Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his wife Mary Beth donated $1 million to the University of Georgia Athletic Association, according to a press release issued Thursday.
The Smarts’ donation will help advance UGAAA’s social justice program, create scholarships for senior student-athletes whose seasons were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and serve as a contribution to the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall expansion project.
“The current moment presents unique challenges for all of us, whether that’s dealing with the ramifications of this pandemic or acknowledging and addressing racial inequality,” Kirby Smart said in the release. “We hope this gift can fuel positive change in both areas.”
Smart joins former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife Kelly, who donated $1.5 million together on Aug. 21 to UGAAA. Part of the Staffords’ donation was also intended for UGAAA’s social justice program.
UGAAA’s goal for its social justice program is to “continue developing an environment to effect meaningful change in the areas of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice for all of the Association’s members, including student-athletes, coaches and staff,” according to Thursday’s release.
Because many student-athletes across the NCAA experienced canceled or postponed seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA elected to grant an additional year of eligibility to allow seniors to return and conclude their collegiate eligibility. Part of the Smarts’ donation will provide financial assistance to UGAAA for these scholarships.
“[The Smarts’] commitments will enhance the athletic and life-skills training our football student-athletes receive, maintain our high standards for diversity and inclusion, and ensure that senior student-athletes derailed by COVID-19 face no financial barriers to return and finish their Bulldog athletic careers,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said in the release.
The remaining portion of the Smarts’ donation will help with the Butts-Mehre expansion project, which began phase one earlier this year. Phase two is expected to be completed by January 2022.
Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization based in Athens, Georgia; redandblack.com/sports