The GHSA football state championship games, which will be held at the Georgia Dome this weekend, were once a popular stop for college head coaches.
A decade or two ago, the celebrity sightings along the sidelines drew as much attention as the games. College coaches made an appearance just to let a blue-chip prospect know that they were watching.
“Oh, gosh yes, I remember those days,” said Bill Curry, former Georgia Tech and Alabama coach at Georgia State. “We were all there at the championship games, trying to be seen. It was a funny thing. It was like going to a place that you know a girl you like will be at, and hoping she would see you in the crowd.”
Sandy Creek High School coach Chip Walker said, “Back in the old days, it was like a ‘who’s who’ in the coaching profession during state championship week. You name the coach in the Southeast, and there was a good chance he would be at one of the games.”
It’s not like that anymore, mostly because of NCAA changes to the recruiting calendar and number of contacts. College coaches, assistants mainly, will attend this weekend’s games, but nowhere near the star power of yesteryear.
The NCAA’s “contact period” began on Nov. 27, limiting each college staff to six overall contacts, including one by the head coach, until February’s national signing day.
“As much as it would make a statement to have Mark Richt on the sidelines at the state championship games, it would be far more productive for Richt to spend that one day with the prospective student-athlete at his school and at the home with his family, selling the program,” ESPN recruiting reporter Kipp Adams said.
“Every school is trying to get an edge in recruiting, and I don’t think that edge is really being at state championship games anymore. There’s a lot more value in recruiting for a head coach with sitting at a kid’s home and talking about life.”
Richt said his staff doesn’t traditionally make any big plans for the state championships because the games are scheduled at the same time as Georgia’s primary recruiting weekend. The Bulldogs will entertain many of their top targets on official visits beginning Friday.
“We’ve decided that the weekend after the SEC Championship game is the best for us to bring in the guys for visits,” Richt said. “Now all of them won’t make it. Some will be playing in state championship games, while others will come on an earlier or later weekend. But we try to get as many in there for that weekend as we can.
“That weekend works out really well for us. We have our annual awards banquet on that Saturday night, and it’s always a good atmosphere for [recruits] to be in at the University of Georgia.”
Richt said he might direct an assistant or two to sneak off to the Georgia Dome for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech recruiting coordinator Andy McCollum said the Yellow Jackets will likely be represented at a few games, too.
“I can remember those days when they first started having the championship games at the Georgia Dome; you’d sit back for two days to watch some of the best football played anywhere,” McCollum said. “Now you can still do that, but it counts as one of your contacts.”
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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