Daily Archives: February 7, 2018

Making ends meet with millions in the bank

If you haven’t read Seth Emerson’s follow-up to my last post about the season ticket price hike, you really ought to do so, if for no other reason than to learn the identity of StatDawg82.  Seriously, the reason you should is because Seth managed to get Greg McGarity on the record.  History tells you that’s usually not a good thing for the athletic department when he does and, true to form, it’s not in this case, either.

Before I get to that, let’s recap what came before the announcement of the new pricing policy at the Athletic Board meeting, as well as the nature of the way that policy was sold to the Board and to the fan base.  There was the push for early 2018 Hartman Fund contributions to beat the change to the tax code eliminating the deduction for the contribution, offered without any mention of what 2018 ticket prices would be.  Then, in the period before the Board meeting came a couple of coy hints of what was to come, this time without any reference as to when the price change would be implemented.

At the meeting, the increase was introduced with little explanation, other than this fact sheet the school produced.  The key point there was this:

The focus was solely on the price of the ticket.  Total fan outlay, including contributions, was not ever mentioned.  Misleading?  Hard to see how it wasn’t.  Deliberate?  Well, I guess you could say reasonable minds could differ on that.  After all, I did.

It’s hard to say if the misinformation we’ve received is the result of sloppiness, ignorance or a deliberate fudging of the facts. What’s not hard to say is that Butts-Mehre didn’t much care either way about accuracy. Which really translates into not caring about being straight with the bulk of the fan base.

Which brings us to McGarity’s defense in the face of Rebecca Phillips’ challenge.  As you might suspect, it’s pretty shoddy.

It is hard to compare the true cost of ticket prices from school to school because you can’t take them at face value. Most every school, including Georgia, requires a donation to buy season tickets. Georgia is at the high end on minimum donation, but after that, the costs at each school vary.

But UGA officials didn’t really address that when they presented their findings to the Athletic Board. They presented material that only ranked the season ticket prices, not the donations. And prior to the vote, the board didn’t really press the point – and after the vote, neither did the media, quite frankly.

It can can be argued, as Phillips and other fans are arguing, that UGA only presented limited data that fit its argument ― that UGA tickets had been (past tense) among the cheapest in the conference and among top-tier football powers. Whether that’s true, however, is hard to say.

McGarity, in a phone interview Tuesday, said it wasn’t discussed at the board meeting “because we don’t have the information” on what funding levels are at every school.

“Misleading?” McGarity said. “We never presented that this was an all-in. Because the data is so hard. There are 13 different ways to do that, and it’s very difficult to gather that information.”

In essence, his rebuttal is that math is hard.  He didn’t bother with a complete explanation because it would have been too much work for his department.  And because he never explicitly said ticket prices were all that mattered, no one should have assumed his presentation, which only referenced ticket prices, was making that very argument.

We’re suckers, in other words.  Hell, the sad thing is that he’s not exactly wrong about that.  As Emerson notes, neither the Board nor the media challenged McGarity on this until Phillips spoke up.

Up to this point, all I can do is shake my head ruefully.  But, as usual with McGarity, he never quits when he’s ahead.  Here’s the outrageous part of his argument:

McGarity, asked his response to that criticism, pointed to the Athletic Board meeting on Jan. 30 and said that it was the only time to address the issue. The previous board meeting was in September; the next one is in May. So, was there any thought on delaying this until 2019?

“Well, I think trying the budget and foreseeing what our expenses will be for fiscal year ’19, we knew that we had to do this to make ends meet,” said McGarity, who then was asked about the school’s reserve funds. “The reserve funds are not intended to get into operating expenses. We do that to a certain degree, minimal, to an amount that is done at this time to offset expenses.”

“The reserve funds are not intended to get into operating expenses.”  What?  You mean the reserve funds about which you said less than a year ago,

“It’s like anything else in life,” athletics director Greg McGarity said Thursday. “There could be a curveball in your personal life, and my life, that we did not anticipate. So (that’s) the one thing that we don’t have to worry about. It’s just solid business practice. It’s probably the best way to say it. It’s the unexpected.”

But Georgia football and the SEC continue to bring in massive revenues. The SEC last year paid out $39 million to Georgia.

So what is Georgia worried about needing the money for?

“It’s a good practice to have at least six months of operating expenses in case the unforeseen happens, that we don’t know about,” McGarity said. “That’s the financial strength that our athletic board mandated, long before I arrived. So it’s a philosophy that’s been in place for decades. Thank the lord.”

The reserve funds you claimed are tucked into a rainy day fund for emergencies like this?

McGarity pointed to unforeseen expenses that have already occurred: Paying off previous head coach Mark Richt and his staff. That amounted to about $7 million. As for the future, there are still NCAA lawsuits in the system, McGarity pointed out, related to student-athlete pay and concussions. He also pointed to the NCAA in the last couple years allowing schools to pay athletes for cost-of-attendance and for increased meals.

“There are a lot of assumptions that people are making, that this revenue stream is going to be there forever,” McGarity said. “If we end up having to pay student-athletes down the road, where is that money going to come from? … There are a lot of unknowns, and what this allows us to do, and the right way, is to have a buffer there that allows us to cover the unexpected.”

Those reserve funds?

Forget about ’em.  The message sent here is that regardless of the circumstances, if the athletic department finds itself needing more money — which is for all intents and purposes a permanent state of mind now — it’s going to hit up our wallets and scrape up whatever justification it can invent to suit its immediate need.  I suppose that’ll work as long as it works.  But what a way to treat your fan base.

And, boy, does this ring hollow.

McGarity was asked if going back he wished they had done anything differently in presenting the ticket price increase.

“When you can’t draw on specific data, it’s very difficult to present data that is inconclusive,” McGarity said. “I think it just reaches the point that that was not the thrust of the meeting. I don’t think there was anything that we did that was in a dishonest way. Our goal was just to be fully transparent with everyone. We presented it as best we could with the information that was solid and indisputable. The other was just so complex that I don’t know how you get your hands around that. Everyone knows the Hartman Fund was in play. It wasn’t a situation where we were trying to run away from anything at all. It was just strictly focused on the face value of the tickets.”

It’s not that he couldn’t draw on specific data.  It’s that he wouldn’t.  McGarity chose never to find the data in the first place, because its absence made for an easier presentation.  I’ll leave it for you to decide whether that’s dishonest or not.

Certainly it pales in comparison with this.

DawgNation was able to independently confirm Phillips’ information from several schools, including Florida, Auburn and Alabama. No schools that were contacted disputed Phillips’ figures. Phillips also provided copies of her emails and replies from the SEC and other ticket offices she contacted to get her information.

Regardless of McGarity’s probity, if you’re sensible, when it comes to stroking a check to the athletic department going forward, it’s caveat emptor all the way, baby.  As I keep saying, that’s a helluva to run a railroad, Greg.

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Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

Georgia isn’t Quarterback U.

It’s Quarterback Narrative U.

In the past three years Georgia has signed a five-star quarterback who started as a freshman, a four-star quarterback who started as a freshman and led the Bulldogs to the national championship game and a five-star quarterback who is considered the best prospect of them all.

The first five-star has already transferred from Georgia.

As fans get giddy for the latest wave of blue-chip quarterbacks to enter college football it is important to remember, life moves fast. Who would have thought Jacob Eason would be old news in Athens by 2018 back on signing day 2016?

A look at where the top-10 quarterbacks as rated by 247 Sports’ composite rankings are headed, what kind of competition awaits and how the new arrival might affect the QBs already on the roster (year is eligibility in 2018)…

2. Justin Fields, Georgia

Depth chart: Jake Fromm, sophomore.

Outlook: Fromm was great but Fields gets Cam Newton comparisons. That doesn’t sound like the type of prospect who will be content sitting the bench for two years if he can’t wrestle the job from Fromm. And why would a quarterback who almost won a national championship want to be content as a backup? This could get interesting quickly.

You get the impression the pundits are going to be disappointed if Kirby manages an orderly succession at the position.

What’s the over/under on the number of times the Fromm-Fields question comes up during the G-Day broadcast?

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Filed under Georgia Football

We’ve got stars in our eyes.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful college football recruiting service program.  Clichéd as that may sound, I can say that without any hesitation.  I can also say that even though I refuse to hang on every trial and tribulation of the nation’s high profile recruits in the months leading up to the early signing period… and today.  I do allow myself to get excited about Georgia’s prospects once the names are signed on the dotted line, though, and there’s plenty to get excited about with this 2018 class.

Rather than get into a player by player breakdown, what I’d rather delve into is the significance of the overall quality of Kirby Smart’s third signing class.  It’s truly remarkable, even unprecedented by previous Georgia standards.

To start with, look at this basic primer from SB Nation.  While there are always individual exceptions (and we love those stories), the reality is that, as a general rule of thumb, better stars make for better players and better programs.

What’s particularly remarkable about this year’s class is the number of five-star signees.  Here’s Jason Butt on that:

The Bulldogs already have six five-star prospects who signed national letters-of-intent in December. And the Bulldogs will be anxiously awaiting American Heritage (Miami) five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell’s decision Wednesday morning. If Campbell signs with Georgia, the Bulldogs will end this class with seven five-star players, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

The most five-star prospects Georgia landed in a class previously was four, in 2012.

Georgia is already in elite company by becoming the fifth program since 2000 to sign six five-star players in one class. USC (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), Alabama (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017), Florida State (2002, 2012) and Florida (2003) are the only other programs to do so. If Campbell signs with Georgia, it will be the first program during this time span to ink seven 247Sports.com composite five-star recruits in the same class.

Chip Towers reports that Rivals credits Georgia with one more five-star kid than 247Sports.

“Last year’s class has a chance to be really good, obviously, with a lot of impact freshmen who played,” said Chad Simmons, regional recruiting analyst for Yahoo Sports. “But without question, this one on paper is going to be the one that jumps out as far as looking the best and reading the best and potentially being the best, as far as all-conference and NFL guys. More than likely it’s going to set a record for us, as far as Rivals, with eight 5-stars.”

That’s assuming that the Bulldogs land Tyson Campbell, a 5-star cornerback out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. Most projections have Campbell signing with Georgia over Alabama on Wednesday.

Individual prospect ratings vary, but Yahoo/Rivals has Georgia already with seven 5-star recruits that signed in the college football’s first early period in late December: Outside linebacker Adam Anderson of Rome, running back James Cook of Miami, defensive end Brenton Cox of Stockbridge, quarterback Justin Fields of Kennesaw, offensive tackle Cade Mays of Knoxville, Tenn., guard Jamaree Salyer of Atlanta and running back Zamir White of Laurinburg, N.C.

There are a couple of reasons this news should excite every Georgia fan.  One is that Georgia is trending on this front in the opposite direction from the rest of the SEC.

The SEC has signed the vast number of 5-star prospects in the past five signing classes – almost 50 percent in fact – but the numbers from last year and this year show that other leagues are closing the gap.

In the past five recruiting classes (2013-17), there have been 164 5-star prospects, and SEC schools have signed 81 of them (49.4 percent). But SEC schools saw that percentage drop to 36 last year (12 of 33), and going into Wednesday’s National Signing Day, that figure has dropped again, to 27.6 this year…

There is a caveat with his year’s numbers. There are 29 5-star prospects, and 25 have signed, including eight with SEC schools. Three of the unsigned 5-star recruits seem likely to sign with an SEC member, meaning 38 percent of the five-star prospects likely will end up at SEC schools. Nevertheless, it will be the second year in a row that the percentage is less than 40. That’s on the heels of two classes (2014 and ’15) where an astounding 56 percent of 5-star prospects ended up in the SEC.

According to Huguenin’s chart, the conference has signed a total of 8 five-star recruits so far.  You do the math on how that breaks down.  Georgia has completely lapped the field with this class.  Sure, it’s possible that another program could be luckier or better than Georgia over the next few years with its player development, but the odds are stacked in Georgia’s favor for the moment.

The other reason?  Well, check this out.

Since 2000, 10 other schools have signed at least six five-star prospects in the 247Sports composite. Six of those classes eventually won national titles, and a seventh, Alabama’s 2017 class, still has three-plus years to achieve the feat.

Better yet for Georgia, every SEC team this century to add six five-star prospects in one class has gone on to win the national championship with that class[Emphasis added.]

That article was written last December.  Since then, Alabama’s 2017 class has made it seven for seven.  Those odds are getting even more stacked.

Helluva job, Kirby.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting