Seven at Sanford: McGarity's scheduling plan moving forward

semerson@macon.comDecember 26, 2013 

uga_clemson

Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (59) blasts through the Clemson line to pressure quarterback Tajh Boyd during first quarter action in the season opener.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com

The playoff era in college football arrives next season, and Georgia will begin it with a major nonconference opponent. But after hosting Clemson in 2014, the Bulldogs don't have any other major nonconference plans, other than the annual rivalry with Georgia Tech.

In fact, athletics director Greg McGarity indicated he wasn't pursuing anything. Don't look for Georgia to make a habit of major nonconference games, due to reasons more financial than competitive.

Some of the reluctance to move now is because of some of the scheduling unknowns that remain: What exactly the 2015 SEC schedule will look like, whether the SEC will go to a nine-game schedule for 2016 and beyond, and just how important strength of schedule will be for the playoff.

“What still has not been defined is what are the metrics for the strength of schedule process," McGarity said. "I know there are a lot of people in our conference that think the (model of an) eight-game schedule and one non-conference game is enough to solidify one’s place in the (playoff) standings. But we don’t know yet.”

So McGarity is taking a cautious approach. Others are not.

Alabama has scheduled a game with Wisconsin in 2015 (in Arlington). The Crimson Tide are also opening up next season against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome.

LSU is playing Wisconsin next season in Houston, and in 2016 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. LSU has also scheduled home-and-homes with Oklahoma (2018-19) and N.C. State (2017-20).

Other schools are proceeding slower. Auburn isn't scheduled beyond 2015, when a matchup with Louisville in the Georgia Dome is the major nonconference game.

Florida doesn't have any major nonconference games scheduled, other than the annual game with Florida State.

South Carolina has a 2015 game against North Carolina in Charlotte, but nothing major other than the annual game with Clemson.

Georgia, Florida and South Carolina each have annual, in-state, nonconference rivalries. Alabama and LSU do not.

At this point, the major focus for McGarity is avoiding a repeat of this year, when there were just six games at Sanford Stadium. The result was a financial hit for UGA, as well as the city of Athens and surrounding area.

Only having six home games this year cost UGA "more than $2 million," McGarity said. That's the revenue UGA typically gets from a home game at Sanford Stadium. The surrounding areas also lost potential revenue. So McGarity said he is "absolutely" focused on getting seven games at Sanford Stadium per year, with finances a big reason.

"This past year really hurt us financially, because we only had six home games," McGarity said. "So we need to probably take a break in the non-seven home game model, so that we can get back up to speed financially, with seven home games."

That means McGarity won't be as eager to schedule home-and-homes like the one with Clemson.

Two years ago Georgia only had six home games, but also played in the Georgia Dome against Boise State, Georgia made up for it with a payout for playing in the game.

Philosophically, McGarity is open to playing another major-conference team from 2017-20, and pointed to an agreement UGA had at one point for a home-and-home with Ohio State. The Buckeyes backed out of it because of the Big Ten schedule.

But they won't make a habit of it.

"We'll dip our toe periodically into that 10th BCS game, unless that's the directive we have from the conference and the directive we have from the BCS metrics for the college football (playoff), that this is the utmost of importance," McGarity said.

Schools are also still waiting for the 2015 SEC schedule to be released. McGarity is hoping for that by March. But one thing McGarity did say is that Auburn will be a road game that year, rather than have Auburn come to Georgia in back-to-back years to make up for the Bulldogs going to the Plains in 2012 and 2013.

"We'll play Auburn on the even years in Athens," he said.

The drawback to that is Georgia plays at Auburn and Georgia Tech every year. He's comfortable with that.

"Then we play them the same year at home," he said.

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