Let’s get right to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Jim P. writes: Bill, Putting aside your opinion on paying players, do you feel the cost of attendance figures may become one of the biggest debacles in college sports? It appears the Power 5 conferences rushed this legislation through without fully realizing the obvious implications (cost disparities, recruiting, etc). In fact, no entity forced them to do this at all. They had time to come up with a better option to help players, while keeping a level playing field amongst the schools. The immediate issue is how schools are calculating figures, without transparency, and the disparities created. Could a simpler solution be to eliminate the cost of attendance and in place, simply add an equal raise to the players current stipend? Thereby eliminating the ridiculous calculations and use of federal figures. Is that reasonable or realistic?
Whether this turns out to be a recruiting advantage for schools with a higher COA remains to be seen. While Auburn certainly appears to be trying to tout it as a selling point to recruits and Alabama’s Nick Saban thinks it could become “a nightmare” where some schools manipulate the numbers, other coaches like South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier think it unlikely that many players will decide where to play on the basis of whether they can get a couple of thousand bucks more in stipend.
I think you’re right that the idea of using COA wasn’t thoroughly thought out. In fact, as Mark Richt noted recently, even the coaches seem unclear on how the proposal morphed from the $2,000 stipend that was voted down by the smaller schools for the NCAA at large to the cost-of-attendance idea that was approved for just the Power 5 conferences, in which players can be paid for the incicental costs of attending college in addition to the traditional tuition, room, board, books and fees.
But, for now, it looks like they’re stuck with it. Bottom line coming out of this week’s SEC meetings: The coaches wanted to be able to put more money in the players’ pockets, but most aren’t happy about the disparity between various schools’ cost-of-attendance figures (and thus the amount of the stipend they can offer student athletes as of Aug. 1 under the new rule), and a few like Saban are openly suspicious that some rivals are fiddling the figures, even though the numbers are supposed to be determined by financial aid offices following federal guidelines. The problem is that it’s up to each school’s financial aid folks to figure out what is included and how much they allow for it. And that seems to differ greatly from, say, Tennessee ($5,666) and Auburn ($5,586), which have the two highest reported COAs in the country, to rival schools such as Georgia ($2,598) and Bama ($2,892), both of whom rank in the bottom 30 of the Power 5 schools.
Still, there doesn’t appear to be much that can be done about it at the conference level other than try to make the process more transparent. Saban can dream about an NFL-style cap, but that’s apparently not doable under the federal judge’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case. At least, the stipends can’t be capped at less than the COA. And, again, it’s up to the individual schools to figure out what their COA is.
As outgoing SEC Commissioner Mike Slive put it: “The end result is that everything isn’t necessarily going to be the same for everybody. That’s a difficult concept … and it flies in the face of the experience of our coaches and our institutions for decades.The days of everything and every rule being grounded in a level playing field are gone.”
I do think that UGA’s Richt and Mark Fox and Greg McGarity are on the right track in working to get some transparency in the process. The consensus is that should be done nationally but, in the meantime, at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., the conference passed rules to provide some transparency in how its schools handle COA. Each year, schools will provide to the SEC office a report identifying the value of their “other expenses” related to cost of attendance and the methodology used to determine that value, including any miscellaneous amounts. Schools also will have to report to the SEC after each semester any COA variances provided to individual athletes.
Hopefully, those reports will be released to the public (and, if not, Richt has urged reporters to file freedom-of-information requests seeking them), and then we can get a better grasp on exactly why it supposedly costs more to go to school in Knoxville and Auburn than anywhere else in the country.
Dana Bradley writes: Bill, I was shocked to hear that Georgia is going after the quarterback from Virginia who’s looking to transfer. What’s up with that? Mark Richt and Brian Schottenheimer already have three scholarship QBs on the roster with the nation’s top prospect coming in for 2016. Why do they want another quarterback?
Insurance, Dana. According to various published reports, word out of Butts-Mehre is that the UGA coaching staff is concerned that one or more of the three QBs it currently has might choose to transfer and so has requested and been granted permission to talk with Virginia QB Greyson Lambert. While Richt has portrayed the battle between Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta as neck-and-neck and likely to continue deep into August, some sources are saying it’s pretty much a done deal that Ramsey is going to be the starter. Bauta, who has already graduated, could himself choose to transfer elsewhere and play immediately if he figures the die is cast. And Jacob Park is a redshirt freshman and inexperienced, so Richt and company appear ready to jump at the chance to bring an experienced QB on board, even if it’s just to be Ramsey’s backup until Jacob Eason, the top QB prospect in the nation, is enrolled and ready to compete for the starter’s job.
That’s where Lambert, who started nine games for the Cavaliers last year but currently is running No. 2 on the depth chart at Virginia, comes in. Although his numbers at UVA are not that impressive, he will graduate this summer and, under NCAA rules, is free to transfer to another school and be able to play right away, which he reportedly is looking at doing. Plus, he comes with the added bonus of still having two years of eligibility, which might help insure that if, say, Ramsey gets hurt, Georgia still has an experienced QB to bridge the gap until Park or Eason is ready.
Of course, this may not happen. Lambert reportedly also is going to check out Florida and could wind up there. And, of course, Bauta could wow the coaches in August and beat out Ramsey for the No. 1 spot. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Flip Dog writes: Bill, I’ve been waiting for a long time for the chance to see A.J. Turman show what he can do at tailback, and, like most folks, I was impressed by what he did in the G-Day game. What do you think are the chances he gets any significant playing time this fall?
Depends on how you define “significant,” Flip. If last season season is any indication, the backs behind Nick Chubb stand to get a decent number of reps, particularly early on when the weather is so hot and coaches are looking to keep fresh legs in the game.
Look at last season: Even though Todd Gurley got the lion’s share of carries, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb also ran the ball quite a bit, a still-not-full-speed Keith Marshall got some turns, and even Brendan Douglas got some carries. Of course, as it turned out, suspensions and injuries eventually turned the third-string back (Chubb) into the starter.
So, yes, I think that while Chubb will be the primary back this fall, the other backs are likely to get some playing time, significant or not, and that includes Turman.
Mark Tolbert writes: It is great that they are updating the heads [restrooms] on the South side [of Sanford Stadium], but why hasn’t anyone talked about the extremely long concession lines on the South side? It is impossible to get served at halftime.
Oh, we’ve discussed that issue here in the past. And it’s not just on the South side and not just at halftime that the waits for concessions get ridiculously long. It’s basically any time after the game starts. And, even with Reed Plaza available on the North side, it can take most of a quarter to go to the concession stands and get back to your seat.
One way to help ease that crush, of course, would be to increase the vendors going up and down the aisles in the seating area. While I saw more of them last year than in the past, their visits still were too infrequent and their offerings too limited.
I know it’s a challenge to try and take care of the needs of that many people in an enclosed area, but the long waits for concessions remains a problem that needs addressing.
One last note: Season tickets for UGA’s club ice hockey team are now on sale for the 2015-2016 season at the Classic Center Arena in Athens. Tickets range from $110 to $270. The season begins at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 against Auburn, and the Ice Dogs will play 12 home games from September to January. Fans can go to ClassicCenter.com to buy tickets, call 706-357-4444 or visit the Classic Center box office in downtown Athens 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.