When Kirby Smart became the University of Georgia’s head football coach, fans across the state expected him to make waves on the football field. What they didn’t expect was for him to make waves under the Gold Dome. That’s exactly what he did though in his first few months on the job, turning a trip to downtown Atlanta into an opportunity to ‘level the playing field’ with rival schools in surrounding states.
Slipped into Senate Bill 323 and passed just after midnight on the last day of the 2016 session, ‘Kirby’s Law’ extends the period after which state athletic departments must respond to open records requests from three days to a whopping ninety. The reasoning for the bill, according to co-sponsor Earl Ehrhart, is “so people don’t have access to find out who our schools are recruiting”. In essence it would give Georgia schools an edge over their rivals in neighboring states by hiding their moves while out on the recruiting trail. A big edge it is, too, as most states have between a three and fifteen day limit to respond to requests of this nature.
Smart met with Georgia legislators last month, and while he denies credit for the bill, he did admit to reporters that he talked to lawmakers about some ‘differences’ between UGA and some of the programs he’s been with previously, (read: a certain crimson colored powerhouse to our west). University of Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity has also voiced his support for the bill, though for different reasons, pointing to the administrative burden placed on his staff by the more than 100 records requests placed since December. Said McGarity during an interview with local media, “They’re, (records requests) very lengthy and it takes a lot of time just to estimate the time and effort it takes for those people who are doing their regular job, not necessarily to stop everything to provide this information. And some of that stuff has to be done after hours. Because it’s not like we have staff that are sitting idly by just to deal with this.”
Critics of the bill were quick to come out of the woodwork following its passage, saying that it was a harsh blow against transparency and that a ninety day window before even responding to a request was “unheard of”.
For college football crazed legislators in a particularly college football crazed state though, the bill was a no-brainer. “It just allows us to play on the same field as Alabama and everybody else” said Ehrhart.