There’ve been some interesting discussions recently about the brave new world of college football that may result from the NCAA throwing out part of its rule book, and how Greg McGarity and UGA appear reluctant to follow the trail being blazed by Nick Saban at Alabama.
Even before the recent NCAA move, Saban was already lapping everyone else in terms of exploiting every legal avenue toward establishing an advantage for his Crimson Tide program, getting around the limitations on the number of assistants a school can have on its coaching staff by hiring off-field “analysts.”
Then, in January, the NCAA’s university presidents decided that in an age of texting and social media some of the rules governing recruiting had become pretty much impossible to enforce, so they passed legislation to eliminate a bunch of restrictions. Under the legislation, due to take effect July 1, not only can coaches and anyone else at a school have pretty much unlimited contact via phone calls and text messages with recruits, schools also can add as many full-time recruiters to their athletic staffs as they want and can afford.
Typically, Bama has already jumped on this, hiring former Clemson defensive coordinator and Baylor head coach Kevin Steele as director of player personnel, with his main job being to direct the Tide’s recruiting efforts. Alabama also hired a high school coach as director of player development.
Other programs that can afford to follow Bama’s rich-get-richer template no doubt soon will be staffing up on the recruiting side, but some schools are balking. Big 10 coaches and athletic directors came out last week against key parts of the legislation, expressing “serious concerns” whether the plan is “in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches.” Their statement added: “We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.”
Philosophically, UGA has come down on the side of the Big 10, with McGarity telling the New York Times he fears the new rules will lead to something akin to an athletic arms race among the bigger programs. “Some school is going to want to get on the high dive with this and go all in and spend and spend,” McGarity said. “It is going to start a round of competition among schools that is going to be limitless.”
You can read “some school” as “Alabama” in that quote.
McGarity told the Times he’s talked with other SEC athletic directors who are opposed to the legislation and he hopes to engineer a conference vote to override the new rules. Opponents of the legislation have until March 20 to gather 75 votes from presidents of Division I universities in order to initiate such an override.
Outgoing UGA President Michael Adams agrees with McGarity. Talking with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer recently, Adams raised some legitimate concerns about the impact the new rules could have on recruits.
“I think some deregulation on the most ridiculous rules was needed,” Adams said. “But a lot of those rules have been put there because of how competitive coaches are. I don’t know if you ever have a perfectly level playing field, quote-unquote. But I worry about a student-athlete being bombarded in high school, particularly some who need to spend time studying instead of responding to 100 emails per day. All of this is a balancing act, and the pendulum can swing too much in one direction — which it probably had, with some ridiculous rules. But it doesn’t need to swing all the way back to the other side, or we will hurt student-athletes in the process.”
Adams isn’t alone in fearing the new rules will result in the complete harassment of high school kids, as well as massive growth in football staffs at places like Alabama.
But what’s ironic about UGA’s opposition to the deregulation of recruiting and the potential ballooning of athletic staffs is that Georgia is one of the schools that can afford to keep pace with Alabama. As we’ve discussed previously, UGA has one of the most profitable athletic programs in the country and yet ranks in the middle of the SEC in spending. As a result McGarity and company are sitting on a reserve fund of nearly $70 million.
I’ve heard from quite a few fans in recent months who worry that Georgia isn’t keeping up with Saban and Co., and I share that concern.
While I agree that allowing unlimited contact with high school recruits isn’t a good idea, I think the UGA brain trust needs to recognize and react to the fact that, no matter whether these new rules stick or not, they’ve got to be more aggressive and spend more or they’re going to find Saban owns recruiting in this state.
UGA has to step up and play the game. Even without the unlimited-contact rule that might necessitate giant recruiting staffs, Georgia needs to take a page out of Saban’s book and start hiring some off-field quality-control analysts or consultants.
Already last year, the school hired veteran high school coach Daryl Jones as director of on-campus recruiting and, with the departure of recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, appears content to let him run recruiting instead of putting a member of the coaching staff in charge.
But there are other areas that cry out for additional staffing. As I wrote back in early August, special teams seems ripe for some sort of creative approach like Saban’s, since Mark Richt is loathe to devote one of his precious on-field coaching spots to that crucial aspect of the game.
Why not hire someone like Kevin Butler to analyze video of placekicker Marshall Morgan every day and tell the kid what he needs to work on? It’s allowable under the current rules, as Saban has shown, and it’s needed.
What good is sitting on a $70 million surplus if the conference leader is establishing a new level of excellence that you refuse to reach for?
Tuesday’s belated signing of another big defensive lineman in four-star recruit Toby Johnson is a great way for Richt to cap off his largest recruiting class ever. It’s time to quit harping on the ones that got away and instead appreciate the talented group of 33 players who’ve decided to play ball in Athens. … And while we’re appreciating the players we have, check out the the piece CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd did about UGA quarterback Aaron Murray, whose remarkable work ethic is likely to have him leaving UGA owning most of the school’s and the conference’s passing records. … I joined my brothers and daughter for lunch Sunday at Herschel Walker’s new restaurant in downtown Athens, where peak time waits of 35-plus minutes for a table are still the norm. I’d say the menu and service need a little tweaking, but overall the food was tasty and well-prepared and we enjoyed the experience tremendously. Loran Smith takes a look at Walker’s evolution from Heisman winner to big-time businessman in his latest Athens Banner-Herald column. … And while I wouldn’t recommend Herschel add this to his menu, I was amused by Mark Richt’s tweets earlier this week about his birthday treat: a Hot Dawg Delight, which he explained is toasted bread, cooked hot dogs, melted cheese, baked beans and ketchup. “Mmm Mmm Good,” the coach said. I’m not sure that’s anything I’d want to tackle, but my indefatigable brother Jon noted: “He forgot the coleslaw on top!”
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