Mid-June generally would be considered the summer doldrums for college football, but there was a surprising amount of news for Bulldog fans this week, both good and bad.
On the plus side, after getting the recruitniks all worked up with its ultra slow start, UGA’s football recruiting for 2014 finally got into high gear this week, with five commitments, including quarterback Jacob Park, two-way player (and likely cornerback) Malkom Parrish (who chose the Dawgs over Tech) and Nick Chubb, the top-rated running back in the state.
Of course, since it’s Father’s Day weekend, I’ll play the dad here and point out that nowadays in college football a verbal commitment doesn’t mean a whole lot, so when I see headlines like “Nick Chubb Is a Dawg,” I shake my head. Remember Derrick Henry? Still, it’s awfully encouraging to see that kind of talent expressing a desire to play in Athens. I hope they all end up signing next February.
On the down side for the week, promising freshman defensive back Reggie Wilkerson tore his knee up in voluntary pass drills and will have to take a medical redshirt year to recover from surgery. Good thing Todd Grantham has some more young defensive secondary talent coming in August.
Meanwhile, with just 11 Saturdays left until the 2013 season starts, a lot of us are already thinking about the next time we’ll get to sit inside Sanford Stadium, which recently was tapped by Athlon Sports as the second-best stadium in the SEC, ranking behind only LSU’s Tiger Stadium, legendary for its deafening crowd and intimidating atmosphere.
Said Athlon of Sanford: “It may not be the SEC’s biggest or loudest stadium, but it is the most beautiful. Named for late former university president Dr. Stedman Vincent Sanford, the Bulldogs’ home stadium is located in the heart of the plush greenery of the gorgeous Athens campus. The famed privet hedges line the field and separate the Georgia fans and the action on the field with style that matches the dolled-up student section. Sanford’s Southwest corner is also home to a canine marble mausoleum in which the first eight generations of Bulldog mascots have been laid to rest. Uga IX currently resides in a permanent on-field, air-conditioned doghouse near the cheerleaders’ platform on Saturdays. Mark Richt is 63-13 ‘Between the Hedges’ and has his team poised for another perfect home slate in 2013.”
They definitely got it right in picking Sanford as the prettiest setting for a football game in the SEC.
But there’s always room for improvement, and as veteran attendees of Georgia home games know, even a packed Sanford Stadium doesn’t always offer the most intense game day atmosphere. Whether it’s students showing up late (if at all) or many alums sitting on their hands, it seems to take a visit by a longtime rival or a really close game to get the Athens crowd up on its feet and making some real noise.
What else would make UGA’s stadium a better place to see a game?
Some folks would like to see the stadium expanded to add maybe another 20,000 seats. I’m not sure that’s even on the distant radar, but if it were, it would raise a bunch of concerns. Where would all those additional people park and eat and go to the restroom? At the very least, any major expansion of Sanford would require the addition of more Reed Plaza type areas — and I’m not certain that’s even physically possible within the stadium’s existing footprint.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from Georgia fans about game day in Athens concerns the restrictions on tailgating put in place a few seasons ago after university officials got tired of the trashing of North Campus. Last season, the rules on being able to bring trailers, cookers, etc. on campus for tailgating were relaxed a bit, but this is an issue that still needs to be worked out for the long haul.
As for the tight parking situation around campus on game days, I know a lot of folks look back fondly on the days when you could stick your car just about anywhere, including on sidewalks, but that was a dangerous situation that needed rectifying and I don’t see UGA officials changing their minds about that. So if, like some folks who voted in our poll this week on reasons for not attending games, you find dealing with parking too much of a hassle, well, you’re probably better off investing in a large-screen HDTV and watching from home.
For those of us who think it’s worth the hassle to be watching the Dawgs Between the Hedges in person, though, the loosening up of SEC rules about replays and showing highlights from other games last year was a big plus, but there are still things that could be improved at Sanford. The issue that’s brought up the most (especially by younger alums) is the need for WiFi capability inside the stadium. Fans would like to be able to text and tweet and follow game stats like they can at home. That seems like a problem that ought to be fixable.
Depending on where you sit, concessions and restrooms still might be a problem, too. Things are much better on the North side in that regard since the Reed Plaza expansion a couple of seasons ago, but there are other sections of the stadium where you risk missing most of a quarter of the game if you want to go get something to drink or visit a restroom. And a lot of fans gripe about the state of the older restrooms, too.
I also hear complaints from those students who do bother to show up for the games about the way seating is handled, especially in the most desirable section next to the band. The wristband set-up doesn’t seem to work too well, especially with some of the Greek organizations allowed to reserve entire rows. Whatever happened to first come, first served?
A lot of fans also complain about not being able to hear the Redcoat Band. My daughter Olivia says it’s difficult to hear them even in the student sections closest where the band sits. Last year, the conference changed its rules to allow the bands at games to be amplified and the Redcoats were talking about doing that but never could get the logistics worked out. Let’s hope they haven’t given up on that.
I’ve also heard from other fans who agree with my son that having some sort of “team song” played on the PA system that the students and players could relate to, as with the Soulja Boy number a few years back, would be a big plus. As young Bill noted last year, “Traditionalists won’t like it, but it was pretty electric in 2007 when the whole place was into it and the team was jacked. The game is played by 18-22 year olds, so I think it’s alright to play something that gets them excited. Doesn’t hurt with recruits, either.”
So what would you like to see changed or improved at Sanford Stadium? What could UGA do so that in the future rankings like Athlon’s might see the Bulldogs’ stadium ranked No. 1?
Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg