Kirby Smart acknowledged Tuesday that he was indeed asked about Georgia’s Open Records laws when he visited the state capitol recently. But Georgia’s new head football coach said he “doesn’t deserve credit” for a controversial measure that slows the public’s access to athletics information.
The bill, brought up and agreed to late on the night of March 22, would allow athletics programs in the state of Georgia to wait 90 days to respond to inquiries under the Open Records Law. That has been decried by First Amendment advocates.
The chief of staff to one of the bill’s co-sponsors, State Sen. Bill Cowsert, told the Macon Telegraph that it “came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA.”
Smart was asked about that after Tuesday’s practice.
“First of all, I shouldn’t get any credit for that,” Smart said. “When I went over to the capitol I was asked what’s the difference in our program and some programs I’ve been at in the past. One of the things I brought up, there’s a difference. And that was the extent of my conversation with those guys about that.
“So for me to get the credit for that is a little bit misleading.”
“Credit”? I’d say that word doesn’t mean what Kirby Smart thinks it means, except I think he does know. Exactly. Which is why he declined to elaborate further when asked.
Smart declined a follow-up question on whether he felt changing the response time from three days to 90 was something the football program needs.
“I’ll be honest with you. I want to talk about our football program, and football practice,” Smart said. “That has nothing to do with as far as our practice today. I would rather answer questions regarding that. Appreciate it.”
Kirby is far from alone in wishing to avoid taking credit.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who has declined comment on the legislation, attended Smart’s press conference on Tuesday but left as soon as it ended. It’s rare for McGarity to attend such post-practice press conferences.
UGA president Jere Morehead “did not have a role in the legislation,” according to a spokesman in the University System Office in Atlanta.
I’m having trouble adjusting to McGarity as the strong, silent type. Maybe Mark Bradley can get him to open up.
Anyway, here’s another story.
A House amendment to Senate Bill 323 was agreed upon and passed with the underlying bill last week, a little past midnight on March 23, which will allow for state athletics departments to delay open records requests for 90 days as opposed to three, which is what the law currently states.
Smart was asked what he told legislators on his involvement on getting this amendment through the General Assembly. Smart deferred credit but did say he spoke to lawmakers as to what could be done to help improve the Georgia football program…
With his response, Smart admitted he had a private conversation on the subject with the Georgia legislature. Prior to Smart being questioned about his role with the potential new law, which has been sent to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for a signature, Tom Krause, the Chief of Staff of state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said Smart was the key influence to members of the General Assembly deciding to act.
“It’s a similar subject that, from what I understand, came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA,” Krause said. “It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting people in state of Georgia. They had a (shorter) window where the documents were not yet public, but other states had 90 days.”
So, ultimately, here’s what you’re being asked to swallow here:
- In the midst of recruiting, organizing the program and his very first spring practice preparation, Kirby Smart somehow found the time to show up for a friendly chat with the folks in the Georgia General Assembly.
- In the midst of a typically contentious session, members of the Georgia General Assembly found the time to ask what could be done to help the Georgia football program.
- Kirby Smart casually mentioned that Nick Saban has an easier time of responding to open records requests but didn’t make a big deal of it, even though he’s described as “the key influence to members of the General Assembly deciding to act”.
- Just as casually, Georgia legislators tacked an amendment on to an existing bill that gives Butts-Mehre unprecedented scope in responding to open records requests in the future.
- Even though the bill’s scope clearly exceeds the stated nonsensical goal of protecting recruiting secrets, neither Georgia’s athletic director nor its president had anything to do with it.
I’ll buy number two on that list, but the rest requires a leap of faith I’m not capable of taking. Before Kirby Smart ever showed up to glad hand, or whatever you want to call it, somebody laid the groundwork and found a representative or two willing to carry the athletic department’s water. Somebody told Kirby Smart what he could expect on his visit. And whoever that somebody is was shrewd enough to hide the proposal behind Kirby Smart’s honeymoon and the annoying fanboy concern about Georgia’s recruiting against Smart’s old boss.
That’s some effective lobbying there. So why not step up and take credit for it, especially since Kirby sounds like he’s more than willing to share? You don’t have to be so modest, mystery man. If it’s all about recruiting, what citizen of this great state could possibly object, right?