Atlanta site good for Georgia

Atlanta site good for Georgia

September 4th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

ATLANTA -- Georgia fans made a mockery of the term "neutral site" during Saturday night's season opener against Boise State, but Bulldogs athletic director Greg McGarity believes playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will occur periodically moving forward.

The Bulldogs end each season against Georgia Tech and have season-opening home-and-home series scheduled with Clemson in 2013 and '14 and with Ohio State in 2020 and '21.

"Timing is really important, and you don't want to overschedule," McGarity said before the game. "The span between '15 to '19 would be another time I would think anything would be on the table."

There is no denying the opportunity the 2011 Chick-fil-A game provided Georgia, which sputtered through the 2009 and '10 seasons with a 14-12 record. Bulldogs fans purchased fewer than 10,000 tickets to last December's Liberty Bowl, but they gobbled up more than 60,000 to Saturday's sellout.

The Georgia Dome is only an hour from Athens, and most programs coming off a bad year don't have such a convenient locale and event in which to seek a remedy.

"The metro Atlanta area is without question the largest concentration of Georgia alumni around," McGarity said, "and having a facility like this so close to our campus is a tremendous asset."

Alabama won the first two Chick-fil-A games, beating Clemson in 2008 and Virginia Tech in '09, and will play the Hokies again in 2013. The Crimson Tide did not have marquee openers last year and this year because of a series with Penn State, but they open next season against Michigan in the Cowboys Classic near Dallas.

Tide coach Nick Saban made it clear after the 34-10 rout of Clemson that it wasn't going to be a one-time appearance.

"Georgia is fourth, I think, in prospects behind Texas, California and Florida," Saban said. "Our state is very important in recruiting, but we try to look at the five-hour radius of where we are as places we should at least start our recruiting base, and it includes a significant part of Georgia."

Alabama has 18 commitments for its 2012 signing class, including seven in-state and seven from the Peach State.

When Alabama started invading Atlanta, Georgia was finishing series against Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Those were set up by former athletic director Damon Evans, who had an expressed goal to spread Georgia's brand across the country.

McGarity was able to do that Saturday an hour away from home, but he's aware other schools will keep eyeing the dome. Next season's Chick-fil-A lineup contains Auburn against Clemson and Tennessee facing North Carolina State.

"In a perfect world, you would want to monopolize the entire state, but that's not realistic," McGarity said. "There is so much talent in this state, and when you can only sign 20 or 25 in a year, that's only a fraction of the kids who go on to play Division I football.

"Alabama, Auburn and Clemson already have a presence in the state of Georgia. Does this game enhance it from time to time? Sure it does, but this is something we don't have control over."