I’m going to let Jason Butt have the last word on the change to Georgia’s Open Records law I posted about last week, because it’s eloquent enough to leave things there.
Exercising additional secrecy in government is a scary thought. Sure, this involves Georgia athletics and the average fan, who probably doesn’t care a whole lot about the subject, might even think this is a great idea because now reporters have a much longer time to possibly discover NCAA violations or any other dirt that could sully the reputation of the program.
But if it can happen in athletics, it can happen with any government sector. Now that athletics departments are possibly exempt from the three-day guideline, what’s next? This isn’t a football story, really. It’s more so dealing with the right of the public to know how its tax dollars are being used.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, was either duped or knowingly lied on the House floor late Tuesday night.
“At that recruiting time of year they get absolutely inundated with people wanting to have that recruiting information, and it’s not a level playing field because Georgia, our athletic associations, are private in and of themselves, and they don’t have that capacity, so this just allows that type of level playing field,” Ehrhart said.
That’s just wrong.
It’s the kind of embarrassing sports take that would get you laughed out of a backyard barbecue because it has no basis in fact. No recruiting reporter uses an abundance of open records requests to find out who Georgia is recruiting. Those reporters find that information out by talking to players themselves, high school coaches and the college programs recruiting the players. Fans can track where recruits are visiting by following them on Twitter. It’s that simple.
And while claiming this as a need for secrecy, the SB 323 amendment allows all intercollegiate documents — not just recruiting ones — to be delayed for 90 days.
So if you’re among those who admit Ehrhart’s excuse is hogwash but supports this amendment, you support a lie. Think about that for a moment. This amendment’s design is to delay and limit information to the media and to any taxpaying citizen of Georgia afforded the right of filing an open records request. This isn’t a specific privilege the media has. We all have it. And in this case, Ehrhart and state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, both misrepresented the amendment’s intention on the House and Senate floors.
And if they weren’t intending to mislead folks, they need to take a refresher course in sports because what they were sold in the most minor of backroom deals makes no sense. Cowsert presented the amendment to his fellow state senators, with the majority agreeing on it. In doing so, he pitched the recruiting angle, and 30 of his colleagues agreed that this bill, in a heated legislative session featuring many way-more-important bills, was necessary without review.
As much as I care about Georgia football, it offends me to see elected officials take advantage of fans’ passion to vote for something that isn’t in the public’s interest. If Rep. Ehrhart was duped, what’s everyone else’s excuse?
UPDATE: Though when I see a StingTalk message board thread header like “GA Congress Passes Kirby Smart Cheating Protection Bill”, I have to admit that maybe there’s more stoopid going around than I thought.