Documents show UGA dealt severely with recruiting staffers

Georgia is approaching the end of a brief saga in its football recruiting department, but there has been some significant reaction.

UGA this week turned over documents requested by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution four months ago seeking to shed some light on the dismissal of two prominent football recruiting administrators earlier this year. That story was first reported by the AJC in April.

The severe actions taken by UGA Athletic Association against employees Lukman Abdulai and Dacia King demonstrate a zero-tolerance policy against NCAA rules violations.

According to the personnel files of Abdulai and King, the path that led to their abrupt departures was started by an unnamed student host’s inadvertent recruiting violation. That student’s failure to comply with UGA’s self-imposed penalties led to King’s termination in April and Abdulai’s 30-day suspension.

Abdulai eventually resigned his position as associate director of player personnel last month.

The documents also reveal that King, who was listed as “recruiting program coordinator,” appealed her termination. Her dismissal was upheld by an athletic association panel, which determined she was in breach of contract.

Both individuals rose quickly through UGA’s football support ranks before their departures. Abdulai, who began his career with the Bulldogs as an intern in 2014, was hired as a full-time assistant recruiting coordinator for $35,000 a year in 2015. He was promoted to director of on-campus recruiting in 2016 and received a $30,000 raise. Abdulai was named associate director in February, at which time he is listed as receiving a 25 percent boost in pay to $95,000.

Georgia agreed to pay Abdulai the remainder of his salary — $57,000 — in monthly installments over the remainder the year, according to his personnel file.

King had just been promoted to recruiting program coordinator in March, which raised her pay to $50,000 from $28,716. Part of that promotion included signing a rules-compliance agreement with the athletic association before her official start date of March 1, 2019.

Ten days later, Georgia reported King’s involvement in a violation of an NCAA bylaw that requires student hosts to be sanctioned and vetted for compliance clearance. A female individual who did not meet those specifications apparently walked with a football recruit on an official visit from the registration table to his seat at a UGA men’s basketball game and sat with him and his family for five minutes. That violation, reported by compliance director Will Lawler, was determined to be Level III, which means it was minor and inadvertent. UGA claims it banned the student from recruiting involvement for the remainder of the year.

However, that same student was present and interacted with recruits at Georgia’s G-Day spring game April 20. That violation also was discovered and reported by Lawler. King was terminated three days later.

King, who holds two degrees from UGA, claimed in her appeal that she was not informed of the student's banishment and that the student was not working the G-Day game in an interactive role with prospects.

King is now employed by SportsTrusts Advisors, an Atlanta-based sports agency. Abdulai’s current employment status is not immediately known.

Georgia has since hired Haley Schaafsma, formerly of Vanderbilt, as director of recruiting operations.