ATHENS — Some were surprised when Georgia revealed it would be wearing black jerseys for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but not Kirby Smart.
The Bulldogs’ head coach said it was his understanding that CEO and President of the Peach Bowl Gary Stokes had made the request.
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“You’ll have to ask Gary Stokan about the decision, that came from the higher powers that be,” Smart said on his Thursday Zoom call with Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell.
“We’re obliged. Those kids like wearing those. I don’t exactly know the whole deal, but I think it has something to do with both teams wearing their home jerseys.”
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So No. 9-ranked Georgia (7-2) will be in black, and No. 8-ranked Cincinnati (9-0) will be in red when the game kicks off at noon on Friday (TV: ESPN) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Stokan explained the game looks better when both teams are wearing colored uniforms — a trend avoided for years before because of the lack of contrast for those viewing the games on black-and-white TVs.
But with color TVs abound, the savvy Stokan recognizes the opportunity to bring more zest to viewers of the game.
When Georgia played North Carolina in Smart’s very first game as the Bulldogs’ head coach in 2016 — in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game — both teams wore dark uniforms.
Smart ranked it as one of his two “most meaningful” wins at Georgia entering the 2019 season.
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But Stokan said on Thursday Georgia had the opportunity to wear the uniform that it wanted in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
“Kirby is too kind to me and giving me way too much credit,” Stokan said. “I know the Georgia Bulldogs had the opportunity to wear the uniforms they wanted …. at the end of the day, both Coach Fickell and Coach Smart made their decisions.”
Smart, however, wanted to make it clear that he felt his choice was limited to the black jerseys.
“I guess I should say it was brought to me in a light that it was encouraged to (wear dark) colors, and I’m assuming we both couldn’t be in red,” Smart said. “So that’s the way it was presented to me. It wasn’t a narrative where we died to wear black, it was more we had to wear one of our dark colors, and that only gave us two options.”
Fickell seemed to be somewhat amused by the curious nature of the discussion.
“It was presented to me,” Fickell said, “probably the same way it was to Kirby.”
Cincinnati is the designated home team for this bowl game, so it had the first option to wear its darker color uniforms, and Georgia would have traditionally been wearing its white jerseys.
The Bulldogs played only three home games this season. UGA has already worn the black jerseys once, in a 31-24 win at Sanford Stadium over Mississippi State.
Georgia wore its red uniforms three total times the season: Two games in Athens, against Auburn and Tennessee, and then its designated home game with Florida in Jacksonville.
The Bulldogs wore their traditional white uniforms in four road games: at Alabama, at Kentucky, at South Carolina and at Missouri.
The team wore an alternate white uniform commemorating the 1980 national championship team at Arkansas.
Zamir White is seen in the one-time-only uniform Georgia wore in its season opener against Arkansas. (University of Georgia)
Those familiar with the Georgia head coach know that he’s not big on using alternate jerseys as a “motivational gimmick,” and does not want such things to become a distraction.
But on the Chick-fil-A jersey issues, it’s clear he felt his options were limited.
“I believe in the guys going out and playing physical, playing hard; you don’t have to do things like that to get them fired up to do it, I really think they should want to do it,” Smart said in a 2018 interview when the concept of wearing black jerseys was discussed. “It’s great for recruiting though.”
The Georgia football fans like them too, and by a very narrow margin, most wanted to see the black jerseys more than once this season.
Recent Black Jersey Games
• Georgia beat Mississippi State 31-24 in Athens, Ga., Nov. 21.
• Kirby Smart also allowed UGA to wear the black jerseys his first season as head coach, 2016, for a Nov. 19 game against Louisiana-Lafayette, a 35-21 win.
• Georgia wore the black jerseys and lost to Alabama in 2008 by a 41-30 count.
• The Bulldogs wore the black jerseys again for Hawaii in the Jan. 1, 2008 Sugar Bowl, a 41-10.
• Georgia wore the black jerseys under Mark Richt for the 2007 Auburn game, a 45-20 win at Sanford Stadium.