The fact that I was “talking Dawgs” with a fellow Athens native this past week normally wouldn’t be noteworthy. Such conversations are the norm for folks who hail from the Classic City, or even those who just went to college there.
However, since the Athenian I was chatting with was UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity, I thought Blawg readers would be interested in some of what he had to say.
McGarity had read my piece last week in which I wondered whether UGA’s great fan base was a bit underappreciated, and he reached out to me, saying I could call him anytime to talk about Georgia athletics.
So, we set up a time to chat on the phone. I decided not to waste time asking him about the recent SEC-Auburn schedule flap, or his conversations with the conference about the change, since he’d already made his viewpoint pretty clear when he told DawgNation’s Chip Towers, “The one thing we don’t do is talk about” such conversations.
Instead, I broached some other topics I knew are of continuing interest to Blawg readers, including the scheduling of non-SEC opponents from Power 5 conferences.
This coming season, of course, will see one of the most eagerly anticipated home games in UGA football history, when Notre Dame visits Athens to take on Kirby Smart’s Dawgs. Last November, UGA also announced home-and-home deals with Texas and Clemson for 2028-2029 and 2029-2030, respectively, plus the Dawgs have neutral-site games in Atlanta scheduled with Virginia (2020), Oregon (2022), Clemson (2024), and a home-and-home with UCLA in 2025-2026.
I asked him what else is in the works. There have been rumors that a home-and-home series with Florida State is in the works, but McGarity didn’t want to mention any specific teams, in case plans don’t work out.
He did say that “the scheduling model we’re moving to in the future will be built around eight conference games, and Tech, and two more Power 5’s and one non-Power 5 opponent.”
So, in other words, only one “cupcake” per season (as opposed to 2018, when Georgia had three such games in Athens).
It’s an ambitious — and somewhat daunting — schedule model. But, McGarity said, “That’s our goal. Kirby is all about playing a tough schedule and playing quality opponents.”
How soon more Power 5 opponents are announced “depends on other teams’ schedules,” McGarity said. “We’re working on schedules through 2030 right now.”
He did say, however, that there definitely will be more Power 5 teams added to future schedules.
McGarity has said in the past that he wants Georgia fans to get to see the Dawgs play iconic programs in iconic stadiums, and he said that’s still his goal. “Josh Lee [UGA’s director of football operations] is working tremendously hard to make that happen. He’s the point person in scheduling.”
In 2017, of course, Georgia fans wowed the nation by basically taking over Notre Dame’s stadium in South Bend, Ind., but McGarity cautioned that UGA fans might not always be able to buy that many tickets allotted to opponents’ fans for upcoming road games.
“Our ticket swap will be in the range of 6,000 to 7,000 tickets,” he said, “and, I’m not sure that Texas fans are going to be willing to sell their tickets” like Fighting Irish fans did. “It depends on the fan base.”
He has a point there. I certainly can’t imagine many Georgia fans being willing to sell their tickets to the upcoming visit by the Irish to Athens.
McGarity also pointed out that the scheduling of challenging opponents “is an inexact science.” A program that is riding high when you sign a deal might not be as attractive when the game finally rolls around, and vice versa.
What about those shiny pants?
We also discussed a subject that fans regularly have raised when McGarity does online chats: when the football Dawgs might return to wearing shiny “silver britches” like they wore in the late ’90s and the early years of the Mark Richt era, rather than the matte gray pants they’ve sported the past decade or so.
That might not seem like a major issue to outsiders, but I’ve gotten more mail about it regularly over the past five years or so than any other single topic, including a couple of recent notes from readers asking for an update.
The story so far: Back in April 2013, when he was announcing some uniform tweaks, McGarity said UGA would like to return to football pants with a sheen to them, kind of like the Dallas Cowboys were wearing at the time, but it depended on when Nike could supply a fabric that suited what the school wanted. “That’d be the goal, to get it back to the silver britches. That’s the overall goal,” he said.
Then, in March, 2014, he said: “We are working with our partners at Nike to create a more ‘silver’ silver for the Dawgs’ silver britches”
A couple of months after that, I checked with Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, who said: “Uniform design and production is quite a lengthy process these days, but the new ‘silver’ should be good to go for the 2015 season.”
As the 2015 season approached Felton again said, “we are hopeful they will be closer to the original silver britches.”
It didn’t happen, though. After that, I’d check in periodically on the subject and was told they’d get back to me if there was anything to report on that front. They didn’t.
So, I asked McGarity this week whatever happened to getting shiny silver britches.
Before we talked, McGarity checked in with John Meshad, the athletic association’s director of equipment operations, about the uniform pants. The gist of what Meshad told him, McGarity said, was “It all gets down to Nike being able to provide the material. They have this shiny material called Cordura. Unfortunately, it’s a heavier material and, when it gets wet with rain or sweat, it adds a pound or a pound and a half to the overall weight of the uniform,” which UGA finds unacceptable.
“It is not as good a performance model as the current Nike material,” McGarity said, and “they haven’t been able to make a better performing shiny material. They’re hoping to lessen the weight, but they have not been able to solve that problem.”
I speculated that perhaps not enough teams request such a material in order for it to become a priority for Nike. “I guess not,” McGarity said.
Still, he said, “It doesn’t mean we have stopped advocating for it or asking for it.”
What’s new at Sanford Stadium?
I also asked McGarity what changes are in the works for Sanford Stadium in the coming season, besides the recently announced addition of LED lighting that can be digitally adjusted, synchronized to music and used to produce special effects.
“We’ve got $2 million in work going on in stadium restoration, concrete work,” McGarity said.
That may not sound exciting, but you’re talking about a stadium that will reach its 90th birthday this fall, so it’s necessary.
Said McGarity: “We’d love to be able to spend that $2 million on bells and whistles, but we’ve got to maintain the structural integrity [of an aging stadium]. Some of that concrete dates back to I don’t know when.
“We’re working right now on restoring concrete on the south side, rows 31 to 60. We should have that done for G-Day.”
He also said plans call for even more “grab-and-go” concession stands in the stadium, in response to the fact that the ones already introduced have reduced wait times for fans. “You just grab it and pay for it,” he said, rather than having to wait for someone from a volunteer organization to fill your order.
Considering Georgia fans have complained bitterly in the past about missing the better part of a quarter while waiting in line for concessions, that’s certainly welcome news.
Let me hear from you!
I’ll be answering Junkyard Mail next time, so, if you have any comments or questions on scheduling, spring practice, the upcoming season, or any other UGA sports topic, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.