There has been a lot of debate recently about the possibility of the Georgia Bulldogs playing a high-profile, non-conference football game in the Georgia Dome, perhaps as soon as 2010. I touched base yesterday with Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan to find out what is happening on that front.
Yes, the Sports Council and its television partner ESPN/ABC are looking for teams to play in a nationally televised early-season event at the Dome in 2010 and beyond.
“We’re talking to a lot of people,” Stokan said. “We’ve reached out to everyone — from Southern Cal to UCLA to Texas to pretty much everybody in the ACC and SEC. We’re just trying to see what makes sense.”
Yes, Georgia is one of those schools the Sports Council and ESPN/ABC have approached.
“We’d like to think there’s an opportunity [with Georgia] for 2010 or ‘11 or ‘12 or ‘13,” Stokan said. “We’d like to have Georgia when it makes sense for Georgia. We don’t know when that’ll be, but we hope it’s one of those [years]. Georgia is a national brand, and we’d like to match [the Bulldogs] up with another national brand.”
No, Georgia absolutely would not sacrifice one of six Sanford Stadium games in any year in order to play in the Georgia Dome – and won’t be asked to do so.
“First off, Damon [Evans, Georgia's AD] and Arthur [Johnson, associate AD] and Mark [Richt] wouldn’t be interested in playing less than six home games,” Stokan said. ”We understand that. We know that.”
Yes, Georgia might choose a game in the Dome over a more distant road trip.
A plausible scenario, Stokan said, is that Georgia might play in the Dome in lieu of a non-conference road game some year. Last year, for example, Georgia played at Arizona State; this year, they will play at Oklahoma State. Those games fit on the Bulldogs’ schedule without cutting into six Sanford Stadium games each year.
So Stokan thinks a game at the 72,000-seat Georgia Dome could make sense for the Bulldogs some year in lieu of a distant trip. He sees the game not as a replacement for a home game in 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium — but as a replacement for a road game to which UGA would get limited tickets.
“If you matched Georgia against a team [from far away] that maybe would not need a lot of tickets, the majority of tickets in the Dome could go to take care of Georgia’s fans,” Stokan said. “And Georgia would not have a lot of expenses, so the game would become a windfall for them. We could take care of Georgia fans from a ticket standpoint and could take care of both schools financially.
“Everyone wins. That’s the premise.”
Stokan notes that Alabama and Clemson received $2.085 million apiece for playing in last year’s Chick-fil-A College Kickoff game at the Dome. (Of course, Georgia also has the option of generating millions by dropping a road game and playing a seventh home game in Sanford Stadium.) This year’s College Kickoff game in the Dome will match Alabama vs. Virginia Tech. No one is lined up for 2010 or beyond. The search is on.
So, with Georgia already committed to six games away from Athens in 2010, including a trip to Colorado, is that year really a possibility for a regular-season UGA game in Atlanta?
“You try to work with schedules,” said Stokan, speaking in generalities. “Does something make sense where someone would move something back to allow something else to happen?”
(He didn’t say this, but it’s no secret ESPN has a lot of influence in college football scheduling. Might the Colorado trip be moved to another year if a truly attractive Dome matchup presents itself to UGA? Well, when ESPN gets involved, just about anything is possible.)
“We’ve got a lot of discussions going on,” Stokan said, “but nothing that is imminent or even close. It’s like a Rubik’s cube.”
Separately, the Sports Council long has expressed interest in moving the Georgia-Florida game from Jacksonville to Atlanta on an occasional basis.
Nothing new on that front, Stokan said.
Yes, he’d like to bring the game to Atlanta one year out of four. No, he says, there still haven’t been any substantive discussions or negotiations with UGA about the matter. But he hopes there will be at some point.