And even Mimbs can’t call up from memory the last time No. 3 Georgia ventured out into the wider world to play a football game.
“The furthest I can think of is going to Mississippi or Arkansas or Louisiana to play a West team,” said Mimbs, the Bulldogs’ starting punter. “As far as going outside the Southeast, I really can’t tell you the last time Georgia has done that.”
It was Nov. 4, 1967, the last time the Bulldogs crossed the Mississippi River to play a regular season football game. That resulted in a 15-14 loss to Houston, perhaps explaining why the school has had such an anti-pioneering spirit for the last four decades.
“That’s definitely before my time,” Mimbs said.
“I don’t think any of the guys can remember how far it’s been since we played away like that,” middle linebacker Rennie Curran said.
Nor, frankly, do they care, Curran said. There is, of course, the matter of conference pride, but the historical context of the travel means little to this generation of Bulldogs. But for Georgia fans whose memory goes beyond last week’s party, Saturday’s trip to Sun Devil Stadium to play Arizona State is momentous.
In the last 10 years, Georgia has traveled fewer miles to play non-conference opponents than any team in the country, according to MapGameDay.com. Those trips to Atlanta (Georgia Tech) and Clemson, S.C. (Clemson) don’t tend to build up many frequent flyer miles, and those are the only places the Bulldogs have gone in 40 years to play a non-conference road game.
It all adds up to a grand total of 358 miles, or 3,488 miles fewer than the roundtrip Georgia will make this weekend. Georgia hasn’t gone this far west since 1960, when it lost 10-3 to Southern Cal.
It is athletics director Damon Evans who is behind this new exploratory spirit, and, like the Americans who first went West in the 1800s, his motivation is money. In modern-day times, the polite term is “branding.”
Taking Georgia’s product on the road means more eyeballs will see the team, which means more recruits can be courted and more hats, T-shirts and jerseys can be sold.
“People just automatically become more aware of who you are, and I want people to know about Georgia,” Evans said. “There is no bigger promoter than our football team.”
Georgia is jumping full speed into this new role. It will play at Oklahoma State in 2009 and at Colorado in 2010. Those trips are exciting for Bulldog fans with a little extra money to spend (flights from Tempe to Atlanta on Sunday after the game were booked solid just weeks after this game was announced), but for the players, the location is of little consequence.
“It really doesn’t matter,” Curran said. “Any team we play we feel we have to send a statement to the nation and represent ourselves and our conference.”