University of Georgia athletics officials are longing for the not-too-distant days when they had access to a private jet for recruiting travel.
As reported by the Athens Banner-Herald, Georgia’s football recruiting expenses were $3.7 million in fiscal year 2019, a jump or more than $1 million from fiscal year 2018 when the school already topped the nation in money spent. On Nov. 23 of that year, the Georgia Athletic Association sold its seven-seat King Air plane to Shepherd Aviation of Texas for $1.4 million. It had owned its own plane since 2006.
According to UGA athletic director Greg McGarity, comparing the Bulldogs' recruiting expenditures against other schools can be tricky, given how numbers are allocated.
“I think those numbers are skewed a bit because we don’t have our own airplane or our jet,” McGarity said after the winter athletic board meeting last week. “Some schools calculate it differently. If we had a jet, we’d certainly cover other expenses in a different category. Right now when we lease an aircraft we just pay the going rate. We just pay straight out for any charter services it would use as opposed to having an aircraft which some schools do.
“Cost may be hidden in another category as far as how it’s accounted for. Having gone through that at Florida, which had two aircraft at the time, I know how the expenses are accounted for with aircraft. It’s a little bit different. It’s never really apples and apples, but it kind of is what it is to be able to recruit nationally.”
The Athletic Association budgeted $1.65 million for travel and airplane expenses — Georgia now uses charter services out of Atlanta — for fiscal year 2019 with another $125,000 for travel for president’s travel and $25,000 for travel services. The total budgeted for football “recruiting & coaches travel” for fiscal year 2020 was listed at $2.96 million, an increase from $2.26 million in fiscal year 2019.
Georgia has landed top-three recruiting classes each of the last four years, including the nation's top classes in 2018 and 2020.
The university turned to charter services early in 2018 for travel for coaches and administrators as well as road travel for some non-revenue teams instead of spending more than $700,000 on maintenance, service contracts and fuel for its airplane. A new aircraft in would have cost between $8 million and $10 million in 2018, according to McGarity, who indicated that a private jet may be back on the Bulldogs' horizon.
“I expect to get with the president next month to talk about opportunities,” McGarity said this week. “Our intention was to go through a couple of cycles and have a financial review at the end of those cycles to figure out what’s the best path moving forward in our aviation efforts. We just concluded that coming off this recruiting season. We’re going through that review which we had planned all along. We may continue to do what we’re doing or we may go down a different path.”