Parade spectators will be able to see their Georgia heroes as they pass through Lumpkin Street, which has otherwise been closed to traffic. Players, Coach Kirby Smart and their staff will travel in trailers and other vehicles in the open air, so fans can see, greet and interact.
In fact, it will be a de facto game day in Athens. While the parade won’t start until 12:30 pm and the formal program won’t start until 2 pm, the campus will be open for visitors at 7 am Sanford Stadium will be open for seating at noon. And it will be all hands on deck for operations and staff at the Georgia facility. All concession stands and restrooms will, of course, be open. Entrance to the stadium begins at noon.
Enthusiasm for Georgia soccer is at an all time high. After holding the No. 1 spot for eight straight weeks last season, the Bulldogs lost the top spot to Alabama when the Crimson Tide beat them 41-24 in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4.
Twenty-seven days later, Georgia capitalized on its inclusion in the four-team college football playoff by annihilating No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in the semifinal at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Former quarterback Stetson Bennett was named Most Outstanding Offensive Player and Derion Kendrick was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player in that game.
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 frigid outside temperatures, Georgia outscored the Crimson Tide 20-0 in the final eight minutes for a thrilling win from behind.
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 the 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 tough in all sports, especially football, going through the SEC. Getting into the league championship game is tough, so you have the playoff glove. and you want these opportunities, but when you go through them, you recognize how special it is.”
Smart, who earned $1.8 million in championship bonuses and other postseason accolades, is expected to become the last $10 million-a-year college coach after a contract renegotiation is completed in the coming weeks. He earned $7.1 million in salary this year.
Meanwhile, with the achievement comes a new set of challenges. In the week since securing the title, Georgia is dealing with the inevitable in-and-out of players and coaches as they make decisions to pursue new opportunities or stay with the Bulldogs to defend their title.
But for one Saturday, there will be nothing but revelry as the Bulldogs are feted for all they have accomplished and overcome.
“I think that’s a testament to Coach Smart and his staff, the depth that they built,” Brooks said. “I think it’s a testament to the leadership within our team, how everyone stepped up. It was an extremely resilient group of young men. It didn’t always go perfectly, but they held their own. It says a lot about the character of this team.”