Opinion: Is it time for UGA to invest in an indoor practice facility?

When is UGA athletics director Greg McGarity finally going to buy an indoor practice facility for the football team?

That was a popular topic of conversation at Dawg Night, UGA’s biggest recruiting event of the year. Many of the top high school prospects from around the Southeast showed up for the football camp a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the outdoors-only Dawg Night was hindered by rainy weather.

And some of the top prospects in attendance, along with their parents, wondered aloud why UGA doesn’t have an indoor practice facility or IPF, like the rest of the SEC schools they’ve visited (with the exception of Florida).

It’s an excellent question – and one that always seems to be a sore point among many UGA fans on message boards.

How can UGA not have an IPF when most everybody else does — including far lesser programs? And why not when McGarity is already sitting on a pile of cash reserves at an estimated $70 million? On top of that, the SEC Network is about to make it rain dollar bills in the SEC like never seen before in college athletics.

It seems like the perfect time to make this type of commitment to UGA’s football future, doesn’t it?

Obviously, an IPF would help tremendously with recruiting, but that’s not really the main reason to build one.

The No. 1 reason why it might be time for McGarity to ante up for an IPF is for competitive reasons in football.

Simply put, not having one puts UGA at a competitive disadvantage.

Rivals such as Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia Tech can plan out a practice schedule months in advance and not have to worry making any changes due to weather. None. They can just go inside.

It may not seem like a big deal but it is. For example, Alabama will go indoors at least once per week during the brutal August heat to keep the draining heat off the players. Once the season starts, Alabama traditionally moves its entire Thursday and Friday practice sessions to its state-of-the-art IPF to keep the players fresh.

So that’s 28 indoor practices over the course of a 14-game season when the weather is good. We’re not even talking about using the IPF during thunderstorms, or every morning before practice for walk-throughs (like they do at Alabama and many other SEC schools, too).

Time is of the essence in college football. Don’t forget there’s talk about the NCAA putting even more time restrictions on future practices, so every minute of game preparation will count more than ever.

And there’s more. What about winter conditioning? Was it truly safe for UGA’s players to be running around at 5 a.m. when it was 35 degrees outside? What about spring practices? And what about the team’s voluntary workouts earlier this summer? One player told me at least six 7-on-7 sessions were canceled or postponed due to thunderstorms.

Realistically, the football team would use an IPF at least 150 times per year.

Wouldn’t it be nice to maintain some consistency with practices and workouts on a year-round basis rather than have to continuously check The Weather Channel app on your iPhone?

Let’s get right to the point: Since UGA’s football team generates the revenue and pays the bills for the school’s athletic department, why not give them the best of everything within reason?

An IPF would be a strong statement and investment by McGarity about the football program. (By the way, this is nothing personal against the AD; he’s always been courteous and professional to me).

It’s an easy solution for everybody: Put the IPF where the track is now (next to the UGA outdoor practice fields for football), and erect a new track next to the soccer and softball fields on Milledge Avenue. And build a top-notch track facility like other SEC schools – one that will attract elite sprinters who also play football. (What about the multi-purpose room at the Butts-Mehre with a small turf strip? Bust out the walls to expand the weight room)

And the IPF won’t only benefit football, but other UGA athletic teams, too. It would also be available to the baseball, track, volleyball and softball teams, just like they are at other SEC programs. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Few people realize this: Nick Saban created a dynasty at Alabama, but it’s not just because of his coaching or recruiting. Since 2007, university leaders and boosters have committed tens of millions of dollars toward top-notch facilities (new strength-and-conditioning center, an expanded indoor facility, new locker rooms at stadium, etc.) and other football-related needs. It’s not a coincidence Alabama’s ascension to the top under Saban has been accompanied with a tremendous commitment toward resources.

Is Greg McGarity ready to make the same type of commitment toward UGA’s football program? Does he want put the Bulldogs in the best position to compete at the same level as the Alabamas and Auburns for national championships every year?

What’s your opinion? Please post below.

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