Tech's Johnson sending wrong message

Through the media, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson messaged the incoming athletic director early this week that his program is woefully short on both bells and whistles.

The message I’d be more concerned with was the one the coach was sending to a far younger, more impressionable audience.

When Johnson points to Tech’s lack of facilities and manpower compared to Clemson and wonders, “How can the expectation be to beat them?” he is also poisoning his players’ minds with some very toxic doubt.

Whatever the public expectation is of Georgia Tech football, the expectation within that locker room – whether it comes equipped with a nap room or not – should be that you can beat the world. It is the coach’s job to inflate that belief, not chip away at it with complaints of sub-standard working conditions and a stingy administration.

The very last thought you’d want swirling inside those helmets would be: “Yeah, how can they expect us to beat them?”

Johnson is no doubt frustrated. He no doubt has some legitimate beefs, some that new AD Todd Stansbury, with his gift for fund-raising, may be able to eventually address even in light of the athletic department’s budgetary limitations. An upgraded locker room, more support staff, a weight room that any recruit would be proud to sweat in – all part of the ever-escalating amenities race in college football.

It’s also true that employing the model of Clemson – which just opened a $55 million football facility that includes an HD theater, barber shop and, yes, a nap room – may be a little overkill.

In Stansbury’s first press conference, he made it clear that not all programs are created equal. Tech has a unique set of conditions and challenges that are separate of a place like, oh, say, Clemson. Conditions, by the way, under which the Yellow Jackets have thrived in the past.

“I think that it’s important that your facilities are in sync with other facilities of your competitors, but I think it’s also important that you’re true to yourself and who you are,” Stansbury said.

“I think what’s really important is understanding who you are, what fits you and making sure you’re providing the best facilities for your coaches and student-athletes so that they can be successful. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want a waterfall in your locker room.”

As much as keeping up with the Clemsons is on Johnson’s mind, he might also concern himself with keeping pace with the Hurricanes and the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils. Until recently, Miami had quite modest facilities for a program of its stature and it has beaten Tech in seven of the last eight meetings. True, North Carolina and Duke are increasingly committing to football, but in the process have beaten Georgia Tech the last two years. You can’t blame the furnishings for that.

You have to wonder: Would a recruit put aside any doubt he had about running Tech’s offense or over whether he could cut it there academically if only he had a more comfortable place to change his clothes? Would Johnson magically begin landing all those 4- and 5-star recruits – and stop scoffing at the system that rated them – if the facilities sparkled just a bit more?

The message that Johnson put out there again this week was dubious on another front, too. Questioning commitment can be dangerous. For it is not uncommon for a program to recommit itself to winning by first bringing in a new coach with a new approach.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.