football Edit

Georgia after Fox: Who benefits? Is it an attractive job?

Georgia’s administration decided to go in a different direction today after nine years of Mark Fox serving as the head coach. The Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament twice under Fox, but could never quite turn the corner of consistently being in the field of 68. What led to Fox’s dismissal at Georgia? Which schools could benefit? Can you win at Georgia? We answer those questions as the Dawgs search for their next head coach.

Evans Seven: Coaches on the hot seat

RANKINGS: 2018 Rivals150 | 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150 | 2018 Team | 2018 Position

Mark Fox
Mark Fox (AP Images)

WHY MAKE THE CHANGE? 

There are different layers to Georgia's decision to make a change. The first reason would simply be that it just feels like it's time to make the move. After nine years in one place, a school knows what they have in a coach. They know his strengths, his weaknesses and where he stacks up among his peers in the conference. Georgia’s fan base has grown tired of being on the wrong side of the bubble for the past few years, and now the administration decided it is ready for more, too.

The biggest issue for Fox may be that he missed out on the NCAA Tournament last year with this year’s AP SEC Player of the Year (Yante Maten) on the roster paired up with another star in JJ Frazier. With two of the best players in the history of the program on the roster for the past three seasons before this season, Georgia played in one NCAA Tournament game.

Recruiting has always been an issue for Fox. Having Jonas Hayes on his staff as the ace recruiter helped Georgia land some quality players on the current roster, but the Dawgs still let some top talent leave the state. Those players could have changed the program’s landscape, and some of them have turned rivals Alabama and Auburn into NCAA Tournament teams.

Lastly, Fox finished this season with only two years left on his contract with a buyout of $1.1 million. That means Georgia either had to extend him for the purposes of him being able to recruit or make the change and start over. Ultimately, they chose to head in a new direction.

WHO BENEFITS? 

Georgia always has been and probably always will be a state where coaches flock to recruit the abundance of talent available. Auburn and Florida State, in particular, have taken top players out of Georgia’s backyard in recent years, but the truth is there are too many players in the state for Georgia to secure them all. There will always be situations in which Georgia takes a commitment from one player at a position and another player they let go at the same position in the same class turns out to be a star elsewhere, like Kamar Baldwin.

The most immediate school to benefit from Fox’s departure will be the school that ends up landing Ashton Hagans. The five-star point guard who is currently in the 2019 class could end up re-classifying into the 2018 class, and was committed to Georgia for a few months before it became clear that Fox wasn’t going to be back. If Georgia hires the right coach and keeps Jonas Hayes on staff, the Bulldogs just might be able to reel him back in. If not, there could be a school that adds one of the best pure point guards in the country as a result of Georgia’s coaching change. Elias King, a four-star wing in the 2019 class, could open up his recruitment as well.

Georgia’s next coach will first need to firm up the 2018 and 2019 classes, but the 2020 class will be a big one for the Dawgs. One of the first priorities needs to be Georgia legacy four-star big man Walker Kessler, whose brother (Houston), uncle (Alec) and father (Chad) all played for the Bulldogs. The 2020 class in Georgia also features Anthony Edwards, Brandon Boston and Sharife Cooper, among others.

CAN YOU WIN AT GEORGIA? 

Given the amount of talent that comes out of the Peach State and the surrounding region, the answer is yes. You can absolutely win at Georgia. Tubby Smith had it rolling before dipping for Kentucky. Jim Harrick had the program in the Top 10 before off-the-court issues derailed his tenure.

It took a historically great coach in Billy Donovan to make it happen, but Georgia should look no further than Florida for inspiration of what its program could become. Mark Fox leaves a pretty talented roster that a new coach could build on pretty seamlessly to have early success. Georgia doesn’t need to sign the Collin Sexton’s and Wendell Carter’s of the world to win at a high level, but rather find the four-star and higher ranked three-star prospects who fit the new coach’s style. Winning with upperclassmen while occasionally adding a highly ranked player seems like the recipe for success.

Georgia made renovations to Stegeman Coliseum last off-season that make it a much more attractive venue. The football program appears to be rolling and bringing more national attention to the school, which can only help. The rest of the league is better, and the reputation of the league is improving. If Georgia commits to paying for a quality coach and giving him the money to hire proven recruiters to reel in the in-state talent, the Georgia job can be a very good one.