SEC facilities arms race will ‘keep going,’ but Kirby Smart and UGA stay focused
DESTIN, Fla. — A little while ago, Kirby Smart and Georgia’s football staff asked players if there was anything they’d like to add to their locker room. Something different. Something fun.
And that’s how the team ended up with a DJ booth. Smart tweeted out a picture a couple weeks ago of star tailback Sony Michel turning records while fellow star tailback Nick Chubb leaned on it.
“I couldn’t tell you the first thing about that thing,” Smart said Tuesday. “I can just tell you they like it and they enjoy it.”
It was a small step in the larger facilities arms race, which UGA has been (belatedly) participating in – to Smart’s benefit. The $30.2 million indoor facility opened earlier this year, and construction has begun on the $63 million west end zone project at Sanford Stadium, which among other things will replace the decades-old locker rooms.
But if the national picture is any indication, UGA won’t be able to stop there if it wants to keep up.
Texas has put in very swanky – and expensive – lockers. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who has to recruit against the Longhorns, was asked about that and what other schools might be doing.
“I do know this: For certain kids flash matters,” Bielema said, then added: “At Arkansas, we can be sexy.”
Alabama, where Smart was for nine years before returning to UGA, has a player’s lounge that has pool tables, an arcade, big-screen TVs and much more.
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, whose school is getting a $50 million all-inclusive facility, was asked if the facility arms race should stop.
“No,” Muschamp said with a smile. “It’s going to keep going.”
Smart, hired in Dec. 2015, is the first head coach to reap the benefits of UGA’s long-awaited indoor facility, which he called “one of the best indoors in the country.” Georgia was the last school in the SEC to build one. And the west end zone project, which will also feature a recruiting area, will be a “much-needed addition to the stadium,” Smart said. The project is due to be completed in 2018.
But what could come next? Georgia’s weight room is among the smallest in the SEC, parking is a problem for players, and there are always the bells and whistles – such as at Texas and Alabama – that could benefit recruiting. Or just the comfort of current players.
Smart, asked what he would want next, steered clear of that.
“Right now we’re focused 100 percent on the west end zone,” Smart said. “You know that we are going to challenge our fan base to help with that. And that’s the sole focus, to challenge them to raise the $53 million (with the school footing the other $10 million), because I know it can be done. It’s a key ingredient that we need. So that’s the sole focus.”