Following the big Georgia Tech victory — pop the champagne! tear down the goal posts! — the anti-Gary Williams mob has temporarily put aside its torches and pitchforks. After it all came to a head with the public spat between Gary and the athletic department, there seemed to be a backlash against the backlash. Suddenly, if you said anything bad about Gary on the discussion boards or wherever, you weren’t a real Terps fan, or something like that.
Either way, I’m firmly on record as saying he deserves at least one more season after this one. And with a guaranteed three years and $4.2 million left on his contract — and with the cash-strapped university probably reluctant to pay two head coaches at once — he could stick around for a few more seasons regardless of what happens with the team. So Gary lovers probably don’t have much to fear.
But love him or not, there’s still a lot of blood in the water. The program is under a lot of scrutiny right now, and, on the national stage, it’s only getting worse.
Obviously, the infighting has added an extra layer to the intrigue. Yeah, Gary and Debbie Yow buried the hatchet at a news conference, but did anyone really buy it? It might still be going on if the friggin Board of Regents hadn’t called for it to stop. It was like a dysfunctional couple who puts on their finery and throws a big lavish dinner party, but you can still see the woman’s black eye and the man hammering back martinis. The cat is out of the bag. You can’t unblack the eye.
As evidence of this, stories exploring the behind-the-scenes drama, and attacking Gary on a more individual level, are getting more common in the mainstream media (USA Today for one) and the blogosphere (at The Big Lead among other places). Just yesterday, Gary’s recruiting practices were highlighted in an interesting article on the Yahoo! Sports home page — it detailed a rather unimpressive recruiting visit by a local prospect who ended up signing with Carolina. In other words, it’s not the same “What’s Wrong with the Terps?” articles that have cropped up periodically over the past few seasons. The questions have become more pointed: “What’s Wrong With Gary Williams?” or “What’s Wrong With This entire Cockamamie Program?” The media now has two openings to attack (the team’s record and the AD drama), and us readers are sopping it up with a biscuit.
Again, Gary is at least somewhat insulated from all this by loyal Terps fans who try to shout down or shame anyone with a negative opinion. He even seemed to get a mulligan on the Carolina drubbing from the local media. But unless he starts winning, these national voices are going to grow too loud to ignore — and you’re kidding yourself if you think the media’s opinion doesn’t matter. I said before that Gary lovers don’t have much to fear, but that’s not entirely true. Even if Gary doesn’t get the axe, without a turnaround his reputation, his recruiting, and the program will continue to grind against one another. And the farther away we get from the calming lubrication of 2002, and the more these articles appear, the worse that grinding is going to get. Of course, the best cure is winning. Seven games left!
(Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder for USA Today)