LAKE OCONEE, Ga. —— Reports by University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks, and an update on current and future facilities projects highlighted the first day of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors annual spring meeting.
In his report, Brooks touched on a wide range of topics, including:
• The academic achievements of UGA student-athletes, highlighted by an SEC-best 97 of them earning places on the most recent SEC Academic Honor Roll; 15 of UGA’s 21 sports earning collective GPA’s of 3.0 in the Spring semester; and 342 student-athletes earning 3.0 GPA’s or better in the Spring.
• Athletically, nine of Georgia’s teams earned Top 15 national rankings, and all eight Spring teams project to earn post-season berths.
• The introduction of new head coaches in both men’s and women’s basketball during the 2022 academic year. Brooks noted the unusual nature of filling both positions in the same year, but he also added that it was an opportunity to create a unique “synergy” between the two programs. The meeting kicked off with a brief presentation by new men’s coach Mike White.
• Brooks also praised the historic nature of Georgia’s success at the 2022 NFL Draft, where a record 15 players were selected, including the first overall pick, Travon Walker.
As part of Brooks’ report, Executive Associate Athletic Director Ford Williams and Associate AD Matt Brachowski gave presentations on fundraising and facilities projects, respectively.
Williams introduced the Spring 2022 capital campaign with a 5-year vision of raising $300 million. A new area of emphasis for fundraising will be to enhance mental health services available to UGA student-athletes.
Brachowski’s presentation highlighted projects at Sanford Stadium and the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Tennis facility. The first phase of the Sanford Stadium project, set to begin in December, will double the width of the South 100 Level concourse and add more entry gates, restrooms and concessions areas at Gate 9. The second phase, construction for which is slated for begin in December of 2023, will add 200- and 300-level restrooms and suites, as well as add a new press box on the west end at the 400 and 500 levels.
Construction on the new indoor tennis facility will begin this fall and will give Georgia six indoor courts. The $26.7 million project is already full funded by donations.
Faculty Athletics Representative David Shipley gave a report of the Athletic Association’s most recent academic news. He noted that the recently completed Spring semester closely resembled the “normal” conditions from the Fall of 2019 (pre-pandemic), with the majority classes and exams in person. Among the items mentioned by Shipley included:
• 121 student-athletes graduated earlier this month.
• Three UGA student-athletes — Mikayla Coombs of women’s basketball, Ben Anderson of baseball and track sprinter Matthew Boling — were named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in their respective sports.
• The highest female sport team GPA for Spring was the cross country squad with a 3.62 average. Highest among the men’s teams was also cross country with a 3.33.
• Swimmer Andrew Abruzzo and distance runner Samantha Drop are the latest UGA student-athletes to have won NCAA postgraduate scholarships.
During a closed meeting, the Board discussed new contracts for head football coach Kirby Smart and Brooks, though no action was taken.
Day two of the annual meeting on Friday will include a student-athlete wellness report, reports from the Board’s student representatives, treasurer’s report, and a presentation of the fiscal year 2022 budget.
Comments from UGA President Jere W. Morehead:
Regarding the current state of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL): “I think NIL has evolved in a way that was not intended. It was intended to reward student-athletes for their name, image and likeness, as student-athletes enrolled at college institutions. It’s clearly become something different than what it was intended. I believe we’ve got to have some very clear rules that do not lead to the professionalization of college athletics. You probably saw the action that the Division I Board of Directors took a few weeks ago. It was a strong statement by the Board that we want the Enforcement staff to enforce the rules that exist, as related to recruitment. And we don’t expect NIL to be used as a recruitment device. I believe, in the long term, that we’re going to have to have a more formalized process, whether that comes from Congress, or it can come from the actions of the NCAA. We clearly need a strong framework that governs the conduct that every institution engages in, when it comes to NIL. How we get there, and when we get there, is an open question. But right now, I hope the Enforcement staff feels like they’ve been given the green light by the Division I Board of Directors to investigate some of the cases that have made a lot of national attention.”
Comments from J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks:
Regarding the contract of head football coach Kirby Smart: “It’s just going through the process, taking your time. This is an important contract for him (Smart) and for us, so it’s just all the little details. It’s typical stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. We’ve worked closely with his agent, and it’s been a great process.
Regarding the process of fundraising: “We’re going to keep going forward. There are a lot of people that want to support our athletic department and university. That support is still strong. But the pace at which we raise will determine the pace at which we build. We’ve had tremendous success in the last five years. It has put us in a great position today and we look forward to continuing that process.”