March 10, 2003 ATLANTA Dave Braine has been unable to catch a break. Even in honoring former basketball coach Bobby Cremins the same Cremins that Braine helped forced out in 2000 Tech's athletic director couldn't escape criticism. After being introduced during Bobby Cremins Day at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Braine was greeted by a mixture of muted cheers and hearty boos. On a celebratory day, he was the lone speaker to draw anything but wild enthusiasm.
This comes as some big-time Georgia Tech boosters have made rumblings about wanting to buy Braine out, six years into his original (and lucrative) 10-year contract signed in 1997. Braine has been a lightning rod for passion from Tech fans since arriving in the Flats after 10 years as Virginia Tech's AD. He held the same position at Marshall for three years.
Braine has his staunch defenders, those who point to the general improvement of the entire athletic program. The Yellow Jackets have made six consecutive football bowl games. The men's and women's basketball teams are headed for postseason play; the women for the fourth consecutive time a school record. The baseball team sits atop the rankings a year after making the College World Series. Tech's Olympic sports also have been successful during his tenure. Braine, 59, also draws praise for improving the Georgia Tech Athletic Association, cutting dead weight from the program and bringing fiscal responsibility to the department.
Tech's AD appears to have found a gem in basketball coach Paul Hewitt, hired
from tiny Siena, and Braine's personal skills are generally regarded as solid.
He has a good working relationship with the Atlanta media, hosts a call-in show
during football season and is quick
to respond to correspondence from Tech
Tech's program has been clean since he arrived, free of the NCAA probes and investigations that are currently filling the college landscape. This is particularly important with archrival Georgia facing allegations of improper payments and academic fraud under basketball coach Jim Harrick.
Of course, not every one of Braine's moves has been met with universal acclaim. Some didn't like the somewhat sloppy manner in which Cremins left the program, though even the old coach admits it was time for him to go. Braine's decision to change the seating arrangements at both Bobby Dodd Stadium and Alexander Memorial Coliseum created difficulties for many, and each time the Yellow Jackets fail to sell out a game, the debate turns back to these changes. It's not unheard of to hear the AD blamed for empty seats.
Braine is just the sixth AD in school history, and there's no way he can compete with the considerable shadows cast by former position holders John Heisman (1904-19), William Alexander (1920-50), Bobby Dodd (1951-76) or Homer Rice (1980-97). Each is a legendary figure not just in Tech's impressive athletic history but in all of college athletics.
But the biggest reason for the Braine complaints is the Tech football team and his hiring of head coach Chan Gailey. Football is king in college sports, especially in the South and definitely in Georgia and the thought of going to another Silicon Valley Football Classic rubs many supporters the wrong way. Gailey has taken much of the heat, but some fans have turned their venom toward Braine, the man almost solely responsible for his hiring.
With Georgia seemingly on the verge of fulfilling its football potential, something the Bulldogs have not done except during the Herschel Walker era, the discord among Tech football fans is growing. The grumbling got so loud that Braine felt compelled to write a letter expressing disappointment in the program and pledging his confidence that things would turn around in the offseason. Gailey said the letter was written without his knowledge.
Now Braine must sweat out football season with the looming worry that the $70 million expansion of Bobby Dodd Stadium will be a nice place for Auburn, Clemson and Georgia fans to bring the family.
He would seem to have the backing of the administration in particular president Michael Clough, who has known Braine since their Virginia Tech days. The 10-year, $2.15 million contract Braine signed in 1997 would seem to insulate him against any booster power play.
Still, as is proven every day, money runs college athletic departments. And another drop-off in football revenue caused by poor play and sluggish ticket sales surely would begin to hurt the bottom line, Braine's main charge.
Perhaps Gailey and his rebuilt coaching staff can coax another bowl season in the aftermath of last year's collapse and with a brutal early season schedule ahead. Perhaps Braine can deflect some of the criticism for the thousands of empty seats at Bobby Dodd Stadium to former football coach George O'Leary, who insisted that the upgrades were necessary for recruiting reasons.
Then again, those are the just the type of breaks Braine hasn't been able to catch lately.
Bosh Facing Two Great Options
Freshman forward Chris Bosh, the ACC leader in field goal percentage and blocked shots and the league's second-leading rebounder, is a certain lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft if he makes himself eligible. Some services have him projected as high as the fourth pick overall.
But Bosh, who should be the ACC freshman of the year, hasn't decided if he's going to give up his remaining eligibility for a shot at NBA riches. In fact, Bosh seems to be leaning against the idea of becoming a professional at this point.
At 6-10, with a shooter's touch and a guard's feel for the game, Bosh is a model of what the NBA is looking for in terms of versatility and athleticism. But he's carrying only 220 pounds on that frame and is pushed around at times by some of the ACC's bigger post players.
Bosh would like to add 15 pounds of muscle to give him the strength necessary to hold position in the paint. In the NBA, he surely would be slammed around for a few years. Bosh, whose family is not in dire need of money and who places high importance on education, figures to benefit from at least one more season in the ACC.
An outgoing and engaging teen, Bosh generally has had a very positive collegiate experience thus far. He enjoys the college life, atmosphere, experience and camaraderie. At this point, he doesn't relish the thought of working for a living in the every-man-for-himself NBA.
Hewitt has said repeatedly that the decision is a family matter, but he will provide the Bosh clan with any information he can gather from reliable sources. Bosh has said the decision will come after the season.
Surely, the Yellow Jackets would be among the favorites for the ACC crown next season if Bosh decides to return. Tech brings back its entire roster and adds Arizona transfer Will Bynum, a combo guard who adds depth at point guard, one of the team's major weaknesses this year.
Bosh, who said he treasures the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, surely will consider the possibility of great things next season before making any decision one that can't come soon enough for anxious Georgia Tech fans who are in need of some good news.