Having already scheduled a future home-and-home series with Notre Dame and a neutral-site game in Atlanta with North Carolina, UGA athletic director Greg McGarity is working on adding more big-name nonconference opponents for the future.
At a fan gathering in Albany Tuesday, McGarity indicated he still wants to give Bulldogs players, students and fans a chance to experience home-and-home series with teams that play in “iconic” stadiums. He said such an opponent could be announced in the next few months, the Macon Telegraph reports.
McGarity hinted that a deal with Penn State might be in the offing, as well as Southern Cal or UCLA.
“I think Penn State would be a great matchup,” McGarity said, nodding when USC and UCLA were also suggested by reporters. “You’re thinking like I’m thinking. Those are the type of venues that we’d love to play in. You mentioned three, and those are three that I would agree with you on. You’ve got the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl and Happy Valley. I think our fans, that’d be pretty neat. So that’s the type of iconic things that we’re talking about doing.”
Scheduling the California schools would mark something of an about-face for the UGA athletic director, who agreed to cancel a deal with Oregon back in 2010, in part because of the downside of such long trips.
Some college football observers and UGA fans thought Georgia’s long trip out to Arizona State in 2008, its first nonconference matchup outside the Southeast in more than 30 years, hurt the Dawgs in preparing for their game the next week against Alabama. At the time the Oregon deal was dropped, Mark Richt indicated he wasn’t a big fan of long trips. Getting back into Athens at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “not a lot of fun,” the coach said.
So the thinking on that appears to have shifted some in the age of the College Football Playoff, but let’s hope that, if either of the California schools gets added, Georgia gets a bye week the following Saturday.
In the meantime, I asked some UGA fans what other marquee opponents they’d like to see the Dawgs play during the regular season.
Michigan was by far the most popular choice, since the two programs last played in 1965, but McGarity said in Albany that a deal with Michigan wasn’t likely because the Wolverines are “tied up” with other schools, including Florida. Ohio State is another name that comes up a lot with fans, but Georgia and Ohio State had a memorandum of understanding to play in 2020 and 2021, only to have it canceled by Ohio State because of Big 10 scheduling concerns.
McGarity said that deal will not be revived. “Once Urban [Meyer] came in, that was off the table,” he said in Albany.
Florida State was another name floated by several fans I talked with. That might be a good one for recruiting purposes (though, of course, they’d get a benefit from the return game). Back in 2013, it was reported that Georgia and FSU were having informal, preliminary talks about playing each other, possibly in a neutral site game, but it appears nothing’s happened so far on that front.
Other opponents Georgia fans would like to see the Dawgs play include Miami (Georgia does a lot of recruiting in South Florida), Oklahoma and my own personal preferences: I’d like to see Georgia-Clemson continue as at least a once-a-decade series, and I’d love to see the Dawgs play Texas, another game that would be helpful in recruiting.
The Dawgs and the Longhorns haven’t played often, and the last time, Georgia’s 10-9 win in the 1984 Cotton Bowl Classic, is, as I noted last year, a game that resonates historically with both fan bases. Interestingly, for that same reason, my friend Mike doesn’t ever want Georgia to play the Longhorns again, because that Cotton Bowl game is his all-time favorite UGA game, and he wants it to stand on its own.
What do you think of the possibility of adding Penn State and/or a West Coast game to a future schedule? And what other college football icons would you like McGarity to pursue?
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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.