Opinion: Fancy facilities are fine, but aren’t as important as some fans think
One of the hallmarks of Kirby Smart’s tenure as Georgia coach has been the push to upgrade the Bulldogs’ facilities. The next step in that process is a brand new football building set to open after the G-Day spring scrimmage game in April. However, even with the new digs, UGA is still apparently behind some of the sport’s power programs.
247Sports ranked UGA 18th in its list of top facilities for 2021.
Clemson topped the list, followed by Oregon at No. 2. Reigning national champion Alabama was third.
There are also some oddities near the top. South Carolina, which, let’s be honest, is not an elite program is fifth on the list. Northwestern is eighth — which makes me think the folks at 247 might have accidentally ranked its library instead of its weight room. Illinois is 13th.
For some UGA fans, this is frustrating. How could the Bulldogs be working to keep up with programs that are lucky if they’re bowl eligible in most seasons?
It’s a fair question, but the best answer might be that the issue isn’t so much with UGA’s facilities as it is with the assumption that constructing pristine buildings heavily contributes to winning.
It seems as if it should. After all, Alabama and Clemson have combined for five of the last six national championships.
Furthermore, Ohio State and LSU, the other two programs to win national championships in the Playoff era, are sixth and seventh respectively in these rankings.
However, among the four schools, only LSU upgraded its current facility prior to winning its national championship, and even in that case, it was only by a matter of months. LSU moved into its new building and won the national championship in 2019.
In other words, it’s easy to assume fancy buildings are a catalyst that leads to championships. But it seems more likely they’re a reward that follows them.
Which leads to another question. If facilities aren’t as crucial to success as some think, then what does matter?
As I said this week on DawgNation Daily, It’s the staff Smart is able to assemble that matters more than anything.
UGA is one of the richest programs in college football — near the top in revenue generated each year. If it wants to spend some of that money to build nicer offices, meeting rooms and weight rooms then there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, the return on investment for people will always be higher than it is for commercial real estate.
Earlier this offseason, defensive coordinator Dan Lanning turned down a chance to take the same job at Texas. Lanning got a big raise in the process. He’ll make $1.7 million in 2021 — $400,000 more than he made last year.
Another coach who was rumored to be considered for other jobs, running backs coach Dell McGee, also got a raise. He’ll make $800,000 this year after making $625,000 in 2020.
The raise apparently has McGee — who has been in the same job since Smart was first hired in 2016 — feeling appreciated.
McGee spoke to reporters this week and raved about his experience at UGA.
“I really enjoy working for Coach Smart, McGee said. “We have a great relationship, and I think that adds to this being the best job in the country to coach running backs.”
Good facilities are nice, but being able to keep quality assistants such as Lanning and McGee happy and loyal is even better.
In other words, the new facility UGA is about to open may one day house a national championship trophy. But if it does, it won’t be because of the building. It will be because of the coaches that work inside the building.