bar while underage:

Here you have a kid who left here with his head down a couple years ago. I don’t know the circumstances and they’ve been hashed out. He got a second chance, and now he’s coming back. And I daresay tomorrow when he’s introduced, he will get a huge ovation… 

He’s now coming back to where he grew up, to where he wanted to play, where he very likely could’ve been the starting quarterback. Mark Richt told me yesterday he’s pulling for him, within reason. It’s a great story. I think it’s a positive in college football as opposed to some of the other issues that we talk about. 

If some knuckle head in the upper deck who’s been drinking all day wants to boo Zach Mettenberger, go ahead. But I think you’re an idiot if he booed him. I’m not praising what he did, don’t misunderstand me. But I’m praising the fact that he was able to make something or turn a wrong into a right, and now he’s coming back. 

On what would have happened if Mettenberger had stayed at Georgia:

I think Aaron Murray’s the right quarterback. Mettenberger is unproven. Aaron Murray has one signature win, so he’s on a roll… I felt badly for him in [the 2012 SEC championship game] and even leading to the Carolina game, how it was just so easy for people on my side to say, “He’s a fine young kid. He’s what college football’s all about.”