ATHENS – Is it possible to have a sellout of a free event? If so, then the Georgia Bulldogs are about to do it. But that’s par for the course in what has been a season of vanquished impossibilities.

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The Bulldogs are holding a parade and national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, and every one of the 92,746 seats has been claimed. And while they weren’t sold, tickets are required to attend.

After initially serving UGA’s 16,000-person donor base, the remaining tickets were claimed by non-season-ticket holders, who snatched up the digital ducats in the matter of an hour or so.

So, be warned: If you didn’t get a ticket, don’t plan to get into Sanford Stadium for the extensive program that is planned. You’re welcome to join thousands of others, who are expected to crowd the parade route from the Georgia football complex on Pinecrest Drive down Lumpkin Street to the West End entrance for the customary “Dawg Walk” under Gillis Bridge.

“That’s the key message we want to get out right now, that all the tickets are out and gone,” Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said Friday. “Everyone needs to know that all 92,000 tickets are accounted for, so you can’t just show up and get in. But if you want to come and watch the parade down Lumpkin you can do that.”

ExploreGeorgia’s championship celebration to air live exclusively on Channel 2

Parade spectators will be able to see their Georgia heroes as they pass by on Lumpkin Street, which otherwise has been closed to traffic. The players, coach Kirby Smart and his staff will ride on trailers and other open-air vehicles, so fans will be able to see, wave and interact.

It will, in fact, be a de-facto game day in Athens. While the parade won’t start until 12:30 p.m. and the formal program won’t begin until 2 p.m., the campus will be open to visitors and tailgating by 7 a.m. Sanford Stadium will be open for seating by noon. And it will be all hands on deck for Georgia’s operations and facility staffers. All concession stands and restrooms, of course, will be open. Entry to the stadium begins at noon.

Excitement about Georgia football is at an all-time high. After being ranked No. 1 for eight consecutive weeks this past season, the Bulldogs lost the top spot to Alabama when the Crimson Tide beat them 41-24 in the SEC Championship game Dec. 4.

Twenty-seven days later, Georgia took advantage of its inclusion in the four-team College Football Playoff by annihilating No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl semifinal in Miami. Former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett was named most outstanding offensive player and senior Derion Kendrick was named outstanding defensive player in that game.

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That set up a rematch with No. 1 Alabama, which had similarly dominated Cincinnati in the other semifinal, 10 days later in the CFP Championship game in Indianapolis.

Playing inside Lucas Oil Stadium amid the frigid outdoor temperatures, Georgia outscored the Crimson Tide 20-0 over the final eight minutes for an exhilarating come-from-behind victory.

In between all the postseason and regular-season success, the Bulldogs, who opened the season ranked No. 5, overcame injuries to their starting quarterback, star wide receiver, tight end and several offensive linemen. They put together the first 14-win season in school history and first national championship in 41 years. It was Georgia’s third consensus national title in 130 years of football.

“It’s a goal every year, obviously, for all of our programs to win a championship. Right?” Brooks said. “But that’s difficult in every sport, especially football, going through the SEC. Just getting into the league championship game is difficult, then you have the gauntlet of the playoffs. You hope and wish for these opportunities, but going through it, you recognize how special it is.”

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Georgia running back Zamir White is greeted by a large crowd of fans as he and his teammates return to the Georgia campus, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Athens, Ga., after defeating Alabama in the College Football Championship NCAA college football game. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Georgia running back Zamir White is greeted by a large crowd of fans as he and his teammates return to the Georgia campus, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Athens, Ga., after defeating Alabama in the College Football Championship NCAA college football game. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

caption arrowCaption
Georgia running back Zamir White is greeted by a large crowd of fans as he and his teammates return to the Georgia campus, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Athens, Ga., after defeating Alabama in the College Football Championship NCAA college football game. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Smart, who earned $1.8 million in bonuses with the championship and other postseason accolades, is expected to become the college game’s latest $10 million-a-year coach after a contract renegotiation is completed in the coming weeks. He made $7.1 million in salary this year.

Meanwhile, with the accomplishment comes a whole new set of challenges. In the week since securing the title, Georgia is dealing the inevitable ingress and egress of players and coaches as they make decisions to either pursue new opportunities or stick with the Bulldogs to make a run at defending their title.

But for one day Saturday, there will be nothing but revelry as the Bulldogs are feted for all they accomplished and overcame.

“I think that’s a testament to coach Smart and his staff, the depth they built,” Brooks said. “I think it’s a testament to the leadership within our team, how everybody stepped up. It was an extremely resilient group of young men. It didn’t always go perfectly, but they fought back. It speaks volumes about the character of this team.”

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