Georgia’s plans to conduct a “Virtual G-Day” on Saturday came from Kirby Smart himself.
The Bulldogs’ football coach pitched it recently to members of UGA’s marketing and promotions team. They liked the idea, and the whole thing came together in about a week.
“The real catalyst for this came from our head football coach,” said Alan Thomas, Georgia’s senior associate athletic director for external operations. “He was interested in knowing if there was a game we could put on, and he said that he could live tweet during it. We thought it was fantastic. He thought it'd be a way for him to reach out (to fans) and be part of something. That started the wheels turning.”
Georgia, like all other SEC football programs, canceled spring practice March 15 just as the coronavirus pandemic began to significantly impact the country. That included the annual G-Day intrasquad game, which was to be played at 2 p.m. Saturday and broadcast on the SEC Network.
Thomas said the network had planned to simply replay Georgia’s 2019 G-Day game during that time slot. UGA pitched the idea of replaying the 2019 Notre Dame game with Smart commenting on it.
They liked it much better.
Smart is going to provide commentary via his Twitter account, @KirbySmartUGA. The radio broadcast team of Scott Howard, Eric Zeier and Chuck Dowdle also will provide additional commentary via Facebook Live on UGA athletics' page.
“So the wheels continued to turn, and we decided to make it a Virtual G-Day,” Thomas said. “So we’re challenging everybody to set up their tailgates at home and watch the game and participate. It’s not the same as being on campus on G-Day, but it’s the next best thing during these times.”
CBS did something similar Sunday when it had 2019 Masters winner Tiger Woods comment via a live video conference interview with Jim Nantz during the replay of the telecast.
“We looked at that,” Thomas said. “But, keep in mind, this is an idea borne within a week. CBS had probably been thinking that through since they postponed the Masters. It takes some time, and you have to have people in the right places to pull off those kinds of things.”
Like a lot of businesses, UGA is searching for ways to generate content and fulfill sponsorship agreements. The school is not able to stream games on its own website because they’re owned by the networks.
“This idea is a great study of the times,” Thomas said. “Our digital team has been trying to come up with a content plan while also looking at how we’re managing our sponsorship inventory. This is our first attempt at doing something like this, and hopefully we won’t have to do it for long. But we think we’ll see some good engagement on it. ... Coach Smart’s willingness to be involved and doing outside his normal realm is the key factor.”