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Good day gentlemen,
With the dynamics of recruiting ever-changing, I’m curious about the associated costs of official visits, and who covers expenses related to unofficial visits?
What specific costs do schools cover and how much is allocated? Who pays for family members travel and housing expenses and how many are allowed to visit? Do all recruits receive the same amount per official visit? Are recruits limited to a certain number of official visits?
Mark Andrews Sr.
You know, this is a question we probably haven’t addressed enough over the years. As recruiting has continued to grow as an area of interest for college football fans, we just throw out that a prospect is going to “visit” Georgia or some other school, then later we report that Johnny Football plans to take an official visit and we never really differentiate.
I think we all have a general understanding that an “official” means the school can pay for the trip and spend some money on entertaining a recruit and his family. But most of us — your intrepid reporter included — couldn’t tell you exactly what all that entails. So, once again, I reached out to UGA’s director of compliance, Will Lawler, to provide us with some accurate answers.
For those of you who don’t know him, Lawler is relatively new to UGA. He was appointed executive associate AD for compliance for the Bulldogs back in January, succeeding Jim Booz, who followed Carla Green Williams to Virginia. Before that, Lawler worked at the SEC office in Birmingham as liaison to the league’s compliance directors and faculty athletics reps. He was a virtual one-man clearinghouse for SEC teams seeking NCAA rules interpretations and the like. So he knows the rulebook backward and forward (not to mention he probably could tell some great stories!). Before that he was at Tennessee, but he’s not allowed to discuss that experience now that he’s at UGA.
As we all know, there are two kinds of visits prospects can make: unofficial visits and official visits. The rules for “unofficials” are pretty simple. No expenses can be provided on unofficial visits, except that prospective student-athletes may receive three complimentary admissions to home contests. That’s the kind of visits the majority of prospects are on when you see dozens of recruits seated together at Georgia football games. But they can also come visit the school and facilities any time they want otherwise, as long as they’re coming on their own dime.
Official visits are when the teams can roll out the red carpet, and they do. NCAA rules permit institutions to provide one 48-hour, all-expenses-paid visit for a prospective student-athlete. Schools are permitted to pay for certain travel expenses for the prospect (and also their parents, in the sports of football and basketball). They can also provide “reasonable meals and lodging” during that 48-hour window for the prospect and a certain number of family members. “Reasonable entertainment” may also be provided, but is limited to $75 per day to cover all family members. Lawler tells us that the $75 amount is new in 2018-19 and represents an increase from $40 per day in previous years (to account for additional family members). Prospects also receive six complimentary admissions to attend home contests.
It’s interesting to hear that the rule now includes the caveat of “reasonable meals and lodging.” That wasn’t always the case. The change came about several years ago after it was discovered that some programs were treating prospects to lavish meals at exclusive restaurants. Not only was that expensive for the schools, but it ran counter to the NCAA’s philosophy of what an official visit is supposed to represent. It’s supposed to give a prospect an idea of what everyday life will be like as a student-athlete at respective institutions. Eating $100 steak at the nicest restaurant in town doesn’t qualify as such.
So that’s it, in a nutshell. As one can see, the majority of recruiting done by these programs and their coaches comes during the unlimited number of unofficial visits prospects make to campus. That and, of course, there are the camps. Those are supposed to give the recruits an idea of what it’s like to be coached by members of the staff.
As a result, Kirby Smart and his extensive support group are “on call” virtually year-round. With the exception of the few closed recruiting periods on the calendar, a prospect can drop by UGA almost any time, and do. For that reason, Georgia and other schools always have somebody on the scene to show around a potential recruit if he happens to come by. The Bulldogs have found many promising prospects that way over the years.
Thanks for writing in, Mark, and thanks for being a loyal reader — and interactive participant — of DawgNation.
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