Kirby Smart talks open records amendment, leadership on team
Kirby Smart stopped short of identifying himself as a lobbyist. But when Georgia’s football head coach visited the state Capitol in Atlanta a little more than a month ago, he found himself in such a role — whether he believes he was or not.
A House amendment to Senate Bill 323 was agreed upon and passed with the underlying bill last week, a little past midnight on March 23, which will allow for state athletics departments to delay open records requests for 90 days as opposed to three, which is what the law currently states.
Smart was asked what he told legislators on his involvement on getting this amendment through the General Assembly. Smart deferred credit but did say he spoke to lawmakers as to what could be done to help improve the Georgia football program.
“First of all, I shouldn’t get any credit for that,” Smart said. “When I went over to the Capitol, I was asked what’s the difference in our program and some programs I’ve been at in the past. One of the things I brought up — there’s a difference. That was the extent of my conversation with those guys about that. So for me to get the credit for that is a little bit misleading.”
With his response, Smart admitted he had a private conversation on the subject with the Georgia legislature. Prior to Smart being questioned about his role with the potential new law, which has been sent to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for a signature, Tom Krause, the Chief of Staff of state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said Smart was the key influence to members of the General Assembly deciding to act.
“It’s a similar subject that, from what I understand, came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA,” Krause said. “It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting people in state of Georgia. They had a (shorter) window where the documents were not yet public, but other states had 90 days.”
The idea that the open records amendment had anything to do with recruiting has been refuted, considering reporters don’t typically file Freedom of Information Act requests to find out which programs players plan to visit. Generally, that information comes from the high school recruits themselves, their parents, coaches and other sources within athletics departments.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who rarely, if ever, shows up for Smart’s news conferences, was in attendance. When Smart wrapped up his news conference, McGarity exited quickly.
Midway through the news conference, Smart was asked a follow-up on how the amendment would help the Georgia football program. He declined to answer.
“I’ll be honest with you. I want to talk about our football program and our football practice,” Smart said. “That has nothing to do with our practice (Tuesday). I would rather answer questions regarding that. Appreciate it.”