ATHENS - Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity met with his SEC counterparts last Friday, and the subject of the NCAA's recruiting deregulation again came up.
“We didn’t dwell on it at length,” McGarity said. “I got that sense everyone was on the same page.”
And that would mean opposition to the most controversial proposals. In addition to that SEC meeting, the subject was debated even more last week in Indianapolis, at a larger NCAA meeting. McGarity said two of the proposals - set to go into effect in late March - have emerged as the most contentious:
- The amount of staff members on a team who can recruit. Right now, in football 10 coaches (head coach and nine assistant) can recruit off campus, and in basketball four coaches (head coach and three assistants) can recruit. The deregulation would open it up to basically anybody on staff.
- What can be sent to prospective student-athletes: The deregulation would allow teams to send things like life-sized cutouts of recruits, and anything else that can spring from the minds of those who recruit.
“Those are the two things that really have a financial impact that are currently being reviewed by the membership,” McGarity said. “There were 26 proposals (25 passed), and I think two or three were somewhat controversial.”
So will there be enough votes nationwide to override the proposals, due to go into effect in late March? There could be, or it might not become necessary: There is a move afoot for additional legislation that would limit the controversial parts of the legislation.
Specifically, according to McGarity, there is “sentiment” to cap the number of individuals you can have associated with the football program. If that happens, then that group could be deregulated in terms of recruiting, but every team would be on an even footing. Under the rules set to go into effect, one team could hire 50 or more staffers to recruit while others would have less, because an SEC team has more to spend than a Sun Belt team. And even within the same conference, the concern is it would lead to inequality between schools willing to spend whatever it takes and those that don't have the same resources.
The entire recruiting deregulation is set to go into effect on Aug. 1, unless there are 75 votes to override (out of about 340 Division I schools) by March 20. The override votes would be for specific parts of the legislation, so if those two contentious parts are overriden, the other 23 would survive.
“There could be modifications, or it may not even reach the override vote because there may be enough discussion between now and that period of time, to where they may be some adjustments to amendments, or withdrawals, or what have you," McGarity said. "I think there are a lot of options that will be discussed by the membership in the next three weeks.”
Here's a look at the two main issues:
It wouldn’t be unprecedented to limit football staff: As of last year, a strength and conditioning staff is limited to five members. And for a long time teams have been limited to 10 full-time coaches, who are the only ones allowed to recruit.
But lately Alabama has been hiring quality-control coaches. Auburn just hired Dell McGee, the head coach at Columbus Carver High School, for an unspecified position.
Last year Georgia hired Daryl Jones to be the on-campus recruiting coordinator. But he can’t go on the road and recruit. That’s still limited to the full-time coaches - unless the new NCAA rules go through in late March. If they do, then it's being widely predicted that teams will hire new staff left and right with the express purpose of recruiting.
Either way, McGarity is a bit skeptical of the quality-control hires.
“Right now you could hire 50 quality-control (coaches), whatever you want to call them. You could hire 100 if you wanted to,” McGarity said. “But the key thing here, and what everybody is missing the point on, is the only people that can recruit are your 10 coaches. All these other people that you have on your staff, the only time that they can actively recruit is when you have kids on campus. But they cannot analyze tapes or prospects. They cannot call prospects, unless they’re going over details of an official visit. So they cannot be looking at tape saying, ‘We need to go after Joe Brown because I’ve looked at tape of him and he’s a great player.’ Can’t do that. That’s illegal. What are these people doing, is the question?"
The quality-control coaches can only help the full-time coaches scheme up in the film room, McGarity said, but they're not allowed to be in the film room with players, or on the field for practice.
The other concern, and perhaps more immediate, is what happens if the NCAA does limit the football support staff from recruiting?
"A lot of people are saying: Well a lot of these schools are getting ahead of the game (by hiring support staff to recruit). Well what happens if there is an override? Well if they can’t do it, then what are these individuals gonna be doing?" McGarity said. "I think there are a lot of people that are just not aware of what people can do now, and can’t do now.”
McGarity said he and his head football coach, Mark Richt, haven’t specifically talked about the proposals. But he indicated that Richt has been in meetings recently where it was discussed.
“Football’s just one piece of it,” McGarity said. “This affects everyone. I think this probably gets lost in the shuffle, everybody thinks it’s just a football rule. It’s all sports.”
Richt, for what it's worth, recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was planning to adjust to the changes if they go through, but expects them to be rescinded. He declined to comment further for that reason.
THE UNLIMITED RECRUITING MAILERS
The concern here is that deregulating what schools can and cannot send to recruits would lead to overly elaborate – and expensive – tactics. Fox mentioned life-size cutouts last week, when he spoke out against the deregulation proposals, and said he didn't know anybody favoring them. Fat-heads, the giant-sized cutouts of heads that are occasionally waved at games, has also been mentioned.
“Just think of how creative people can be when there are no restrictions on it," McGarity said. "The only thing that does is creates additional expenses when, in today’s world of college athletics, there are only a handful of institutions that really generate, at the end of the day.”
Georgia is one of those, with almost $70 million in a reserve fund. But the concern for McGarity is how quickly those resources will drop – not just for UGA but every school – once the recruiters have blank checks.
“We have the resources, to a certain level,” McGarity said. “But what level is that? The rule would let each institution make that decision. But for the good of the game, if you take a step back, our institution, and what’s for the best for college athletics in general, then basically with the approval of this legislation you would be furthering the separation of the haves and haves not. And right now you would say there are probably 22 haves, and the rest of the programs in the country operate in the red already. I don’t think that’s good for the whole.”
And then within those 22 haves, the worry is that there would be a runaway spending race.
So if there's so much opposition to these changes, why did they get passed in the first place? It originally sprung out of a desire to clear up the NCAA rule book, to get rid of the ridiculous secondary violations that coaches incur. But the legislation that passed in January, when the NCAA board of directors voted on it.
Since then, opposition has sprung up from coaches in many conferences.
“Everybody probably shares responsibility in this, because a lot of these ideas really don’t resonate until it really becomes something that’s for serious review,” McGarity said. “Probably not enough attention was paid in the beginning, but that’s why we have the process in place now so there is a 60-day review period.”
As for another deregulation proposal, the unlimited texts and messaging legislation makes sense from an enforcement standpoint, according to McGarity, but he was curious how recruits will feel about being bombarded.
“I wonder what their cell phone plan is,” he said.