ATLANTA - Critics are decrying a bill that would limit public access to information held by the athletic departments of state-run Georgia colleges.
The announcement of a high profile recruit at schools like the University of Georgia is frequently a big public event. But the days and weeks leading up to the recruitment of the athlete can be a cloak and dagger affair among competing universities.
To keep that info under wraps, the legislature passed a bill that would allow state athletic departments to wait for 90 days to respond to requests for public records. State government and local governments generally have three days to respond.
"No other public agency in Georgia gets to conduct its business in secret for ninety days," said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. But the man behind it says it preserves the state’s collegiate competitiveness.
“The pure and only intention on this is… so people don’t have access to find out who our schools are recruiting,” state Rep. Earl Earhart told 11Alive News.
Earhart wrote the bill with the input of Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart, who indicated Georgia schools were at a competitive disadvantage recruiting ballplayers.
"When I went over to the Capitol I was asked – what’s the difference in our program and some of programs I’ve been in in the past," Smart said Tuesday. "That’s one of the things I brought up. There’s a difference." He declined to elaborate.
Manheimer says the bill that resulted restricts more than information about recruiting.
"If that were true, then the bill should have been quite narrow. As it is, as it’s written it exempts everything about athletic departments."
Ehrhart says he's willing to change the bill next year if it is overly broad. Manheimer is calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill.