UGA Athletics making, spending big money post-football championship

Credit: Chip Towers

Credit: Chip Towers

ATHENS – “Welcome to the first athletic board meeting after a football national championship.”

That’s the way UGA President Jere Morehead opened Wednesday’s Georgia Athletic Association board of directors meeting. The meeting ended with Athletic Director Josh Brooks presenting Morehead with an authentic, personalized No. 1 Georgia football jersey.

Both actions were followed by applause.

Applause is not typical at athletic board meetings, but these are heady times indeed for the Bulldogs and the 21 teams that comprise Georgia’s athletic department.

The football team defeated Alabama on Jan. 10 to win the school’s first national championship in football in 41 years. Wednesday’s meeting followed the Bulldogs closing on the nation’s No. 3-ranked football recruiting class.

Brooks introduced new women’s soccer coach Keidane McAlpine. He followed new track and field coach Caryl Smith Gilbert in coming to Georgia from Southern Cal. Both recently won national championships at USC. That means that eight of the Bulldogs’ 15 head coaches have won national titles in their respective sports.

Yes, there was much about which to gloat, and the Bulldogs were in full gloat mode Wednesday.

“I personally think we’ll see more years like this in our future,” Morehead said. “I know several other sports are going to be in position to compete for championships. We’re excited about baseball team, which I think is ranked 13th or so. … We have never experienced a year this one. We can all say it’s a great year to be a Georgia Bulldog.”

Brooks verified that when he delivered the AD’s report at the end of the hour-long meeting. He pointed out that:

  • Ten of UGA’s 15 spring sports are ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams.
  • The development office has overseen a 6% increase in Magill Society donor membership to 1,490 members.
  • Magdi El Shahawy and his academic support group helped 338 individual athletes and 15 teams record fall-semester GPAs of 3.0 or better.
  • A newly formed social media and creative strategy group created in conjunction with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications had resulted in 140.3 million impressions during fall semester.

Not surprisingly, Georgia athletics also is ahead of pace financially for the 2022 Fiscal Year. That’s thanks in part to $34 million in football ticket revenue, which does not include the Bulldogs’ sales numbers from the postseason. Treasurer Ryan Nesbitt reported a total of $70.2 million of unrestricted net assets for 2022.

Of course, Georgia is going to need to spend some of the surplus, and it intends to. The board unanimously approved funding of $10.65 million for facility projects. That includes:

  • $6.4 million for upgrading and retrofitting the old football locker room in the Butts-Mehre complex for track and field locker rooms.
  • $1.8 million for design work for improvements to Foley Field baseball stadium ($950,000) and Jack Turner Softball Stadium ($850,000).
  • $1.7 million for the initial phase of replacing the existing indoor tennis courts, which includes demolition and the relocation of utilities duct work.
  • $750,000 for waterproofing Sanford Stadium.

Brooks said Georgia is only weeks away from completing Phase II of the $80 million Butts-Mehre football operations expansion. The football team moved into the main part of the building last summer. That will end a run of more than $175 million in facility projects executed since Kirby Smart was named head football coach in December 2015. It includes a new indoor practice facility and a new locker room and recruiting lounge at Sanford Stadium.

“Improving the West end zone, building the indoor, the Butts-Mehre expansion, those facilities lead to recruiting,” Brooks said. “Every single one of those things can impact a recruit’s decision and make a difference.”

And not just for football, Brooks asserted.

“That championship culture breeds throughout the department,” he said. “It lifts all boats, if you will. I want to remind everyone that it takes a village, and it’s a long journey. So, I want to say thank you.”

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