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Georgia made a dumb law to protect UGA from what seems like a made-up problem

The state made its Open Records laws more convoluted in order to protect the Bulldogs' recruiting, but is there any evidence any rival was taking advantage?

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The state of Georgia has a new Open Records law meant to give the Bulldogs (and, technically, other teams) much more time than most programs to deal with public records requests. People who study these things are aghast:

"I've never seen anything like this before," said David Cuillier, an expert on Freedom of Information laws, who is an associate professor at the University of Arizona. "This is crazy. My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw that."

The 90-day response period is unprecedented, according to Cuillier, who looks at state public record laws, exemptions, and has written three books on FOIA laws. Most states allow for a response within three to 10 days. Others, such as Florida and Alabama, have general language.  Arizona language is "reasonably prompt," and on average agencies will give a response of three to five days.

The law came about after new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart met with state lawmakers, though he's denied he pushed for it.

"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," the former Alabama and LSU assistant said in March.

Meanwhile, state senators said the law would help put Georgia on par with Bama in recruiting, and the state's lieutenant governor hoped it would result in a national championship.

"It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting people in state of Georgia," Athens' state senator told the Macon Telegraph.

A rival could use the Freedom of Information Act as a complicated recruiting exploit, I guess.

Via social media, most recruits and some coaches openly broadcast much of their contact with each other. There aren't many secrets. But it's conceivable that a rival could use travel info to find out about a certain program's targeted recruits.

So let's FOIA UGA's FOIAs to see if anybody did that. If the new head coach mentioned this as being different elsewhere, does that mean he knew of teams that were snooping in UGA's recruiting via FOIA? Did Smart know about Bama using this on UGA?

We requested "copies of all FOIA requests for UGA football coaching travel records, phone records, text records or recruiting travel receipts, from April 1, 2015 through Nov. 1, 2015."

Georgia sent back dozens of pages, none involving either a rival university or anyone seeking actionable intelligence about recruiting. made a similar request, finding "UGA processed no open records requests regarding recruiting from opposing schools over the last six months."

If anyone used FOIA to try and expose Georgia's recruiting secrets, it hasn't happened in over a year. Maybe it happened before then? Well, if it did and was effective enough to threaten UGA into legislation, why'd the perpetrator stop?

The majority are routine requests by local media for paperwork.

Periodic requests include coach compensation details, lists of football prospects who've signed financial aid agreements, NCAA correspondence, regular season game and bowl contracts, bowl travel expenses, coaching staff flow charts and coaches' cell phone numbers.

So many contracts, almost all of them requested by the same group of local reporters.

The December coaching change from Mark Richt to Smart livened things up. Reporters used FOIA to search for clues on buyout details and memorandums of understanding with new coaches. An outlet sought the cost of updating offices during a head coaching change, as nameplates change and walls get repainted.

Elsewhere, someone delved into UGA's football Saturday trash recycling. The Athens Banner-Herald's specific requests for aid agreements are interesting; they include potential transfers like former Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight and former Kentucky QB Patrick Towles.

When Smart announced the end of a Richt policy on allowing players to freely transfer, the Banner-Herald immediately requested internal documentation.

Non-local outlets had requests, none of which would seem to benefit a rival's recruiting.

SB Nation requested SEC Network financials. Four outlets sought what UGA might've spent on coaching search firms. Five requested the athletic department's total financials.

Navigate Research, the outfit that concluded the Big 12 could slightly improve its Playoff odds by expanding, sought UGA's Nike royalties. Another person wanted to know what UGA makes from the online retailer Fanatics.

In October 2015, after UGA lost to Tennessee to fall to 4-2, an accountant who deals with coaching contracts at a sports agency sought the status of Richt's latest extension.

The closest thing to rival intel is hardly useful by enemy recruiters: A Florida State site requested the football staff's salary structure, presumably in relation to UGA's 2014-2015 employment of former FSU assistant Jeremy Pruitt.

There is some recruiting stuff ... but it's just media asking about classes that are already signed.

A few weeks before the new state law made national news in March 2016, the Athens paper and Atlanta's NBC affiliate requested the coaching staff's National Signing Day travel expenses. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sought how frequently the staff used private aircraft.

Outlets across the country have used similar information to publish Signing Day reconstructions. Here's one by the Detroit Free Press on Jim Harbaugh's recruiting air travel.

I don't know how a rival could exploit information on a class that's already signed, but perhaps an SEC school has developed amazing technologies. ("These docs say Richt hung out in this kid's town last year twice. The kid's currently in French class at Georgia. Let's go back in time and hang out in that kid's town last year three times.")


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There are more requests about the law change than there are requests that indicate why the law changed.

Georgia's AD said he appreciated the new law because it could cut down on the burden of quickly responding to dozens of requests.

However, it added more requests, at least in the short term. In March, multiple outlets requested UGA's internal communications about the state law.

So ... what was the point of changing the law?

I don't know. But Open Records later enabled us to swiftly learn UGA gave Ludacris $65,000 and a shopping list that included cognac and condoms, so Open Records is a beautiful thing.