I bow to no one in my love for and loyalty to the University of Georgia. I bleed red and black. I have served as president of the National Alumni Association, have been named the university’s outstanding graduate and today endow a professorship as well as fellowships at my beloved Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications. I can never repay my university for what it has done for me.
Luckily, I finished when I did because these days gaining admission to the University of Georgia is no easy thing. Entering freshmen come with an average SAT of 1365 and a grade point average of 4.04. UGA has produced 24 Rhodes Scholars over the past two decades, making it one of nation’s top three producers of Rhodes Scholars among public institutions.
I mention all the above to say my alma mater is more than just football, a fact that seems to escape some of the pea brains on social media who think the sky is falling because the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina and didn’t look overwhelming in defeating Kentucky.
Suddenly, football coach Kirby Smart (6-1 this season, 38-11 overall) has cleats of clay. Grumped one: “We’d like to see a little more imagination and coaching on your feet. Are you up to the task, Kirby? We hope so.” Opined another: “Add a porous defensive secondary to the list of problems, and you have the makings of another disappointing season.” Disappointing? The Bulldogs have had two losing seasons in the past quarter century.
What these geniuses need is a bit of perspective. To them, anything short of a national championship is a bad year. They should have been around during The Drought, a time that will live in infamy when Georgia Tech beat Georgia eight straight years from 1949 to 1956, outscoring the Bulldogs 176–39. That, my friends, is disappointment.
I have no patience with these jugheads spouting their uninformed opinions. To me, they are like the guy who enjoys hitting himself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when he stops.
While they are offering their gems of wisdom to the coaching staff, bereft of the knowledge that they themselves couldn’t coach a kumquat, they may have missed this announcement from the National Institutes of Health.
The University of Georgia has just received an $8 million grant from NIH to create and test new influenza vaccines capable of protecting us against multiple flu strains in one single dose. Total funding could amount to nearly $130 million over seven years if all the options are exercised, which would make it the largest award ever received by UGA.
Is this important? During the 2017-18 flu season, twice as many people died from influenza as were killed in automobile accidents in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48.8 million people were infected, almost a million hospitalized and more than 79,000 died. And the 2019-20 season is just now upon us.
The project will be led by Dr. Ted Ross, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of Infectious Diseases in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the university’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology in collaboration with teams from 14 other universities and research institutes.
Other participants in this effort include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; New York University; UCLA; the University of California, Santa Cruz; the University of North Carolina; the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai; the University of Texas; the University of Rochester; the University of Melbourne; The Mayo Clinic; the Ragon Institute; Emory University and Georgia Tech. If you are into national rankings, I’d say the University of Georgia is in pretty good company.
UGA President Jere Morehead said, “UGA’s investments in biomedical sciences, particularly in the area of infectious diseases, make us eminently qualified to be part of this national initiative.” Clearly, this is not your father’s UGA anymore. The cow college. The party school. We are playing with the big guys now.
Lest you think I have turned into some academic aesthete, please know I still go ballistic when I, along with most of civilization, know we are going to run up the middle on third down or when we give up a third down. I hate third downs.
But no matter how the football team fares, the University of Georgia is winning big where it counts. I would remind the social media twits that there are no disappointing seasons in Athens.
•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.