Reflections on the Tennessee-Georgia football game

Not to come between Gov. Perdue and the media, but I'd like to interject myself into the discussion about last week's Tennessee-Georgia game.

Be warned that my perspective may be a little different from yours: as a Chattanooga native and life-long University of Tennessee fan, I was pleased to see the Volunteers' triumph over the Dawgs. That's become about as unexpected in recent years as Wiccans at a Mallory family picnic.

Actually, the fact that I'm still savoring the win a week later is indicative of just where these two programs stand. Under Mark Richt, Georgia has developed into a dominant force in the SEC East. Tennessee, which seemed to compete for the conference championship every year in the '90s, has been unable to duplicate that success of late. Maybe that's because we've been unable to duplicate Peyton Manning.

Still, I've become an admirer, if not a fan, of Georgia's program. I've been especially impressed with Coach Richt, who I think is a very good coach and an even better man. To be honest, I sometimes wish he were Tennessee's coach - but not as much as Georgia fans wished, last Saturday night, that Erik Ainge was their quarterback.

That's not to sell Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer short, given what he's accomplished in Knoxville (two SEC championships, a national title). It's just that he's among the last of the old-school college football coaches, which is a polite way of saying he doesn't exactly look dapper in a warm-up suit.

In contrast, most of the really successful college coaches these days are sharp, relatively young, physically fit guys, like Richt and Florida coach Urban Meyer. The last time Fulmer was physically fit was in 1971.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for a guy who shows the kind of loyalty Fulmer has shown. He played at Tennessee and then was an assistant coach there before becoming head man. No doubt he's had opportunities to leave for more money, but obviously his heart is in Knoxville. So is Buddy's Bar-B-Q.

Fulmer's loyalty is all the more impressive when you consider that, after last season's 5-6 record, 67.3 percent of Tennessee fans wanted him fired. The other 32.7 percent favored execution.

You have to wonder if Richt will show as much loyalty when the University of Miami comes calling this winter with a multi-million-dollar offer. Rumor has it that wealthy Hurricanes boosters have offered not only to buy out Richt's contract but also to put in a good word with Jeb regarding that pesky Lake Lanier water rights controversy.

In closing, as a service to my Bulldog readers, I'd like to leave you with these inspirational words: "Rocky Top, you'll always be / home sweet home to me. / Good ole Rocky Top, / Rocky Top Tennessee."

Those go with the tune that's been playing in your head all week.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.