So what did you think of Mark Richt being tagged for an NCAA rules violation in the recruiting of Isaiah Crowell?
It’s a given that the violation, considered “secondary” by UGA and unlikely to draw any further punishment from the NCAA, is pretty picayune compared with some of the stuff going on these days in college recruiting.
The vast majority of UGA fans appear to feel it was definitely worth Richt crossing the line in order to land a must-have recruit like Crowell. A lot of folks admire his gumption in pushing the envelope.
But it’s worth noting that the true “missing man” in Richt’s recruiting stunt was Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Eric Baumgartner, who’s there to advise coaches what’s a violation and what isn’t.
The problem is that Richt didn’t bother to check whether his little skit was allowed. According to Athletic Director Greg McGarity’s letter to the NCAA about the case, “Coach Richt knew that the team could not use equipment or run a play to create a tryout activity but did not not check with the Compliance Office beforehand about the offensive alignment. … Coach Richt knew that the activity could not occur in the stadium, for the public to view, equipment to be used or for an actual play to be run and did not believe this constituted a game-day simulation.”
The SEC disagreed and ruled that Crowell donning a Georgia jersey and joining an offensive formation was indeed a “game-day simulation,” even in an indoor practice facility. A quick call to Birmingham before Crowell’s visit to Athens could have ascertained that.
This situation was different from the five secondary violations UGA reported earlier when former players Randall Godfrey and David Pollack attended Ray Drew’s signing ceremony at the recruit’s invitation. UGA had nothing to do with that but had to take the blame under the NCAA’s peculiar rules about what it takes to constitute a representative of a school’s athletic interests.
In the Crowell case, however, the wound (admitted a very minor nick to UGA’s image) was self-inflicted, a result of Richt getting sloppy while caught up in his pursuit of the Dream Team. It also was probably unnecessary if McGarity was correct when he told the NCAA that “UGA does not believe a recruiting advantage was gained as [Crowell's] mother has stated that her son knew he was going to attend UGA since he was a young child.”
A few years back when Richt had his players deliberately draw a celebration penalty against Florida, most fans applauded the gutsy motivational ploy. “Evil” Richt was hailed as a welcome facet to the coach’s generally straight-arrow image.
Is the Crowell violation a similar situation? Should that letter of admonishment in his file be accompanied by a private “attaboy” pat on the back? Or should we remember that when Lane Kiffin was crossing the line at Tennessee, some of us weren’t quite as dismissive of secondary violations by a head coach.
I guess the question is, where should we draw the line? Is it ever acceptable for the coach to break NCAA rules, even minor ones? Would we be quite so accepting if it had been Nick Saban handing an Alabama jersey to Crowell?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg