Georgia readies for NCAA changes when dealing with athletes

GREENSBORO | Georgia put a price tag on what implementing new NCAA rules for athletes, which includes allowing unlimited meals and snacks, will cost in the upcoming school year: $1.28 million.

That’s what’s in the budget to cover not only feeding some 600 athletes more often but also providing transportation costs to and from their hometowns and post-eligibility degree completion.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity doesn’t see drastic changes for how athletes (which now include walk-ons) eat under the rules that take effect Aug. 1.

“We looked at supplementing what we can do currently,” McGarity said after the spring meeting of the UGA Athletic Association board of directors meeting on Thursday. “The intent of the rule is to supplement meals. We’re very fortunate at Georgia. Going into this we had the best of all worlds. We have unlimited dining. You can walk in any dining hall any time it’s open, go in and eat whatever you want to. We are not on a swipe system where if you get 15 meals during the week you get 15 swipes. That’s the way the majority of schools are. It helps them probably more than us.”

Georgia already provides one training table meal for its athletes and that may not be increasing.

“Can we enhance some certain meals, provide things for more student-athletes?” McGarity said. “That’s what we’ve got as a placeholder in there for the worst-case scenario. That’ll be more defined in Destin (next week at the SEC spring meetings) in what we can and can’t do.”

McGarity said don’t expect any executive chef to carve steak and serve lobster.

“You’ve got to make sure there are not inequities as we deregulate,” McGarity said. “Everybody wanted deregulation.”

McGarity envisions snacks now available after practices for players.

“What can we do to fill in those gaps and everything?” McGarity said. “We want to be able to do that. We plan for the worst-case scenario financially.”

The budget also includes a line item of about $400,000 for MacBook computers for scholarship athletes to use for schoolwork. The football team already is using iPads for team-related purposes.

Meanwhile, the athletic board added a new committee on Friday for student-athlete welfare.

Reaching out to former players on indoor facility

The much-desired (at least by fans) indoor football practice facility isn’t on the front-burner in terms of facility improvements, but there is behind the scenes work being done.

“It’s on a list of numerous things,” McGarity said. “We are quietly trying to do a few things to where maybe we can see some interest in some former NFL players and floating it out there very quietly. That will be something that we’ll discuss at some point in time with our board.”

McGarity estimates such a facility would cost about $15 million.

Facility improvements for equestrian and an additional two indoor tennis courts for Georgia, which has four, were also mentioned.

“If maybe we could have the NCAA tournament a lot more frequently that may push that a little bit further, but we know that’s maybe the next step,” McGarity said.

McGarity said the indoor facility isn’t a must-have, but is still in the plans

“At some point in time I feel confident we’ll have an indoor practice area,” he said.

Athens flights out for football

The Bulldogs football team will fly out of Atlanta going forward instead of using three 50-seat jets out of Athens. Delta no longer offers smaller regional jets for team charter travel, McGarity said. Georgia will still fly Delta out of Atlanta in one larger jet.

Delta received criticism when it bumped passengers for the Florida basketball team at the Gainesville airport on Dec. 1.

A charter plane the team was to use was delayed by a maintenance issue, according to the Gainesville Sun.

The change could mean up to three hours more of travel, based on past travel, which probably will be brought up in fall when Georgia has back-to-back road games at Missouri and Arkansas in October.

The basketball teams will continue to fly out of Athens with another vendor, McGarity said.

This and that

Fans will certainly welcome this. McGarity estimated AT&T and Verizon were spending about $10 million for improved wireless services in Sanford Stadium with distributed antenna systems.

“When you walk in the gates,” McGarity said, “the goal is the drop rate, which is the terms they use as far as the number of calls that are dropped, will almost be removed to where we’ll have above 90 percent efficiency. The use of our mobile phones will really be enhanced.” … There was no mention during the full board meeting or the executive committee meeting beforehand of Georgia’s NCAA infractions case in swimming involving suspended coach Jack Bauerle. “We’re in the middle of an NCAA investigation,” president Jere Morehead said. “We’re going to be filing our response to those charges shortly and we just didn’t think this board meeting was the proper place to air those issues.” Georgia expects to go before the committee of infractions sometime in the fall. … Georgia athletes have put together three straight semesters of an average GPA of 3.0 or better for the first time, faculty athletic representative David Shipley said. The average was 3.04 for the spring semester. … McGarity said he sensed the football opener against Clemson will be aired nationally in prime-time.

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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