Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph went all in reporting about the two sides trying to come up with a solution to the basketball series. Georgia wanted to play the game at Phillips Arena this coming season, Butt reports, but it looks like that isn't going to happen this year or any time soon.
Some background on this…
Keep in mind that Georgia already plays its biggest football game of the year at a neutral site in Jacksonville. It plays a neutral site game in baseball against Georgia Tech each year as well. Georgia is about as accommodating as possible when it comes to where athletic events are played. I could write at length about UGA being the only high-level SEC team (not Alabama or Tennessee) willing to play at Auburn every other year before the 1980s, but that's not the point.
One has to also acknowledge that playing this particular game in Atlanta at a neutral site has been done before, and not with optimal results for UGA. Playing the game at the Omni, and I went to a few of those games, came during Tech’s only real heyday in basketball. It was a Tech crowd to be sure.
What I can’t be so sure of today is if Tech and UGA could come close to filling up a basketball arena anywhere not on campus, and on campus is often a challenge. Tech-UGA hasn’t been jam packed in Athens, and this is off the top of my head, since January 2004 game when UGA took out No. 3 Tech in double overtime. Only once, in 2013, has Tech-UGA basketball drawn more than 10,000 fans since Mark Fox took over as coach. That means only once in the last decade have the two programs had a substantial crowd.
Otherwise the game has been pretty pedestrian - probably because the outcome isn’t as important as you would like on either side because both have been so mediocre or bad of late. Then again, the game has flopped all around the schedule - first or second game of the season; the first week of December; a few days before Christmas; a few days after New Year's - so much so that no one really has a feel for when the game is "supposed" to be played.
The series needs life pumped back into it - its dead right now compared to the way it once was. Shandon Anderson going against Drew Barry; the Triple overtime game at the Omni in 1990 - this thing used to be fun. Really, the programs need to get better, and a specific date on the calendar needs to be picked out.
Moving the game to MLK day would give the game the needed spotlight on the college scene. How many college teams play a game that matters on MLK? How many play their blood rival on MLK? How many programs can make their rivalry about something bigger than them in this way? How many college programs say that they live and play it in the place where the person being honored on the holiday is from?
I will leave the logistics to others, but last year UGA played on a Saturday and then Tuesday in the days surrounding the Monday MLK holiday. Several times in the recent past Tech and UGA have played after conference play started. Its common for the likes of the Big 12 and Pac 12 to play two conference games in three days (either Thursday then Saturday or Saturday then Monday), so it wouldn't be nuts for Tech and UGA to tip off on a Monday after a Saturday game. Then again, that's the format of the NCAA Tournament... two games in three days.
Also, the game could be played to a national audience on ESPN at noon that day considering the holiday. The in-arena audience for the game would likely increase as well. Getting to Athens from any part of Atlanta for a night tip off is brutal. Getting to Phillips Arena or Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth on a holiday? Not nearly as difficult.
It makes sense. Let's get rolling on this...