Georgia’s game at Arizona State in 2008 was its first nonconference matchup outside the Southeast in more than 30 years.
Saturday’s game at Colorado might be the Bulldogs’ last regular season game outside the region for a long time.
New UGA athletic director Greg McGarity is moving the Bulldogs away from former AD Damon Evans’ philosophy of scheduling high-profile nonconference games in other parts of the country.
The first sign of change: Georgia and Oregon canceled their home-and-home football series slated for 2015 and 2016 by mutual agreement, McGarity said Monday. Oregon agreed to scrap the games because it is preparing for a new Pac-10 schedule after conference expansion, McGarity said.
Georgia lined up games at Arizona State in 2008, Oklahoma State in 2009 and Colorado in 2010.
Evans scheduled those games as part of home-and-home series in hopes of growing Georgia’s national brand in games that fans would want to travel to see.
McGarity is scheduling to make a run for a national title. He also would like Georgia to play seven home games each season.
McGarity’s scheduling template was set at Florida, where he helped athletic director Jeremy Foley put together the Gators’ schedules during their national championship seasons in 2006 and 2008.
Florida hasn’t traveled outside the region for a regular-season game since 1991 when it played at Syracuse.
“I realize some of these trips are great for fans, it’s fun,” McGarity said. “But at the end of the day, you’re trying to get to the BCS championship game and what gives you the best way to get there?
“I’m a big advocate that you’ve got eight extremely tough SEC games, you’ve got Georgia Tech, which is a tough, tough game. You just got to be careful on those other three games because you need to be at your best for your SEC games because the first goal is to get to Atlanta. What gives you the best chance to get to Atlanta? I think that model makes the most sense.”
Florida’s 2006 nonconference schedule consisted of Southern Mississippi, Central Florida, Western Carolina and Florida State, a rival the Gators play every year.
Alabama in 2009 and LSU in 2007 won the national titles with one BCS conference opponent on their schedule.
McGarity expects the nonconference home schedule to mostly include games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams from non-BCS conferences and one Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) opponent each year, although fans typically yawn at such games.
Georgia has lined up FCS Georgia Southern on its 2012 schedule.
Georgia projected its ticket revenue for nonconference home games this year against Louisiana-Lafayette and Idaho State to range from $1.83 million to $2.1 million.
Coach Mark Richt said earlier this month that he preferred for Georgia to play just one nonconference game against a BCS conference opponent a year. The Bulldogs annually play Georgia Tech.
“We’ve been doing it, but I don’t think we need to do it anymore, quite frankly,” Richt said then. “I don’t think anybody in the league needs to do it. I think if we win our out of conference games and win the league, we’ll be in really great position.”
McGarity said that he’s talked to Richt “and he and I are on the same page as far as scheduling now. I know he’s excited about the model that we would have in place.”
Georgia still has games scheduled against BCS conference opponents Louisville in 20011-12 and Clemson in 2013-14.
“Some years you may have two tough ones,” McGarity said. “Clemson is a traditional rivalry that has a lot of merit. Should you play a second tough nonconference foe every year? I don’t think so, but I do think it’s good to do that every now and then, but I think you have to be careful with who that opponent is.”
Georgia kicker Blair Walsh likes the experience of playing in Tempe, Ariz., Stillwater, Okla., and Boulder, Colo.
“If you’re not ready to play in any environment, then you shouldn’t be playing,” Walsh said. “I hope we continue to do it and I hope for the future that we get that chance to play in Arizona State’s stadium in the middle of two mountains or Colorado or Oklahoma State, where the sideline is 3 yards wide. It’s just different. You get out of the realm of the SEC for a game.”
Richt has little desire to make long trips to such locations as Arizona State and Colorado in the middle of the SEC season.
“We think we’re going a long way this week, try Eugene, Ore.,” McGarity said. “That’s even further. It’s not a lot of fun when you see the itinerary when you get back into Athens at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning like will be the situation this Sunday.”
Even if Georgia were unbeaten this week instead of 1-3, beating an unranked Colorado team probably wouldn’t create national waves, anyway.
“At the end of the day, it’s wins and losses and how you do in the Southeastern Conference, you don’t really get any brownie points for winning tough games out of conference,” McGarity said. “It might help in some of the polls at some point and time it might factor in, but I think at the end of the day if the University of Georgia is undefeated in the SEC and beats Georgia Tech, more than likely we’re going to be playing for it all.”