ATLANTA - Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity sought Wednesday to clarify the reasoning behind a decision that has puzzled some of the fans of his football team.
Last week in Destin, at the SEC meetings, the conference approved a change to allow the designated home team at neutral-site games to host recruits. The annual Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville falls under that category. But the athletics directors of each school mutually agreed to continue not hosting recruits.
That has left some fans up in arms, wondering why a school would pass up the opportunity to host recruits. But McGarity said it wasn't worth it, because the recruits would not be able to have any contact with team staff.
"Here's the thing, and it's probably educating the general public: The only thing we could do down there (in Jacksonville) is provide (a recruit) and two friends (or) family members tickets to the game. My coaches can't interact, support staff can't," McGarity said, while in Atlanta for a welcome to the SEC bash for Missouri and Texas A&M. "Once we're off campus, we can have no contact with those unofficial recruits. So they are there getting a ticket from our operations staff or our compliance staff and going in the stadium.
"As opposed to an official or unofficial visit on campus, we're able to entertain them, show them around the campus, we're able to give them access to the field, to the locker room, all these things."
McGarity said the ticket allotment for recruits could be between 500-700 - and "you're not gonna be dealing with your worst tickets in the house." So Florida and Georgia would rather those tickets remain available to the general public. (In other words, the fans who pay, rather than recruits and their friends who get the tickets on a complimentary basis.
"There's just so many factors involved that it's just not worth your bang for your buck there," McGarity said.
Only one team would be able to host recruits anyway, since the provision said only the designated home team could do so. The change was requested by Texas A&M (which has some "neutral-site" games in Arlington, Tex.) and Arkansas, which occasionally plays in Little Rock.
McGarity and his Florida counterpart Jeremy Foley made the decision in Destin. Then McGarity spoke with head coach Mark Richt later.
"We discussed it, and they understand if they just can't talk to them, why be there?" McGarity said. "You're focused on the game anyway. You're coming in there two hours before kickoff, you're going to the stadium. So it's not like you've got all morning to entertain, take them to the game, all the things like that. It's just not conducive to recruiting. ... If it were done, it would be more of an advantage for Florida because they've got so many kids in the locale. I don't know how many kids on their own dime would go. You can't provide parking. You just can't do anything. They're there at their own expense."
Home game environment changes
Meanwhile, McGarity confirmed that he was going back on a previous decision: The band at Sanford Stadium will return to its original spot. Last year the band was in a corner near the student section. Now it's going back to the opposite end of that side of the stadium. (The side opposite of the press box.)
"What we were trying to do is maybe create a better environment for people to hear the game, hear the band. What happened on the flip side is it did not create a unified group of our students with our cheerleaders. It didn't work in that area," McGarity said. "The band requested that we do that, and it made sense, so we said why not and we're back to where we were in the past. ...
"We're always gonna try stuff out to give fans a better experience. This one didn't work out, and it's all on me. So we're back to where we were, and everybody's happy."
The student attendance issue has also been much-discussed. The UGA athletic board decided a couple weeks ago to give freshmen students priority.
Students receive a bit more than 18,000 tickets per game. The freshman entering class last year was 4,500.
"We are trying to seek ways to get more students to actually show up at the game. We felt like the freshmen are the most energetic group as a class," McGarity said. "We felt like that was a pretty big part at maybe generating attendance at games. We've really struggled the past two years. The Auburn game, which was our biggest game of the year, we had almost 2,000 not used by students."
McGarity also pointed to the Arkansas game in 2010, where student attendance was not very high. He said that pointed to it not being an issue of quality of opponent.
Richt contract done
Richt's new contract is finally complete, and will be presented to the executive committee of the UGA athletic board on Thursday afternoon.
The deal has taken awhile to be finished: It was already announced as going through 2016, and the base salary was revealed two weeks ago to be staying at $2.9 million. The other details, such as any change in the buyout, should be revealed on Thursday.