UGA’s athletic department has gotten behind Kirby Smart’s wish for a crowd of 93,000 fans packing Sanford Stadium on G-Day in a big way.
The campaign, which includes a G-Day website with its own hype video, even has a de rigueur hashtag theme: #93KDAY.
If you’ve attended those laid-back G-Day games in the past, be warned: This is going to be nothing like that.
As already noted here last week, they’ve added a pre-game Dawg Walk, something G-Day has never seen in the past.
But, just in case the appeal of watching a glorified scrimmage between the first- and second-string teams doesn’t strike you as reason enough to travel to Athens on a spring Saturday, there’ll also be some sort of pre-game musical entertainment Between the Hedges before the game kicks off.
(No names yet, but Associate Athletic Director for Event Management Matt Brachowski said in a press briefing this week that, since the idea is to draw a crowd, the musical act performing is likely to be someone you’ve heard of.)
Yes, I’m afraid they’re looking to upstage poor old Bobby Poss and the traditional lettermen’s flag football game!
(The lettermen will still play, by the way, with their game taking place at 1:15 p.m. Dawg Walk is set for some time around 2:45 p.m., with the pre-game entertainment starting at 3 p.m., and the game kicking off at 4 p.m.)
Back in the winter, when Smart first announced his challenge to the Bulldog Nation to pack Sanford Stadium on April 16 for G-Day, I expressed the hope that UGA and local authorities would approach the game in a more serious manner than on G-Days past, when only a handful of concession stands were open and a lack of traffic management allowed even a crowd half the size they want this year to produce gridlock.
Thankfully, they seem to be on the case, at least as far as the stadium itself goes. Said Brachowski: “We knew we needed to do something more this year” with a much bigger crowd expected. So, he said, they decided: “Let’s just treat this like a regular ball game.”
All levels of the stadium will be open and all the concession stands will be open, though they may feature a scaled-back menu, he said. All the rest rooms and first-aid stations also will be open. And, while there won’t be any ticket-takers for the free-admission game, there will be ushers.
With no tickets, of course, fans can sit wherever they want, he said, though ushers will be urging them to move to the center of the row and fans are asked not reserve groups of seats. Once a section fills up, the ushers will direct fans elsewhere, Brachowski said.
Indications are that all this G-Day hype seems to have caught Bulldog Nation’s fancy. I’ve heard from a number of fans who have skipped G-Day in the past but are planning to take their kids to this year’s game, which likely would have drawn a bigger crowd than last year’s 46,000 even without the hype, thanks to a new coach and the arrival of Jacob Eason in Athens.
So, what happens if more than the stadium capacity of 92,746 tries to make its way through the gates?
“That won’t happen,” Brachowski said. “It can’t go past capacity.” Stadium staff, law enforcement and surveillance cameras will be used to watch for when the seating area is getting close to full, he said, and “if we have to, we’ll just have to close the gates.”
There won’t be any separate student sections, and after the gates open at 1 p.m. general-admission seating will be allowed everywhere except Sections 135 and 136, Rows 1-25; Sections 209-215; and Sections 225-226.
The biggest potential hang-up for fans attending the game comes with parking, which will not be handled like during a regular fall football game.
Campus parking lots will open at 7 a.m. and, outside of a few reserved lots, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. (Fans are asked not to tailgate or place tents, grills, chairs or other items in open spaces or to try holding parking spaces for other cars.)
However, your usual fall football parking spot might not be available, because campus residence hall lots will not be emptied of student cars to make way for football fans.
As usual, no RVs, limousines or any vehicle larger than one parking space will be allowed.
Handicapped parking locations will be provided (details are at the website) for those who have the proper permits. A bus shuttle will run from the East Campus Parking Deck beginning at 9:30 a.m. and from the Intramural Fields beginning at 11 a.m.
For someone who grew up in Athens and has been attending G-Day games since back in the early Vince Dooley days, all of this hoopla surrounding the spring scrimmage is quite a change.
And, while I love college football spectacle as much as anyone, I’m not sure I’m completely down with taking what has always been a relaxed spring outing and turning it into another monster game day in the Classic City, replete with all the usual parking and traffic hassles.
But, I understand that generating early excitement surrounding the program to score points with recruits is basically what this is all about.
As Smart said in his press conference this past week at the start of spring practice, turning the spring game into a big thing “shows the energy and passion level for a united Bulldog Nation, which is what I’m trying to achieve on G Day. … I think it shows a commitment to the program, and it also shows our players the passion that our fans have. It certainly doesn’t hurt in recruiting either to have 93,000 fill the stands. That’s kind of what we’re aiming at.”
Will this be a one-time-only extravaganza, or will we never again see the low-key, laid-back, park-and-sit-where-you-want sort of spring games I’ve enjoyed so much in the past after this?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
SPEAKING OF HYPE VIDEOS …
One of the knocks on Mark Richt during his tenure at UGA was the apparent lack of attention to detail that sometimes cropped up in his program.
Early indications are that won’t be a problem with his replacement, who learned under the master of obsessive detail-management, Nick Saban.
As Smart said at his press conference, “The devil is in the details. We spent a good two hours this morning to make sure this practice is organized. It’s very important that you have every detail, every expectation. Yesterday we went over with the guy’s every expectation we have of them. We want them to understand because I think it’s important to be successful that they know what you expect of them and they can respond when it’s not that way. … Every detail that you can have covered, we’ve covered with these guys to make sure they understand that these things are important. They’re part of discipline. They’re part of doing things right. They’re part of accountability. If we don’t have accountability and discipline, and if you don’t have that then you don’t have a very good program.”
Along those lines, it appears from a video UGA posted, which has Smart mic’d up at practice this week, that he’s going to be very much a hands-on head coach rather than one of those more remote CEO types. Check it out:
I don’t know about you, but watching this clip leaves a big smile on my face.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.