Georgia moves closer to scheduling Notre Dame

semerson@macon.comMay 27, 2014 

Notre Dame Stadium.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DESTIN, Fla. - Georgia and Notre Dame are moving closer to a football series "later this decade," Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said Tuesday. And while no deal is done, and McGarity cautioned that there could be snags, he made clear that he would be eager for it to happen.

"I think it's an opponent we've played, what, one time? 1980? For our fans to be able to go up to South Bend, and for our fans to see Notre Dame play between the hedges, I think from a national perspective it'd be off the charts, as far as interest, as far as intrigue," McGarity said. "That would be something out of the ordinary that our fans would be very, very excited about."

The two schools haven't nailed down which years it would be, but McGarity said it would be in the range of 2017-20. Notre Dame would visit Sanford Stadium, and Georgia would visit Notre Dame Stadium.

"I think we're just waiting to work through some verbal communications before we have anything in writing," McGarity said.

McGarity spoke on the first day of SEC meetings in Destin, Florida, where non-conference scheduling for football has been a major topic. Figures in the new four-team playoff have been in attendance, including selection committee member Archie Manning, and playoff chairman Bill Hancock.

Georgia, after proceeding cautiously on scheduling for awhile, now appears ready to line up more high-profile games. If the series with Notre Dame did fall through, McGarity said there are two other high-profile teams from the eastern half of the U.S. that are on the radar screen.

"Other opponents that people would say, Holy cow, that's a great opportunity," McGarity said.

This year Georgia completes a two-game series with Clemson, and the Bulldogs have played several other major-conference teams in recent years.

"Next year's the first year since 2012 we haven't played two tough out-of-conference opponents. So we've done our fair share of the heavy lifting," McGarity said. "The strength of schedule is something we talked about today: What does that mean? There is no metric. I can't go to Sagarin, and the committee's not going to use Sagarin as a strength of schedule. It's gonna be in the eye of the beholder."

Notre Dame has been fairly eager to schedule Georgia, with head coach Brian Kelly reiterating the desire last week in an interview with USA Today. Kelly's eagerness to schedule Georgia has been about recruiting, and trying to get into the Peach State. Georgia, on the other hand, has been a bit more cautious, with McGarity downplaying it about a month ago.

But on Tuesday McGarity said talks have progressed. He still cautioned that a snag could happen, pointing to the team's 2010 agreement to play a series with Ohio State, only to have it canceled by the Buckeyes. So McGarity is moving forward in "guarded" fashion about the series with Notre Dame coming to fruition.

"But intent, absolutely," McGarity said.

Mark Richt is in agreement with the Notre Dame game, as well as the two other possibilities, according to McGarity, but the head coach also doesn't want to do it every season. Still, Georgia's philosophy moving forward seems to be to schedule major opponents periodically. McGarity is even open to a return to the Georgia Dome, and has told Gary Stokan, head of the Peach Bowl. Stokan put together the 2011 season opener between Georgia and Boise State.

"I don't want to close the door on any opportunity," McGarity said. "But it's gotta really make sense, to something that is a no-brainer."

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