CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- One of Will Wade's top priorities when he was hired as the new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach was to upgrade the program's non-conference schedule and bring bigger programs to McKenzie Arena.
He took the first step towards accomplishing both of those goals this week.
Wade confirmed Thursday that UTC has signed a deal to play Georgia in a "2-for-1" over the next three years. The Mocs will travel to Athens to face the Bulldogs this winter and again during the 2015-16 season.
The Bulldogs will return the favor with a visit to The Roundhouse between those two dates during the 2014-15 campaign.
"We want to attract the best teams we can to McKenzie Arena, and it was a priority for us to get a good Southeastern Conference team as part of that. Georgia certainly fits that bill," Wade said about the deal, which includes a $90,000 payday for the Mocs. "We were able to hash some things out and work through the details.
"I'm just really excited for our fans, the program and this city that we can get Georgia to come to McKenzie Arena, not this season, but the following season."
Wade said the schedule for the upcoming season is nearly complete and should be announced in the next few weeks. He's worked hard to make it as attractive as possible for UTC fans, but bigger schools are not always willing to listen to Wade's pitch.
"You get all sorts of responses when you call these teams, but I'm one that isn't bashful about it. The worst they can tell me is 'no,'" Wade said. "We've been working the phones and some people have been open to the idea, while others just can't get off the phone soon enough."
Wade pleased with UTC's first offseason workouts
The first-year coach also said his first offseason workouts with his new team went "as well as could be expected" on Wednesday.
The Mocs split into two position groups for a pair of closed practices, first the guards and then the big men. Wade said he was pleasantly surprised by the athleticism he saw from his team, and believes they have a great foundation from which to build.
"First of all, it was just great to be on the court and sweat with the guys," Wade said Thursday. "It's obviously a different form and different pace, tempo and terminology, but I thought the guys responded well and we had two really good workouts."
The NCAA allows coaches a total of two hours per week to work with players outside of conditioning during the summer. Wade said every minute is important in establishing an identity for his program and helping the players understand what is expected of them.
So far, he's definitely opened a few eyes.
"I got a text last night from one player, who I guess should remain nameless, that said he has 'NEVER worked that hard... EVER,' so that was an idea of how they felt," Wade said with a wide smile. "We have to establish a culture and establish a work ethic, so we'll keep working them on the court and off it in the weight room."
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