Rankings: Georgia football catching up in SEC facilities’ arms race
ATHENS — Georgia is less than two months away from moving into its new state-of-the-art $80 million football building, and it can’t come soon enough.
The Bulldogs have been playing catch up in the facilities arms race for quite a while, as they were also one of the last programs to have a 100-yard indoor practice area.
Per 247Sports annual football facilities ranking, Georgia comes in at No. 18 in the nation and No. 7 in the SEC.
And yet, Coach Kirby Smart has been able to recruit Top 5 classes each of the past five signing periods.
Clemson, the Bulldogs’ opponent in the teams’ Sept. 4 opener, is ranked No. 1 in football facilities.
The Tigers’ facility has been credited with helping to make its already strong team culture even better, as the players are more inclined to spend time with one another by having such a fun and convenient gathering place.
That has been especially advantageous throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with players challenged to stay socially distanced and cautious around other students and family members who have not been subject to the same sort of rigorous testing collegiate football players endured last fall.
The SEC teams ranked ahead of Georgia in the football facilities by 247Sports are:
No. 3 Alabama
No. 4 Texas A&M
No. 5 South Carolina
No. 7 LSU
No. 12 Tennessee
No. 14 Kentucky.
Auburn is ranked a spot behind Georgia at No. 19, while Florida checks in at No. 21.
It’s worth noting that the Tigers are working on a $91 million football facility and Florida has an $85 million facility in the works.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on athletic budgets across the country with severely reduced revenue on account of the limited attendance models — 20 percent or less in most places.
UGA enjoyed a profitable 2019-20 year with more than $179 million in revenue, which, once expenses and ongoing facilities projects were account for, led to about a $13 million profit.
Georgia had anticipated a budget shortfall of $55 million in the 2020-21 budget, but the loss has been adjusted to reflect a loss that will be closer to $30 million.
Still, with more than $100 million in reserves when the football building project was started, there have not been any pauses or delays in the construction of the football building and it remains on schedule to open the week after the April 17 G-Day Game.
The second phase of the project, which finishes connecting the new building to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall and adds more offices, is scheduled to be completed in January of 2022.
Georgia is hoping it can ride the energy and momentum of the new building into the 2021 season and a College Football Playoff championship run, just as it did in 2017 after the indoor football facility was opened.