UGA athletics director Greg McGarity told the AJC that he hasn’t given any consideration to changing his stance of not inviting football recruits to the annual Georgia-Florida game, despite the fact that SEC rivals are taking full advantage of the new rule.
Under amended SEC legislation passed last June, member schools are permitted to give complimentary tickets to prospects when they are the “home team” at a neutral site, such as Saturday’s game located in the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida.
Soon after the rule was announced, McGarity and his Florida counterpart, Jeremy Foley, made an agreement that neither school would entertain recruits for the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” because of logistical concerns.
“I think the NCAA rules come into play on the decision that both institutions have agreed up because you cannot have any contact with any recruits … none of our football coaches or recruiting staff (because the game is at an off-campus location),” McGarity said this week.
“In essence, the only thing you would be able to do is have a ticket office staff member provide the recruit with a ticket to the game. My decision is based on the same theory, same justifications, and same reasons that we’ve had all along.”
Both Alabama’s Nick Saban and Auburn’s Gene Chizik didn’t waste any time in seizing the golden recruiting opportunity. Alabama invited an all-star cast of recruits from Texas to its season-opener against Michigan in Dallas, while Auburn brought in a star-studded group when they played Clemson at the Georgia Dome.
“No, the Alabama and Auburn situations didn’t make me look at our decision any differently,” McGarity said. “The bottom line is this: If you can’t even communicate or talk (to the recruits), they are basically just getting a ticket to the game and going up in the stands, just like any fans.
“In our case, with the game being such a hard ticket, I don’t think either school is in a position to take tickets from people that have been attending that game for a number of years, as well as your student body. Perhaps with those other games … well, I’m not really sure what the dynamics are there. (Anyways) that’s the reason neither Jeremy or I basically want to go in that direction.”
McGarity said the agreement could be broken with Florida, if either side wanted to end it, but that “it has never been anything that has been brought up. It just doesn’t make sense.”
OUR OPINION: What do we think? While we respect McGarity’s opinion, we respectfully – and strongly – disagree with it. Recruiting is the lifeblood of your football program. When you have a “home game” in Florida, which is one of the top three states in the nation for manufacturing college football players, you’ve got to take advantage of it. Every time. That’s why Alabama and Auburn, along with every other SEC school that has the future opportunity, will take advantage of it. Due to Jacksonville being an off-campus location, neither UGA nor Florida can have any contact with the recruits once they arrive at the site, per NCAA rules. But that is not as important as exposing many of Florida’s best to the energy, excitement and enthusiasm at the annual showdown. Regardless of the game’s outcome, a Florida high school football star couldn’t be anything but impressed by seeing such a large and loyal army of UGA fans showing up for a game in another state and so far, far away from Athens. “I can’t believe this many Georgia fans traveled to Florida for a game. I mean, we’re in Florida. Georgia must have some of the best fans anywhere. Look at all that red.” You’ve also got to realize, due to travel concerns (UGA is five hours from the Florida border), many of the Florida kids are simply not able to swing a weekend trip to catch a game at UGA. So you’re the Bulldogs, and you’ve got the golden opportunity to showcase your program in the heart of Florida? And you pass on it? If I’m Jeremy Foley, I agree to that deal, too. He’s not worried about Florida kids missing on a game-day atmosphere with the Gators because they’re just down the road from Jacksonville. With as strongly as UGA traditionally recruits the state of Florida (QB Aaron Murray and OL John Theus are from Florida, along with four of the team’s 2013 commits), I can see UGA taking another look at this in the future. I think this was mainly a financial decision, and I can completely understand McGarity’s ticket concerns. I would set the ticket allotment for recruits at 500 or less (maybe even 300), and I would put them wherever there were less-desired seats. It wouldn’t matter. The recruits wouldn’t be on the 50-yard line, and they might even be sitting behind some poles. But they would be somewhere in the stadium, and they would get to experience the electrifying environment. Any potential recruiting benefits – and the potential is always mighty in talent-rich Florida – greatly outweigh the loss of revenue from a few hundred tickets somewhere in the stadium. Again, it all comes back to the priority of recruiting – the lifeblood of every successful college football program. It’s an easy call.
That’s my opinion. What is yours? Please post below.
WE’RE LESS THAN FOUR MONTHS AWAY FROM SIGNING DAY
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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