Georgia’s Kirby Smart won’t speculate about football’s return

Here's a quick look at Kirby Smart's four seasons as head coach at Georgia.

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart talked about a lot of things and answered a lot of questions Tuesday in a teleconference with beat reporters. However, he refused to even offer a guess as to whether college football will be played as scheduled in the coming season.

“I don’t want to speculate,” Smart said. “I know you’ve got a job and it is to make me speculate, but I can’t speculate on what I don’t know. And we don’t have a large amount of information right now. It’s no fault of anybody. I’m not trying to point any blame, but we don’t know a lot about the future and what that holds.”

Like all spring sports, spring football was canceled by the SEC amid the coronavirus pandemic March 13. That happened to be the last day of UGA's spring break as a university.

The Bulldogs were scheduled to conduct their first of 15 football practices March 17. Later, the annual spring intrasquad game known as G-Day, scheduled for April 18, was canceled.

Since then, all NCAA spring sports and their respective championships were canceled and will not be made up. On Monday night, the NCAA Council approved a motion to restore the final years of eligibility for student-athletes who saw their senior seasons cut short.

Now the uncertainty has extended into the summer. Depending on the medical expert or governmental official one cites, the general consensus is the coronavirus pandemic will not peak in the United States until late spring or early summer.

Now there is speculation that it could affect the college football season. The Bulldogs are scheduled to open the season Sept. 7. That means they would begin preseason camp about a month earlier.

There is also discussion of FBS teams possibly playing a truncated season of only conference games or of delaying the start of the season until later into the fall.

Smart was asked how much time he thought his team would need to be ready to play a competitive football game.

“Yeah, that one is completely speculative. I can’t say,” Smart said. “You’d say, ‘well, what’s your opinion?’ I don’t want to give an opinion on that. I don’t want to be speculative and guess. I think you’d have to leave that up to the medical people. I’ll certainly visit it with (UGA director of sports medicine) Ron (Courson).

“The SEC is doing studies, the NCAA is looking into that. I know the NFL’s come out with some date they feel like they would have to start by. But to put a time on that, I don’t think it’s fair. And I don’t think we as coaches should be going out there saying that because we’re not the (experts). We’re not the medical people and professionals. We can say what we feel, but it doesn’t matter if a medical person disagrees with us on that. So, I would hate to even speculate on that.”

In the meantime, UGA’s campus remains closed. The university resumed classes Monday on a digital-only basis. That has allowed Georgia’s coaches and support staff to start holding digital meetings and conference calls daily with football players, who remain either in residences they maintain in Athens or back at home with their parents.

The SEC limits its teams to two hours a week of such communication.

“We’re just on the first baby steps of it,” Smart said. “We’ve been preparing for that. We initially wanted to do that right when it started, (but) the SEC told us initially we could not do that. Some other conferences were doing that. Then we got the capability as of (Monday) to do that. So, in anticipation of doing it we were trying to get ready, we were practicing ourselves (as coaches). A lot of these kids are better at these technological things than the coaches are. So, we tried to do sessions within ourselves and practice to get ready so that we hit the ground running yesterday.”

Obviously, Georgia is going to suffer some setbacks in preparation for the season and installation of the offense under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken by not being able to conduct spring practice. But that’s true of most teams across the country.

“The biggest thing with no spring practice would just be knowledge, experience,” Smart said. “Just experience. I think any team that has experience is at an advantage. … (But) it's pretty even across the board. The differences would be some teams were able to get in two or three or four practices. … I might think they got a little bit of an advantage to get out on the grass and have those practices. But outside of that, the biggest advantage you can have is to have good leadership, have a veteran football team and when you got that it doesn't matter if you have spring practice or not. When you don’t have that, it’s tough.”

Smart said the Bulldogs were able to get in a series of “walk-throughs” allowed by the NCAA before UGA broke for the spring vacation period March 6. By the time players were to return to campus March 16, all sports were shut down.

At this point, Smart doesn’t know if or when college football may approach normalcy. Like fans across America, he’s just waiting to hear something official.

“I can’t speculate what’s going to happen moving into the future; I just don’t know,” Smart said. “There are too many unknowns out there. I don’t think it does anybody any good to do that.

“But the No. 1 thing is the well-being of our players, their families, our student-athletes, our students at the University of Georgia. We’re trying every way we can to make sure that they have everything they need because so many of them have parents in harm’s way. They’re in harm’s way taking care of themselves if they don’t respect what they’re being told.

“A lot of them are concerned about being in shape, their ability to grow and get better, and that’s not the primary concern right now. The primary concern right now is the health and well-being of all of our communities. That’s really important that we drive that home.”

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