On March 13, the Division I Council Coordination Committee banned in-person recruiting for all sports, a decision that has been extended three times in the past three months, most recently on May 27.
Georgia coaches will not be allowed to visit or host recruits in Athens until July 31, although the committee plans to reassess its timeline in late June or early July.
Over the past month, The Red & Black has spoken with head coaches and their assistants across Georgia athletics to see how they’ve handled the recruiting dead period and kept Georgia on the minds of their prospective athletes.
Here’s what head football coach Kirby Smart, head gymnastics coach Courtney Kupets Carter, assistant basketball coach Steve McClain, head golf coach Chris Haack and associate head women’s tennis coach Drake Bernstein have said about their altered approach:
Kirby Smart (May 28 press conference): There’s no magic potion. There’s nobody doing something magically that everybody else isn’t doing. We’re jumping on Zoom. We’re communicating with parents, coaches, recruits---we’re doing everything virtually, and that’s really the best we can do. Who manages that the best will be important—a lot of this is who had the best relationships leading into this because, at the end of the day, you can only develop so much of a relationship through a phone, through a text, through a virtual activity. We’ve tried to be creative in the way we use that. I’m certainly not going to divulge everything we’ve done because I don’t think that’s open for everybody to do, and I think we’re all competing in the SEC, trying to make ourselves different. I can tell you this: it’s probably created a bigger burden on our recruits, and if I was a recruit or a recruit’s parent, I would be more concerned with that volume of virtual usage and phone usage … I would make the case that they’re sick and tired of being barraged by phone calls and virtual activities. Will we see more kids come November or December de-commit, or go back and start visiting? I don’t know because I don’t know when we’ll be able to bring kids to campus.
Courtney Kupets Carter (May 15): Right now, nobody can train. No clubs are open. Nobody's training, everyone got shut down, all over the country. And that slowly started to open up from within different states. So everybody kind of got put on hold. These athletes have been out of the gym now for six, seven, almost eight weeks. And so they need time to kind of build back up. Now, it's changed the fact that we haven't been on the road recruiting. But we've been able to keep in touch with athletes of a certain age that we have committed, we've been able to have more time with them, get to know them a little bit more and talk to coaches and just see how their clubs are handling it, but everything kind of just got put on hold so that will continue to change.
Steve McClain (June 2): I think, as we all know, you watch a lot of film in this day and age, and you're always searching for more and more film on recruits. I think the AAU programs and the high school coaches are doing a great job of making sure there's film out there on young players that maybe they wouldn't have worried about before. Now they know that's the best avenue for kids to get seen. And, you know, most kids you know about through relationships, through the fact you've seen them when they're younger, but you're continuing to build that recruiting base. And so, right now you're having to do it through film. And then the contact becomes through Zoom calls and seeing people face to face on those Zoom calls.
Chris Haack (May 19): [Not seeing recruits play in person] hasn’t bothered me for a couple reasons. Number one is the 2021 recruiting class, we're already done with it. So, all it's done is kind of stifle us from maybe watching some younger guys. But the other side of it is that if they're playing in tournaments, I'm going to see what they're shooting. I'm going to see who they're beating, on what kind of golf course and so forth. A lot of times what happens in college recruiting is we see a guy we like, and then we follow him the entire summer just because you feel like you have to … you're no longer recruiting him or evaluating whether you want him, you’re just trying to hold your own with everybody else is trying to get him.
Drake Bernstein (May 22): Oh yeah, I think [COVID-19 restrictions have] affected everybody's [recruiting process], especially in the ways that you're able to recruit. Obviously, there's not much to evaluate as far as tournaments are concerned, but yeah, it's definitely made you think about some things. [The summer] is a big time to evaluate. It’s when the biggest Junior tournaments of the year are. You’ve got the junior Grand Slams, the French Open, Wimbledon, the US Open in August. These are all tournaments that you're going out, looking at the players, making evaluations and trying to figure out who the next big Bulldog is going to be.
Each coach spoke privately with The Red & Black except Smart, who made his comments at a virtual press conference on May 28. All responses were edited for length and clarity.