Crossroads for Cougars and Georgia


The pre-game buzz might not have been apparent to Wednesday evening commuters on the Ravenel Bridge. Only 387 fans showed up at Patriots Point, not enough noise to disturb fiddler crabs in the nearby pluff mud.

But there were more subplots in Georgia's 5-3 victory over the College of Charleston than two episodes of “Seinfeld” and a South Carolina political race combined.

The Cougars (26-22) wanted momentum going into a critical Southern Conference weekend series at The Citadel.

“To go to The Citadel and to play well, we're going to have to do a lot of things right,” head coach Monte Lee said. “But I like our chances with the starting pitching that we have. We have to pitch well out of the bullpen and hopefully we'll swing the bats. They have a great club and it's going to be a tough challenge.”

Georgia (18-28) is grateful for every bit of good news it can get going into a big weekend in Columbia. It's an important series for the Gamecocks' NCAA tournament national seed hopes.

It's desperation time for the Bulldogs, and perhaps for head coach David Perno.

Because Lee's Cougars are three games out of first place in a SoCon logjam and have been to the NCAA tournament two of the last three seasons, they're in the SoCon tournament championship picture.

Which makes Lee a logical candidate for the next coaching vacancy at a major conference program in the South.

Like maybe Georgia.

Perno is a good coach and a swell guy.

He played on the Bulldogs' 1990 national championship team.

Georgia has played in the College World Series three times on his watch, and as recently as 2008 when the Bulldogs lost to upstart Fresno State in the championship series.

But the Law of Standings Gravity dictates someone within the SEC gauntlet must fall into last place, and right now that's Georgia. The Bulldogs are 5-16 in conference play and 14th in the SEC two weeks before the start of the 12-team SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala.

Fair or not, Perno might not be back in 2014 for two reasons:

• 28 games under .500 in SEC play from the start of the 2010 season to now.

• So much recruiting potential in a talent-rich state.

Georgia must win two or three games at South Carolina, no easy task.

As you expect, Lee also is all about the immediate challenge.

“I'll be 100 percent honest with you,” Lee said. “In every job that I've ever had in the game of baseball, I've only focused on the job I have. My motivation for coaching has never been to work up the ladder. It's only to focus on what I have to do in the job I have. If opportunities come about, they come about.”

But College of Charleston should start thinking about a baseball facilities upgrade. To help keep the current coach, or sweeten the deal for the next guy. Though Lee pledges allegiance.

“I'm elated to be coaching where I'm coaching,” Lee said. “I'll never forget the type of opportunity I have at the College of Charleston, to be a head coach at the age that I'm at (36), to be able to coach at my alma mater, to be able to coach at a school that I love. I hope that I coach here for the rest of my career. I love working here.”

The mention of Lee as a job candidate is a good thing.

For Lee. For the College of Charleston. For fans.

Programs with coaches never mentioned for other job possibilities are the ones that really fret.