ATHENS, GA — R.E.M. is getting back together, but not in the way fans might have expected or even wanted.
Amid scrutiny and second guessing over the resignation and suspected firing of beloved coach Mark Richt, University of Georgia officials have also fired Richt’s entire coaching staff and named the former members of the Athens-based rock group as their successors next season, sources confirm.
Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, one UGA booster stood by the strange decision, saying that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry — despite having zero experience running a football team at any level and practically zero knowledge of the game itself — will nonetheless “take their instincts by the reins and lead the Dawgs back to the top of the SEC where they belong.”
“Let’s begin again,” said Coach Stipe to a throng of ESPN reporters who seemed to doubt his ability to lead a major football program to success. “Let’s begin again, like Martin Luther Zen. Let’s put our heads together, start a new football program up.”
When reporters questioned Stipe about his plan for approaching conference heavyweights like Alabama, Florida, and LSU, Stipe mumbled, “Try to win, suit your needs, speak out sometimes. Try to win.”
At a press conference in an abandoned church, reporters had the opportunity to probe the new coaches on how they would adjust to life between the hedges at Sanford Stadium and orchestrating a game they know next to nothing about.
“Who are you recruiting, Coach?” a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Stipe.
“A gathering of grunts and greens, of cogs and grunts and hirelings,” said Coach Stipe.
“And defense? What about defense?” yelled a reporter from Fox Sports.
“I’ve a rich understanding of our finest defenses,” said defensive coordinator Mike Mills. “I proclaim the claims are left unstated. If our defense allows too many points, I’ll demand a rematch. I’ll decree a stalemate. I’ll divine our deeper motives. It’s pretty simple, really.”
Following an awkward silence, new special teams coordinator and former drummer Bill Berry — who was joining his former bandmates for the first time on a stage since their 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — added, “Defense, defense, defense! Yeah, yeah, yeah! Ignoreland! Ignoreland!”
Offensive coordinator Peter Buck laughed. “Good one, Bill! You know, we were never quite the same as a band without you. I’m glad we’re all together again coaching a major conference football team.”
When a writer for the Athens Banner-Herald asked Stipe how the four musicians-turned-coaches would prep for next season’s first conference game against Ole Miss, Stipe said, “The Hyenas will be crawling on their bellies when our Dawgs are done with them, you mark my word!”
“Haha, yes, it will be Ole Miss’s final act in the beginning of time when those Hyenas face the Dawgs!” added Coach Mills. “Get it, Michael, get it?”
Coach Stipe nodded at the defensive coordinator and former bassist with a wink, while Coach Berry drummed on the conference table and Coach Buck downed a Bud tallboy while picking a mandolin.
When a reporter reminded the four coaches that Ole Miss is not the Hyenas but the Rebels, Coach Stipe murmured, “Johnny Reb, what’s the price of fans? Forty apiece or three for one dollar?”
According to sources, reporters couldn’t tell if the new coach was insulting Ole Miss fans or making an obscure reference to Confederate soldiers crafting and selling trinkets during the Civil War.
Following the press conference at the abandoned church, UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity organized a meet-and-greet for the new coaches and their players at Weaver D’s, followed by an impromptu practice beneath a kudzu-engulfed train trestle.
New offensive coordinator Peter Buck is reported to have told quarterback Greyson Lambert to “keep things jangly” and the offensive line to “just jump and kick at random intervals, like you’re clanging out a hard riff on a Rickenbacker, like I do on ‘Welcome to the Occupation.’”
When the linemen looked at Buck in confusion, sources confirm the new coach said, “You know, that song on Document ? ‘Sugar cane and coffee cup, copper, steel, and cattle’? ‘Annotated history’? ‘The forest floor, the fire’? That one? Our bold, creative critique of Reagan-era politics? Anybody?”
When the reference failed yet again to register with the 19-year-olds who were wondering how they were supposed to have an effective football practice in a kudzu thicket, Coach Buck downed another tallboy, according to reporters on the ground.
When practice finally commenced, Coach Stipe called the first play: “Wooden beams and dovetail sweep, wooden beams and dovetail sweep!” the former UGA art student hollered into his microphone, communicating to his quarterback.
“I don’t know that one, Coach,” said Lambert.
“Make of the play call whatever you want,” Stipe responded to his star quarterback, who was immediately sacked while trying to decipher his coach’s cryptic play call.
“I sit at my table, wage war on myself. It seems like it’s all, all for nothing,” whispered Stipe.
“Suspicion yourself, suspicion yourself, and don’t get caught,” Coach Buck told his running backs in a huddle. When the players once again did not get the offensive coordinator’s reference to an obscure song written years before they were born, Buck, who was wearing a bath robe, reportedly cracked another beer, retrieved a phonograph from his car, and instructed the entire Bulldog offense to sit and listen to Chronic Town start to finish on vinyl.
“Oh, I get it now!” said a freshman wide receiver. “In a corner garden, while the lower wolves. The feelings that broke through that door just didn’t seem to be too real.
It’s finally all coming together!”
Following a disastrous practice, reporters pressed Stipe for comment. “There’s a progress we have found, a way to talk around the problem,” said the new head coach, neither moved nor unmoved.
“It’s appropriate that R.E.M.’s last great album was New Adventures in Hi-Fi, because this coaching gig will certainly be a new adventure for Stipe and the boys,” conference rival Alabama head coach Nick Saban told reporters via Skype. “I wish them all the best, though I don’t see how they’re going to compete against us.”
“Oh, it’s on!” Coach Stipe reportedly said in a Sports Illustrated exclusive interview responding to Saban’s comments. “Stomp gravity into the floor! It’s a Man Ray kind of sky, and the Dawgs will show the Crimson Tide what we can do with it!”
At press time, new special teams coach Bill Berry was overheard telling a sophomore kicker that his only job was to not fuck things up, to keep a consistent rhythm, and to occasionally step out of his role player mode to deliver a big win.
“Just like you did on Automatic for the People, Coach?” the kicker said.
“Just like I did on Automatic for the People, son” Coach Berry replied. “You know, I wrote the music to ‘Everybody Hurts.’ I have a feeling we’ll be playing that one a lot in the locker room next season.”