I wanted to unpack a couple more things from yesterday’s announcement about Georgia beefing up its future scheduling. First, here’s how what we’ve had confirmed plays out:
2019: Notre Dame, at Georgia Tech
2020: vs. Virginia (in Atlanta), Georgia Tech
2021: at Georgia Tech
2022: vs. Oregon (in Atlanta), Georgia Tech
2023: at Georgia Tech, at Oklahoma (not official yet)
2024: vs. Clemson (in Atlanta), Georgia Tech
2025: at UCLA, at Georgia Tech
2026: UCLA, Georgia Tech
2027: at Florida State, at Georgia Tech
2028: Florida State, at Texas, Georgia Tech
2029: Texas, at Clemson, at Georgia Tech
2030: Clemson, at Georgia Tech
2031: Georgia Tech
2032: Clemson, at Georgia Tech
2033: at Clemson, Georgia Tech
Add in one more home game with Oklahoma, and that’s really something.
Now, I like to think I have a decent grasp of how Kirby’s football mind works, and while I have little reason to believe this wasn’t a primary consideration behind the push…
… I do not doubt for a moment that he offered this ($$) sincerely.
They also believe that in an era of dwindling attendance for weaker opponents, Georgia fans will respond well to strong home-and-home agreements. “We think that’s going to be the lay of the land,” Smart said. “The fan, what they’re asking for and what they’re paying for tickets, they want to see those kinds of games.”
This is, in all facets, one of those rare win-win-win situations, good for recruiting, for the fan base and for the box office.
It’s pretty obvious from these comments (as well as the few tepid remarks McGarity added), that Kirby is driving this particular train. He deserves a ton of credit for getting B-M to abandon its knee-jerk approach to scheduling seven home games regardless of the number of cupcakes it takes to get there. Raising the quality of the schedule is good for business, because at its heart, it’s a fan-friendly call.
Certainly there’s a greater risk of losing a game as a result, but Smart deserves credit for embracing that risk.
“We’re not running from Power 5s,” Smart said. “(The selection committee) has proven that later games in the year have more impact on who makes the Playoff, so if you can get a Power 5 team late in your schedule, I’m talking the last three or four weeks, you’ve got a chance to spike and send yourself into that conversation.”
It’s not exactly on point, but that strikes me as somewhat echoing the calculated move Bobby Bowden made with FSU’s “we’ll play anyone” scheduling approach early in his tenure in order to elevate the national perception of that program. That canny decision worked as intended, and it’ll be interesting to see if this move pays similar dividends with the selection committee’s appraisal of Georgia in the coming years.
Mike Griffith makes this point with regard to another position Smart has taken:
Smart, a former All-SEC safety at Georgia himself, has been a proponent of a nine-game SEC schedule, too.
“I’ve always been in favor or a nine-game schedule, (but) it’s not my decision to make,” Smart said last October, asked his thoughts on adding another league game with respect to the fact that UGA made its first trip to LSU since 2008 and under the current model wouldn’t be in Baton Rouge again until 2030.
“I think it (would be) a good thing, but I think you will have teams with more losses,” Smart said. “Does it affect a team getting in the playoff? I don’t know, but I know you have a lot more games to get up for, a lot more good rivalry games.
“It’s not just about traveling, it’s just as much about the atmosphere of playing an SEC opponent, I think you are playing more comparable teams to your talent level, I think it’s important for college football.”
You’re preaching to the choir there, Kirby.
Of course, the difference is that upgrading the home-and-homes only takes McGarity’s consent; a nine-game conference schedule is a matter above McGarity’s paygrade. (Yeah, yeah, keep your snarky comment to yourself here.) But again, from a business standpoint, over the long-term it makes more sense because it gives the fans more product to be engaged with. Will Georgia take a more public lead in getting the rest of the conference to change its mind? It would sure beat the hell out of Michael Adams’ crusades.
Which brings me to what provided the most impetus for this post. You may recall that Nick Saban has groused a good bit about students cutting out early from Alabama’s routine seal-clubbing of cupcakes. While you might think that a schedule upgrade would be the most obvious way to fix some of that, apparently that’s not how they think in Tuscaloosa. This is how they think.
An email sent Monday to every corner of the University of Alabama campus had Nick Saban’s fingerprints all over it.
The message from the school’s athletic department alerted students about their options for buying tickets, informing them of their eligibility for both full and split packages that included a select number of home games.
There was also a section outlining the prices — $20 for an SEC matchup and $15 for one of those rent-a-win affairs.
Then, at the very end, was a note describing a new initiative called “Tide Loyalty Points.”
“Through the Tide Loyalty Points program, students will earn points for attending home football games and for their support in the 4th quarter,” the email read. “Those points will contribute to students’ priority access to regular and postseason tickets.”
What a grim way to get kids — you know, the folks you hope will turn into future season ticket holders one day — to hang around long enough to satisfy the head coach. That’s meant literally, by the way.
“Look, our players work too hard and they deserve to have everything and people supporting them in every way and have tremendous spirit for what they’ve done,” Saban said last fall. “And they might not be able to continue to do it and we’re going to work hard to continue that but there’s a part of it that other people need to support them, too. And there has to be a sprit that makes it special to play here because that’s what makes it special to be here. And it that’s not here, does it continue to be special to be here or not? That’s the question everybody has to ask and I’m asking it right now.”
Admittedly, I’ve done my share of mocking the way Kirby has tried to turn the fan base into a G-Day prop for recruiting, but he’s never pretended that the program is entitled to fan support in the way that Saban proposes. When it comes to spending my money and my passion, if I’ve got to choose between a place that’s made a conscious decision to chase both by offering a higher level of entertainment in the competitive sense and a place that makes it an almost joyless obligation… well, that’s not really much of a choice.
I never thought I’d see the day when I could honestly say that the Georgia football program has approached something in a way more worthy of respect than Alabama has, but here we are. At least in one area, the pupil has clearly surpassed the master. Thanks, Kirby.