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Opinion: UGA should change recruiting policy for Florida game

One of best atmospheres for college football every Halloween (photo by Jaxevents.com)

No recruiting tickets for best atmospheres for college football every Halloween (photo by Jaxevents.com)

I’m pretty sure that UGA athletics director Greg McGarity knows what I’m calling about when I ask for a few minutes of his time every October. It’s this:

Has he changed his mind about inviting recruits to the annual Georgia-Florida game?

“You could go back to my comments every year that you bring this up,” McGarity told me.

“It’s the same deal. Nothing has really changed. Neither school wants to do it. That’s why we don’t discuss it. It’s just not an issue.”

You see, both the NCAA and SEC amended the rules to allow home teams in football games at neutral locations to bring in recruits on tickets. Whenever Alabama or Auburn or other SEC teams play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, they seize the opportunity and location to invite prospects from the fertile recruiting grounds of the Atlanta area (including kids who might not otherwise make a trip to Alabama or Auburn) to come watch them to play in person in the Georgia Dome. (Same thing for Texas A&M in Dallas)

Nobody in college football is set up better to take advantage of this recruiting loophole than UGA every Halloween. The state of Florida produces more than double the amount of D1 prospects than Georgia, and UGA has enjoyed a lot of recruiting success in Florida in recent years.

So why wouldn’t UGA want to invite Florida’s superstar prospects one of the Southeast’s biggest games every season? Jacksonville is more than five hours away from Athens, so it’s clearly easier for most Florida kids to see the Bulldogs play in Jacksonville rather than make the long journey to Athens on a weekend during the school year.

Aaron Murray is one of many UGA football stars recruited out of Florida (AJC)

Aaron Murray is one of many UGA football stars recruited out of Florida (AJC)

And wouldn’t it truly impress the Florida recruits to see that many UGA fans to travel that far to show up for a road game? It’s always an electric atmosphere, regardless of the records of the teams.

What am I missing here?

But it’s not going to happen.

There won’t be any tickets for recruits to this year’s UGA-Florida game, or anytime soon.

Two years ago, McGarity and Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley made a joint agreement to not issue recruiting tickets for the annual showdown. And it appears that the topic hasn’t been discussed since.

“There’s no timetable on our agreement,” McGarity said this week. “We just don’t do it (give recruiting tickets for this game), and we never have done it.”

McGarity explained some the reasoning behind his stance: “The only thing you can do is give these young people a ticket (for a home game at a neutral location). You can’t talk to them. You can’t interact with them. As far as seats for the game, we’re in a sellout situation every year. You’d have to go to individuals who have been going to this game for decades and tell them you don’t have the tickets for them.

“Again, you can’t recruit these kids while they’re at this game. All you could do is give them tickets. So neither school sees any value in that for this game. We’d rather spend our time with them on campus. Let these student-athletes come to the University of Georgia and see our campus. We want to interact with them, instead of them just going to a gate, just picking up tickets, and simply going to their seats.

“We can’t have any interaction with them at all (in Jacksonville). So neither school sees any value in doing that.”

In fairness to McGarity, who I have good deal of respect for … he has a much different perspective of things from Recruiting Blogger. I’ll be the first to admit that I see everything through “recruiting goggles.” I’m a firm believer that recruiting is the lifeblood of every top college football program, and that every big business decision made by an athletic department should try to enhance football recruiting efforts (if it can), especially when football pays most of the bills for entire athletic departments.

So if I’m UGA, I’m changing this deal, and making a way for Florida’s top prospects to attend this game. If tickets are scarce, then maybe I don’t do the normal allotment of recruiting tickets for a home game in Athens … maybe just 100 or 200 tickets max, and reserve them for Florida’s best.

Then again, maybe I’ve got it totally wrong about this issue? Maybe I’m way too narrow-minded in my yearly October rant? If so, please feel free to point it out in comments section below. It surely won’t be the first or last time I’m wrong.

One final thought: The University of Florida has at least seven home games per season, so it appears that the Gators have little or nothing to gain by inviting recruits from the state of Florida to a game in Jacksonville. But if UGA and Florida played in Atlanta, would the Gators feel the same way?

TO GET THE BIG PICTURE

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

mcarvell@ajc.com

— By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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