For those wondering whether Mark Richt is likely to attend UGA signee Chris Burnette’s May 23 Troup High School graduation in violation of a patently stupid NCAA rule, it looks like the answer is no.
To recap the situation: Burnette, who signed with UGA in February, is a straight-A student and Richt had promised the kid that he’d attend his graduation if he was valedictorian, not realizing he’d need to get an NCAA waiver to do that. Burnette didn’t make valedictorian but was picked as one of the graduation speakers, and so Richt still wanted to attend. But when UGA inquired informally about getting a waiver from the NCAA, they were told that one would not likely be granted because the student wasn’t a valedictorian.
Some folks thought Richt ought to go anyway and take a secondary NCAA violation on principle. But when I asked UGA compliance director Eric Baumgartner about the possibility of that, his reply was succinct: “We do not intentionally violate any NCAA rules.”
For an organization that claims to be concerned with promoting academics among student athletes, the NCAA’s position on this is ridiculous. The main argument against letting coaches attend graduations appears to be that pretty soon every coach would be promising to do that as an inducement to getting athletes to sign with their school.
What would be the harm in that? Coaches promising to attend a ceremony if the student earns graduation honors, even if not the valedictorian, would seem to be a win-win situation. It would encourage student athletes to work hard, and it would promote academics in general. It’s definitely an issue the NCAA needs to revisit.
But I think Richt is entirely correct in refusing to “take one for the team” by deliberately violating an NCAA rule. It’s not the same as a private individual choosing to practice civil disobedience by getting arrested at a sit-in or demonstration against something unjust. Richt represents the University of Georgia, and for him to deliberately incur even a secondary NCAA violation would set a terrible precedent.
What do you think?
Bulldog Bites: All three games of the baseball team’s final regular season series at South Carolina are being carried by SportSouth. Game times are 7:05 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1:05 p.m. Saturday. While the Diamond Dogs already have secured a spot in next week’s SEC Tournament, they could improve or hurt where they’re seeded by what happens in Columbia. In light of their recent troubles, it’s worth noting that David Perno’s team this year is very young, which bodes well for the future. Freshmen combined for more than 200 starts this season, UGA says, compared with just 77 starts by freshmen last year. … One of the features on this week’s installment of CSS’ “The Dawg Report” is about former Bulldogs football great Randall Godfrey, a 12-year NFL veteran who was a four-year UGA starter before being taken in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Godfrey also played for the Titans, Seahawks, Chargers and Redskins during his pro career. Now retired at 36 years old, Godfrey is back at UGA working toward his degree and is one semester away from graduation. If you have CSS, you can catch the show at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. Monday, 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5:30 p.m. on May 22.