ATHENS --- Greg McGarity will head to Birmingham, Ala., tonight with a briefcase full of concerns.
Georgia's athletic director is among a growing number of college administrators who have reservations about the NCAA's newly adopted deregulation legislation. It's not just the unlimited texting and other forms of recruiting communication that has McGarity uneasy, though that garnered the majority of media attention when the Division I board of directors initially adopted the proposals one month ago in Dallas.
It's the other limitations that were waived --- such as the number of people who can recruit, the amount of full-time personnel who can be devoted to recruiting and the amount of printed and audio/visual materials that may be utilized in the course of recruiting --- that troubles McGarity.
In the ultra-competitive world that is the SEC, McGarity sees expenses spiraling out of control. He and several others are expected to voice those concerns during a regularly scheduled meeting of the SEC's athletic directors Friday in Birmingham.
"We all know in the world of competitive sports you really are trying to get every edge you can on your opponent for your program," McGarity said. "The creativity this is going to spark is just endless."
The Division I board of directors, which consists of presidents and/or chancellors from 18 colleges and universities across the country, on Jan. 19 voted to adopt 25 of 27 proposals aimed at reducing the size and scope of the NCAA's infamously thick rule book. Most of the changes were aimed at eliminating bylaws considered outdated, unenforceable or obsolete in light of technological advances in communication.
The NCAA also aimed to get its nose out of other business as well. For instance, there have been bylaws that stipulated that recruits could be provided with a bagel in certain situations, but condiments such as cream cheese or peanut butter could not be provided.
"Everyone was in favor of some deregulation because, with a 500-page rulebook, it's hard to stay within the boundaries," Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox said. "We're all in favor of giving them a bagel and we're all in favor of peanut butter, so let's get rid of that rule. I think the goal was to get rid of the rules that didn't make any sense, but evidently we've changed a lot more than that."
Particularly in the area of recruiting communications. Though well-intentioned, waiving limitations on the types and kinds of communications schools can have has effectively further armed some of the already well-armed conferences, such as the SEC and Big Ten.
Soon after the NCAA board passed the new proposals, McGarity called together his 15 head coaches for a brainstorming session. He asked them to come up with ways they might be able to take advantage of the rules changes. Ideas came pouring in about multi-page, four-color recruiting brochures, fathead posters of prospects and sophisticated personalized video presentations. They heard about separate recruiting coordinators for each sport and multiple employees dedicated to nothing but communicating with recruits.
With budgets for the next fiscal year being formulated in February, McGarity started to project the additional costs. A longtime executive in college athletics, alarms began to go off in his head.
"The main issue this creates in college athletics is the haves and have-nots will be further separated, and that's not good in the big picture," said McGarity, Georgia's AD since the summer of 2010. "As you see now, some institutions will dedicate more resources, more personnel --- all within the rules --- to certain areas of an athletic department. ... I think the unknown is what's scary."
Georgia is one of only 22 Division I institutions in the country that operates in the black, according to McGarity.
Georgia State represents the other end of the spectrum. The Panthers are still trying to find their footing in football, fielding their first team in 2010, and working daily to fund 18 other sports.
"We're always worried about budget, and we always need to balance our budget," said Cheryl Levick, Georgia State's AD. "When we looked at these proposals, we knew we would stay within our budget even if they pass. We don't have unlimited funds to add on a lot of staff."
The good news for Levick and McGarity is these new rules are written in pencil. Though scheduled to go into effect in July and August, the adopted legislation was instituted under a 60-day "override period" that expires March 20. That means that if at least 75 of the 300-plus Division I institutions submit override votes against any of the proposals between now and then, those rules will be rescinded.
"I believe that Georgia State will support an override of a couple of the proposals," Levick said. "We've already submitted an override for 11-4 (the number of coaches that can recruit). But we'll also submit an override on 13-3 (unlimited communication with prospects, including texts and phone calls). We feel 13-3 really comes down to a student-athlete welfare issue. We're just bugging the athletes too much. And a coach work-life balance issue, in terms of there being enough off-time for our coaches."
Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia Southern are among schools on record stating they will vote to override one or more of the proposals. McGarity wasn't ready to say what Georgia will do.
"I've talked to three or four other athletic directors and we're all thinking on the same lines in terms of concerns for allowable recruiters and the printed materials," McGarity said. "I think everybody's really concerned about how much that's going to add to expenses."
In the meantime, the race has begun. Alabama, the two-time defending BCS football champion, earlier this week hired former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele as "director of player personnel." Never mind that they already had somebody in that position, who will remain on staff. The Crimson Tide also have a new "director of player development."