I was watching the 1995 Georgia vs. Georgia Tech game on ESPN Classic over the weekend. As you may remember, Georgia won 18-17 on the ugliest FG that I had seen to that point.
You also probably remember that it was Ray Goff's last regular season game at Georgia. It had been announced the week before that Goff wouldn't be returning to UGA as coach. During the game, Keith Jackson and Bob Griese called Vince Dooley up to the booth to talk about the search for a new head coach.
They asked Dooley (paraphrase), "What kind of coach are you looking for? A run offense coach, a passing coach, a young guy? What kind of coach?" Dooley laughed and responded, "Mainly, I want a winning coach."
After Dooley left the booth, Jackson, Griese and Lynn Swann compared notes on who was being rumored on the list. It wasn't pretty. The names they threw out were Dan Reeves, Dick Sheridian and then Keith Jackson said, "According to the LA Times, Bobby Ross might be a candidate; although, all of his ties are to Georgia Tech."
At that point, Swann interjected (paraphrase):
"I spoke with Tech's George O'Leary about Ross. He laughed and said that Ross has spoken to Dooley about the job. However, he wasn't listing himself as a candidate. He was recommending someone else."Who could Ross have recommended? Well, I'd wager that man was Ralph Friedgen.
Did Dooley ever seriously consider Ralph? Who knows. We ended up with Kansas coach Glen Mason for roughly 1 week before turning to Jim Donnan.
My knee jerk reaction to thinking about this was to announce to my living room (which was empty at the time) that Ralph was twice the coach that Donnan was. However, upon further reflection, the past 2 years at Maryland have been no great shakes after the blistering start in 2001 when Ralph won the ACC title and 2002 when Maryland took the Vols to the woodshed in the Peach Bowl. I thought...maybe ol' Ralph is a great play caller but a lousy recruiter. Well, Scout.com lists Maryland's recruiting classes as ranked:
2002 - 29thThat's not too shabby for Maryland or any ACC team not named FSU or Miami.
2003 - 22nd
2004 - 16th
2005 - 25th
Regardless, imagine Ralph's high flying offense with Mike Bobo, Robert Edwards and Hines Ward in 1996 and 1997. It's certainly interesting to think about. That said, I think Ralph working at UGA would've hurt GT more than it would've helped UGA.
Georgia Tech hasn't beaten UGA without Ralph Friedgen on the sidelines since 1985. 20 years. Without Big Ralph pulling the strings on "The Flats," the Little Joe flying Circus at GT wouldn't have been so impressive. It's one move that could've changed both schools direction quite a bit.
Donnan or The Fridge. Who would you have taken first...given what we knew in 1995. Not what we know now. And who would've been the better hire?
Unrelated -- but check out Kyle King's article on Mark Richt: UGA Coach for Life.