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ATHENS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart and his wife Mary Beth are donating $1 million to help fund UGA Athletic Association’s new social justice program, to create scholarships for senior student-athletes whose final seasons were impacted by COVID-19 and to contribute to the expansion of UGA’s football program.
That’s according to a university release Thursday, which said the Smarts are joining Detroit Lions quarterback and former UGA star Matthew Stafford and his wife, Kelly, to endow the new social justice program. The program’s goal, according to the release, 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.”
“Mary Beth and I are where we are because of the University of Georgia, so we feel a duty to give back to the university that opened so many doors for us, brought us together and brought us home,” Kirby Smart said. “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. We hope this gift can fuel positive change in both areas.”
The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility and lifted team financial aid limits so that senior student-athletes whose seasons were impacted by COVID-19 could complete their final seasons of eligibility, but the athletic department faced a challenge in finding funding due to the financial shortfall created by COVID-19.
“It is tremendously heartening to see former UGA student-athletes like Coach Smart and Mary Beth supporting today’s student-athletes,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said. “UGA prides itself on providing our students a world-class educational experience, and that experience extends beyond the classroom. The Smart family’s gift will help to address several important extracurricular concerns that are vital to the success of our student-athletes.”
The third portion of the Smarts’ gift will support the Butts-Mehre Expansion Project, which will expand the weight room and add a locker room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a sports medicine facility to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, among other improvements.