What new NCAA rule changes mean for the future Georgia football

The NCAA Division I Council announced two key rule changes that will impact the Georgia football program in the coming years.

On a recruiting level, the council agreed to lift initial counter and signing limits for the next two years, essentially allowing schools to sign as many prospects as they would like so long as the school is able to stay below the 85-man scholarship limit.

For a program like Georgia that wants to build through recruiting, this should be seen as a win. When the NCAA relaxed signing standards for this past cycle, Georgia went on to sign 30 prospects in the 2022 signing class. The year before, Georgia ended up signing just 21 players. From 2017 through 2020, Georgia signed between 24 and 25 players in each class.

“I think a lot of colleges are having to look inside out at who they recruit and why they recruit them,” Smart said in February. “Ten percent of these kids we are all going to recruit. It’s the next group that you better be careful who you are recruiting because they are going to make up the majority of your roster.”

The rapid use of the one-time transfer exemption did play a role in the council’s policy change. The statement released stated that the council will monitor the data over the next two years before making further changes. The Bulldogs saw 12 scholarship players transfer out of the program this offseason.

Given that Georgia prefers to continue to build via recruiting, as opposed to the transfer portal, this should help keep Georgia regularly at the 85-man scholarship limit. The transfer portal will almost always be a net loss. Consider that Georgia had five players from its 2021 team transfer to other SEC schools this offseason. If you’re good enough to be on Georgia’s roster, you’re likely going to be able to earn real snaps elsewhere.

The Bulldogs have not yet taken a player from the transfer portal this offseason. Just this week Georgia did add to its 2022 roster, but that was because 2023 commit Marcus Washington Jr. reclassified and joined the 2022 recruiting cycle. He will join the team this summer.

Related: What late addition of Marcus Washington Jr. means for Georgia football

“The guys that want to be here, we’re going to coach them,” Smart said after G-Day. “The guys that don’t, then we’re not going to chase after them. We can’t. That’s their determination. We’re trying to create a culture of I want to be here and grow and get better. Like you come to Georgia, you get developed.”

The other big rule change was that the NCAA relaxed its stance on requirements for conference championship games. The PAC-12 went ahead and announced that it will do away with divisions and the ACC has hinted that it will do so as well 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 past six seasons under Smart. In a division-less 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 speaking on Wednesday night, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey indicated that the league was happy with the current set-up. But changes on the horizon might force the league to re-examine its championship game format.

“It’s on our list. We’re not going to do it in a knee-jerk way in reaction to today’s decision,” Sankey said. “The divisions have worked really well for us. But when we go to 16 teams, that possibility is front and center for the SEC.”

Texas and Oklahoma are expected to join the SEC for the 2025 season, pushing the conference to 16 teams. Conference scheduling figures to be a popular topic at this month’s SEC spring meetings. Whether it be a pod system, divisions or permanent opponents there are a number of options on the table for the league. Consider that since Texas A&M joined the league back in 2012, Georgia has played them just once and won’t visit the Aggies until 2024.

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