ATHENS – Records show that UGA processed no open records requests regarding recruiting from opposing schools over the last six months. There were just two requests overall regarding potential recruits, and both were made by media.
That information runs contrary to what a state legislator said was the reasoning behind sponsoring recent legislation that now will give UGA 90 days to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“The pure and only intention on this is … so people don’t have access to find out who our schools are recruiting,” state Rep. Earl Ehrhart told 11Alive News last month.
However, between Dec. 1 and March 24, UGA processed only two recruiting-related requests, both by the Athens Banner-Herald’s Marc Weiszer. Those requests sought communication or paperwork between UGA and either Kentucky or Oklahoma pertaining to graduate transfer quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Trevor Knight.
The new legislation, which was attached near midnight to an economic development bill on the next-to-last day of the legislative session, is due to take effect on July 1. It applies only to athletics departments in the state of Georgia, and not to personnel contracts.
Over a nearly six-month span since Dec. 1, the majority of requests UGA processed were related to coaching contracts. There was a uniquely high number over that period because of the football coaching change. Media sought not only the contract of new coach Kirby Smart, but also those of his nine full-time assistants and other support staff, including the strength and conditioning coaches. Such requests will not be subject to the new 90-day rule.
But a handful of requests related to finances and recruiting: specifically, how much had Smart and his staff spent on travel expenses related to recruiting. Several organizations — including the AJC — requested similar travel expense figures for Mark Richt and his staff the previous year, for comparison purposes. Those kinds of financial requests will now be subject to the 90-day rule.
Beat writers who cover the team typically make periodic requests to see if Georgia has scheduled any new opponents in football and men’s basketball, and if any new violations had been reported to the NCAA. Those will also be subject to the new rule, which proponents initially said would put UGA in line with Alabama and other SEC rivals; however, no state in the country gives more than a 15-day wait, while Florida and Alabama mandate responses within a “reasonable” amount of time.
Smart met with the state legislature in January and confirmed that Open Records legislation came up at that time, but has downplayed his role in it.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, when justifying his school’s support for the legislation, did not mention recruiting. He said he “liked it” because it gave the administration more time to deal with the requests. He dodged a question over whether they could simply hire more people to help deal with them.
Ehrhart did not respond to a phone call requesting comment on Friday.