The NCAA Division I Council announced two important rule changes that will impact Georgia’s football program for years to come.
At the recruiting level, the council agreed to remove the initial meter and signing limit for the next two years, allowing schools to essentially sign as many prospects as they wish, as long as the school is able to sign below the 85-person grant limit stay.
For a program like Georgia that wants to build through recruitment, this should be viewed as a win. When the NCAA eased signing standards for this past cycle, Georgia signed 30 prospects in the 2022 signing class. The year before, Georgia had signed just 21 players. From 2017 to 2020, Georgia signed between 24 and 25 players in each class.
“I think a lot of colleges need to look carefully at who they’re recruiting and why they’re recruiting them,” Smart said in February. “We will all recruit ten percent of these children. For the next group, you’d better be careful who you recruit, because they’re going to make up the bulk of your roster.”
The rapid use of the one-off transfer exemption played a role in changing Council policy. The released statement said the council will monitor the data over the next two years before making any further changes. The Bulldogs have dropped 12 fellows from the program this offseason.
As Georgia continues to prefer to build through recruitment rather than the transfer portal, this should help keep Georgia regularly at the 85-man scholarship limit. The transfer portal will almost always experience a net loss. Consider that Georgia had traded five players from its 2021 team to other SEC schools this offseason. If you’re good enough to get on Georgia’s roster, chances are you’ll be able to earn real snaps elsewhere.
The Bulldogs have yet to take a player off the transfer portal this offseason. Just this week, Georgia expanded its 2022 roster, but that was because Marcus Washington Jr. reclassified for 2023 and joined the 2022 recruiting cycle. He will join the team this summer.
Related: What the late signing of Marcus Washington Jr. means for football in Georgia
“We will coach the guys who want to be here,” Smart said after G-Day. “The guys who don’t do that, we won’t go after them. We can not. This is her destiny. We’re trying to create a culture where I want to be here and grow and get better. When you come to Georgia, you develop.”
The other major rule change was that the NCAA relaxed its stance on conference championship game requirements. The PAC-12 went ahead and announced that it will abolish the divisions, and the ACC has indicated it will do so as early as the 2023 season.
The SEC has had divisions since 1992. The division format has worked well for Georgia, with the Bulldogs winning the SEC East in four of the last six seasons under Smart. In a no-division system, the conference championship game would become a matchup between the top two teams, as has been the case with the Big 12 in recent years.
In a speech Wednesday night, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey indicated that the league is happy with the current roster. But looming changes could force the league to reconsider its championship game format.
“It’s on our list. We will not do it reflexively in response to today’s decision,” Said Sankey. “The divisions worked very well for us. But if we go to 16 teams, that opportunity is front and center for the SEC.”
Texas and Oklahoma are expected to join the SEC for the 2025 season, expanding the conference to 16 teams. Conference planning is a popular topic at this month’s SEC spring meetings. Whether it’s a pod system, divisions or constant opponents, there are a number of options on the table for the league. Consider that Georgia has only played them once since Texas A&M joined the league in 2012 and won’t visit the Aggies until 2024.