Bulldogs will return to Chick-fil-A Kickoff ‘ASAP’

Kirby Smart and Nick Chubb answer questions at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff postgame news conference this past Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

ATHENS – The sweat was still fresh on Kirby Smart’s brow this past Saturday when a reporter in the postgame news conference asked how he liked playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game?

“It’s an unbelievable venue,” Smart said. “We asked (Peach Bowl Inc. CEO) Gary (Stokan) if we could just come every year … and make it a home game.”

Out from behind a curtain to the side of the interview podium, Stokan’s voice came bellowing out into the room.

“We’ll sign that contract right now,” Stokan shouted.

“We’d be glad to do that,” Smart said with a laugh.

Of course, that’s not feasible in the complicated world of college football scheduling. But the fact is, Georgia would like to play in the event every chance it gets. Not only is it great exposure and financially rewarding, but it also pits the Bulldogs against good competition, which is beneficial to the season at hand.

So UGA is already looking to get back into the game at the next earliest opportunity.

“Oh, yeah, we’d like to be in there every four or five years,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Tuesday. “We were there in 2011 and ’16. We’d like to get back as soon as we can.”

It looks like that could be possible in 2020 or 2021. The Bulldogs complete their home-and-home with Notre Dame in 2019. They don’t currently have any Power 5 non-conference opponents locked in after that except for UCLA, which is not until 2025-26.

UGA was trying to broker a home-and-home with Penn State for 2021-22 but that fell through. The Nittany Lions are now playing Auburn those seasons because they didn’t want to play Georgia in the first game.

The Bulldogs prefer season openers for these types of contests. And Smart, who played in neutral-site opening games regularly at Alabama, would like to do the same at UGA.

“First of all, I know there’s a lot put into this game as far as winning or losing,” Smart said of playing No. 22 North Carolina this past Saturday. “But the football playoff being the way it is, it’s just great to play in the game. We’re going to be better for playing at some of the places we’ve got to play in the SEC because we played a very good football team. Give those guys credit. They’ve got a very good football team. So this is going to help us in the long run.”

With the 33-24 victory, it helped the Bulldogs in the short run as well. Georgia jumped to No. 9 from No. 18 in the new coaches’ poll released Tuesday. It’s expected to jump in the Associated Press poll as well, which will be released later Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will deposit one of their bigger checks of the year from this past Saturday’s game. Like North Carolina, UGA was guaranteed $4 million for participating. It also get its transportation and lodging paid for. So the Bulldogs bank almost all of the money.

“The turnout was phenomenal and the atmosphere was great,” McGarity said. “We look forward to getting back as soon as we can.”

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