UGA’s Mark Richt requesting waiver to attend football recruit’s graduation speech

Chris Burnette

Chris Burnette

UPDATED: One of the feel-good stories of this year’s college football recruiting process took more twists Thursday.

Troup High School’s Chris Burnette, one of Georgia’s top recruits, learned he won’t be his school’s valedictorian. But he held out hope he still might speak at graduation, and Georgia began the process to request NCAA permission for Bulldogs coach Mark Richt to attend the LaGrange school’s commencement.

Richt had promised Burnette that if he earned the school’s No. 1 academic honor, he would do his best to show up at the May 23 ceremony to hear the valedictory address.

UGA officials did not know Thursday if Richt would still try to attend the graduation.

But compliance director Eric Baumgartner said earlier in the day that an effort to get NCAA permission had begun. “We are working on a waiver request on behalf of Coach Richt,” he said.

Richt was asked several questions about Burnette at a Georgia booster club meeting in Roswell on Wednesday, and the coach told supporters he intended to apply for the waiver.

Burnette said a classmate was named school valedictorian at the Troup County Board of Education meeting on Thursday.

“I did the best I could,” Burnette said. “It’s hard for me to accept [barely] missing it, but I’m still proud of what I accomplished.”

Burnette said school officials have hinted that he likely will be able to speak at graduation, but he won’t know anything definite until next week.

The 6-foot-3, 286-pound lineman has a 5.12 GPA and has made nothing but straight A’s since kindergarten.

Burnette had initially planned to graduate after his first semester at Troup so he could enroll early at Georgia to get a jumpstart on his college football career. However, Burnette changed his mind and decided to stay in high school this spring to compete for valedictorian honors, with the full support of Georgia’s coaches. Richt said he had never recruited a valedictorian before.

Staff writer Tim Tucker contributed to this article.

RELATED: AJC blog on Richt/Burnette graduation issue, questions journalists’ ‘damning commentary’ [Click here]

72 comments Add your comment


April 23rd, 2009
3:07 pm

Go Coach, go to the graduation. Way to go Chris. I am looking forward to watching you between the hedges.


April 23rd, 2009
3:08 pm

It’s being ridiculous that a college coach cannot attend a school function (graduation) of a recruit who’s signed an LOI! The NCAA is far too heavy-handed. It’s good to have a top notch STUDENT-Athlete like Burnette at UGA. It’s a good departure from the many non-qualifying “blue-chippers” these D1 coaches salivate over. :S

Saint Simons

April 23rd, 2009
3:33 pm

i think mark richt loves the attention he’s getting!


April 23rd, 2009
3:49 pm

I applaud this move by Coach Richt. The snobby, greedy, ignorant NCAA should approve Chris Burnette’s waiver in record time, and then have expert blogger Mr. David Pickle write about cheaters like Lane Kiffin, Bobby Bowden and at any moment … Gene Chizik.


April 23rd, 2009
4:16 pm

The NCAA will easily approve Coach Richt’s request to attend the graduation. It would be awful for the NCAA, from a PR standpoint, to reject his request. Remember it’s “Student Athlete”. Also, the NCAA made the right decision for something similar with Myron Rolle when they permitted him to fly on a Alumni’s private jet for his interview as a Rhodes Scholar. Myron Rolle and Chris Burnette should be role models for athletes.


April 23rd, 2009
4:16 pm

Enter your comments here


April 23rd, 2009
4:21 pm

Although I’m a Tech fan, it’s really great to see coaches like Mark Richt reward and recognize their players (or future players) for their academic achievements. Great gesture by him. Other Techies may not agree, but I’ve always thought Richt was a good coach and an even better person. Even though Burnette hasn’t been officially declared the valedictorian, what he’s done on the academic side till now is a great achievement. Looks like UGA signed a great student athlete.

Va Dawg

April 23rd, 2009
4:32 pm

I say congratulations to Burnette and CMR. Once again showing what a class act he is and also suppoet the student in student/athlete. Hopefully this will be an incentive for other athletes with exceptional skills to also perform in the classroom. The bugs have nothing on us!!


April 23rd, 2009
4:35 pm

I love Mark Richt he is all about his players and nothing else.


April 23rd, 2009
5:00 pm

Hey St. Simons…..what happened to “45-42 hahahahahahahaha”


April 23rd, 2009
6:07 pm

yeah st simons, get your hand out of your pants

[...] RELATED: UGA coach Mark Richt requesting NCAA waiver to attend graduation [Click here] [...]


April 23rd, 2009
7:14 pm

go mark richt..
your the man
do what you gotta do..
and always remember the alabama beat down
you got last season
you dissapointed me badly

Dave In Tampa

April 23rd, 2009
8:34 pm

I hope that CMR can go. What a great gesture a coach can give his players no matter what college it is. Saint Simons & Billy, there is a time and place to do the rivalry bashing. Learn the right moments. All your posts do here is show that you have a lot of class….. To bad it’s all LOW!! Go CMR


April 23rd, 2009
8:43 pm

Class coach. Class student, and both are classy men. The NCAA needs to get out of the way and know they are not more important than the students themselves.

Soulja Boy

April 23rd, 2009
8:53 pm

Richt’s sudden dedication to academics doesn’t really wash with his player arrests, poor graduation rate or the high number of recruits who can’t qualify for admission.

Rabun Dawg

April 23rd, 2009
9:00 pm

Danny Boy, Thanks for your very classy post! We all should applaud a true student athlete, regardless who he will play for! Best of luck to this young man on his true dedication to academics and athletics!!

BS Patrol

April 23rd, 2009
9:10 pm

Carvell, You are too chickensh8t to post anything but back patting and butt kissing comments about the bulldogs, aren’t you?

Fact is, you are afraid to post my comment. I sent it twice. It must have been a little too uncomfortably close to the truth.

Von Jennings

April 23rd, 2009
9:38 pm

Although I’m a die hard Tech fan this is a feel good story for college football in general. This is what a student athlete is all about. Congrats to the Dawgs and Coach Richt.

Tokyo jacket

April 23rd, 2009
9:51 pm

Personally, I think he should have gone without a waiver. The way to change the rules is to bring them to light. Sit at the front of the bus intentionally! Regardless, good action by CMR, and better action by this young man. Best of luck for the next 4/5 years.


April 23rd, 2009
10:01 pm

Soulja Boy, Georgia’s graduation rate is one of the highest in the SEC, and among the highest in D-1 football. And show me one college football program in the country that hasn’t had to deal with players making stupid decisions. How, exactly, is that a problem unique to Mark Richt?

Upstate Dawg

April 23rd, 2009
10:17 pm

Just got home from listening to Coach Fox and Coach Richt address the Upstate Bulldogs in Greenville. One of the questions Coach Richt took was regarding this issue. He said that he could only go if the NCAA granted a waiver but he felt reasonably confident they would do so if Chris Burnette were indeed the valedictorian. Go Chris and go Dawgs!!

Saint Simons

April 23rd, 2009
10:26 pm

45-42!!!!!! hahahahahahahahaha


April 23rd, 2009
11:04 pm

st simons see above remarks


April 23rd, 2009
11:31 pm

Totally uncalled for by the NCAA.. aka.. National Cancellation Academic Achievement. Congrats Chris Burnette!

135 mo’ days!

Roy Wood

April 24th, 2009
12:12 am

Fot St Simons 45-42hahahahahahahaha once ever 6-7yrs ok


April 24th, 2009
1:09 am

St. Simons is just upset he’s the only Tech fan on the island. He’s also jealous that the smart kid chose UGA. Face it, GT is a basketball school in a crappy conference. And by the way, CMR doesn’t give a crap about the attention. The attention here is about a bright and talented student athlete who’s making his family, friends, community and future college coach proud. Great job Chris!!! We are proud of you an welcome to the Bulldawg Nation.


April 24th, 2009
2:42 am

No matter where you go to school, the way you have carried yourself through out you school years is a refreshing action, that i hope many kids will pay attention to, and strive to be like you.

Congrats kid on the great work ethic, may you live your life with the same dedacation you have shown in the class room so far.

Go Dawgs!

Mr. Williams

April 24th, 2009
4:08 am

Congratulations Chris.. .God Bless You and we can’t wait to you get on campus. You are a true class act!

Bama Dawg

April 24th, 2009
6:23 am

St. Simons obviously doesn’t know how to think . . just follow the nerd crowd.


April 24th, 2009
6:59 am

I’ll agree with Dannyboy. CMR is a really good coach and he runs a a good program. It’s great to see him support Chris Burnette. It speaks even higher for CMR (my prediction) that he will most likely attend and do everything possible to not draw attention to himself so that he will not be a distraction. If you cannot appreciate a good man who is a talented football coach (even the rival) then you just are too biased to be a fan of the sport!


April 24th, 2009
7:40 am

Funny how the NCAA monitors stuff like this, but incidents like the Reggie Bush and someone financing a $500,000 house for his family, gets swept under the rug.


April 24th, 2009
7:52 am

Saint Simons could take a lesson in being classy from CMR. I can’t tell if SS is really a techie or just plain stupid.


April 24th, 2009
8:01 am

Looks like a good player and student. I too am a GT fan and agree the NCAA should allow CMR to attend and show support for Chris Burnette. Shame on the NCAA if they don’t.

Go Jackets

Release Anderson

April 24th, 2009
8:16 am

Richt should break this rule like he told his players to beak the rules in Jax in ‘07.


April 24th, 2009
8:17 am

Atleast Martinez is not going!!!


April 24th, 2009
8:19 am

It’s about time Georgia went after student athletes. Check how many academic all-americans Nebraska has. Tops in the NCAA.

GT Fan

April 24th, 2009
8:24 am

Great job Coach! NCAA needs to change alot of its rule to help the students instead of hurting the kids. Coach Richt is first class in every way and so is Chris. Hope you go.

While I’m crossing the line…Congrat to UGA for hiring Mark Fox BB Coach. Very good choice.

Now, go Jackets!

Crimson Crush

April 24th, 2009
8:29 am

“”"”"….Funny how the NCAA monitors stuff like this, but incidents like the Reggie Bush and someone financing a $500,000 house for his family, gets swept under the rug……”"”"

No doubt . Or for that matter someone like Maurice Clarret at Ohio State who straight up said in an interview they bought him a brand new vehicle , jewelry ,clothes and the whole nine yards . The NCAA’s response “We tried to call him and ask him about that but he wouldn’t answer his phone”.

Or go back a few years when I actually lived in Indianapolis and the legal system sent a woman to prison for embezzlement of several hundred thousand dollars from her employer . Basically there was NO WAY for the NCAA to whitewash that one because it came out in court she was a dues paying member of a Notre Dame booster club . She spent her ill gotten gains screwing half the Irish football team , taking them on trips to Las Vegas , buying them clothes and electronics and other fun stuff . The NCAA “response” ? 2 schollies lost spread out over two frickin years .

On the other hand , let some sidewalk alumni who has never stepped foot on an SEC campus buy a recruit a cup of coffee . The NCAA “intelligensia” will scream bloody murder and start an immediate full blown assault (”investigation”) on the school in question both privately AND in the media …


April 24th, 2009
8:35 am

Coach Richt, you are a class act. Chris Burnette, so are you. How anyone can have negative comments about something like this is beyond me . . .


April 24th, 2009
8:35 am

JacketinNC: classy post! The media should focus more on stories like this one. There are a lot of players at schools throughout the country that are upstanding citizens and it’s a shame the media doesn’t report on them with the same front page/lead story passion as they do the FEW that screw up. Case in point, here in Jacksonville, FL UGA’s own Bryan Evans took time while he was on spring break to present an autographed ball for raffle to raise money for JT Townsend, a kid who was paralyzed from the neck down after an unfortunate collision during his senior year in high school. Bryan got several high profile players like Stafford, Moreno, J.Owens, G.Atkins and A.Allen as well as CMR to sign the ball. My sons and I had the pleasure of being present when he presented the ball and it was a very touching scene. I met Bryan and his family a few years ago and have become good friends with them. My sons ages 7 & 10 look up to Bryan, and whenever he’s in town he finds time to see them, encourage them to keep their grades up, and talks with them about the importance of good sportsmanship & attitude as they play sports. Bryan is a young man with limited time to come home from school and it always impresses me that he makes sure to fit time in to mentor my sons. I wish the media would spend more time reporting on the good works of student athletes, but I guess those stories don’t have the controversial sexiness that a kid caught drinking under age or smoking pot do.


April 24th, 2009
8:50 am

St. Simons doesn’t live on Island, he can’t afford to. He works on shrimp boat as handy man. He’s not a UGA are GT fan. He’s trying to get back to S Am. soon to see his family. He thought CMA was some kind of Drugs. He hates to leave because he gets welfare check from US govt, free health plan if he stay in USA. Get it.


April 24th, 2009
9:07 am

Way to go CMR!


April 24th, 2009
9:09 am

I am a Vol Fan but pull for the Dawgs when they are not playing the Vols. I think Coach Richt is a excellent football coach and an even better person. Go Vols and Dawgs!!!

Bob Horner

April 24th, 2009
9:12 am

What the heck is a 5.12 GPA? Isn’t a 4.0 the best you can do?? I should have gone to high school in LaGrange


April 24th, 2009
9:16 am

Further evidence we live in an insane world. The crazies have taken over! Give ONE REASON Richt shouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony for one who has committed and signed. Please! Wake up people.

urban saben

April 24th, 2009
9:18 am

Horner you should have.. god bless you .. aint god amazing he can save your soul if people would just believe in him.. hes more amazing than anybody in the world .. god is in control of peoples life’s.. god can bless everybody .. even you

Saint Simons

April 24th, 2009
9:41 am

Mark Richt classy! hahhahahha!!!! Bobby Dodd = class act


April 24th, 2009
9:44 am

Crimson, I agree the NCAA plays favorites.

Tokyo Jacket, CMR is in bad enough standing after the Jax ‘07 fiasco. UGA does not need anymore heat. I am sure a GT fan would enjoy it however.

Not Disappointed

April 24th, 2009
9:53 am

<——————- Loyal Jacket Fan HERE!!! I hope CMR can attend this graduation. It’s hard not to like CMR, his lovely wife and the kids. I wish Chris Burdnette well in the future. That being said, “Ramblin Wreck!”


April 24th, 2009
10:02 am

what exactly are the penalties if he does attend? i mean seriously NCAA, what harm is it doing?


April 24th, 2009
10:04 am

BS Patrol, STFU you classless moron. You must be a techmite eaten alive by pe%is envy. Now get back in your place little man.


April 24th, 2009
10:23 am

Why is it a recruiting violation being the kid has already signed a LOI with the school. That does not make any sense. I could understand if the kid had not yet committed.

Dave In Tampa

April 24th, 2009
10:38 am

Saint Simons: Again see my post from earlier. You have a lot of class, just too bad it’s all LOW! Bobby Dodd is a clas act. No one will argue that one and so is CMR. Only you, moron, will say differently


April 24th, 2009
10:54 am

The 5.12 GPA can be obtained by taking Advanced Placement courses (aka College level courses while still in high school). If you take those courses and receive a high enough grade, you could get a 5.0 or better. Also, with answering bonus questions on exams, it IS possible to obtain a score > 100%. GO DAWGS!!!


April 24th, 2009
11:04 am

For mostly-inane reasons, the NCAA still treats signed student-athletes as if they’re still unsigned as far as off-campus contacts and stuff like that go…..up until they’re actully enrolled at school.

Baba O'Riley

April 24th, 2009
11:55 am

Did CMR make the promise before the kid signed? The NCAA may consider this a recruiting ploy. Would CMR still be challenging the NCAA on this if the kid signed with another school? Since he is not valedictorian, will CMR go to ALL his signees’ graduation ceremonies?


April 24th, 2009
12:00 pm

Chris with a 4.0 on an unweighted scale and a 5.12 on a weighted scale could have very possibly had the highest GPA amongst all graduation students; however, the title of Valedictorian goes to the student who is a Magna Cum Laude graduate (AP class requirements and x number of A’s in academic classes) who has the highest SAT score. Its happened before where the student who has the highest GPA isn’t the Valedictorian but it’s the student with the highest Test score…Hope Chris understood that…the 5.12 is a remarkable accomplishment and usually all Magna Cum Laude graduates get to speak for minute or two.

Congrats to Chris and Coach Richt for picking a student-athlete. What a refreshing idea.


April 24th, 2009
12:17 pm

Mark richt=Winner St Simons=loser

St Simons is someone I picture like Bubba from Forrest gump.

You wanna be a shrimpin boat captain Forrest?

urban saben

April 24th, 2009
2:05 pm

dawgin Lex
i would love to join you games
you suk
and you know want im forest gump


April 24th, 2009
3:07 pm

I really hope this kid makes it to the pro’s because I’d hate to have him work so hard in HS to only get a degree from UGA and end up working in a restaurant after graduating.


April 24th, 2009
4:26 pm

geez, I’m 2nd generation Tech, have had season tix for 10+ yrs and even _I_ think this is ridiculous! it’s obvious this kid wanted to play for Georgia all along so it’s not like this is influencing his choice. I guess the NCAA wouldn’t want a high-profile D-I coach sending the wrong message (we’re sorry, Coach Richt, but we just can’t risk sending mixed messages about the relative value of academics vs. football – gotta have priorities, you see?).


April 24th, 2009
4:35 pm

Hmm, he should’ve went to Georgia Tech. Sounds much too smart to be at Georgia.

Follow Up To Troup County Message

April 24th, 2009
5:36 pm

The article indicated Mr. Burnette received A’s througout his career. When I was in highschool (early 90s in Dekalb) the highest your GPA could be would be 5.0 –> All your classes had to be AP from 9th grade on and receive A’s in all of them. I wonder if the scale has changed since then? The highest GPA I knew of back in the day was in 4.6-4.7 area. 5.12 is an amazing accomplishment. I’m just curious in regards to how the classes were weighted.

Regardless, test scores should have no impact on a valedictorian designation. If two students have the same GPA they should be elected co-valedictorians. The person with the highest test score (SAT score in my day) was elected the schools Star Student. Both categories are seperate. Troupe County needs to take this into consideration. Mr. Burnette should be elected co-valedictorian if his 5.12 GPA is the same as his counterparts.


April 24th, 2009
7:15 pm

I wonder if it’s only the head coach that has trouble attending? If CMR is not allowed to go, which makes NO sense, hopefully his position coach can go. I do NOT understand the NCAA at all. At any rate, congrats to the young man for his tremendous work, congrats to his parents for the committment that they have shown to his academic and athletic work. I cannot imagine people who can be more proud.

Hanersham Dawg

April 24th, 2009
11:56 pm

It’s blogs like this that reminds me what class acts the fans of other schools can be. Today I’m proud to acknowledge the Vols, the Crimson Tide, and especially the Jackets and their support of a fine young man and the school he chose. I will remember and return the respect.

uga alum

April 26th, 2009
12:44 am

this is the type of guy we want to see play for UGA a future Rhodes scholar and star athlete….. very impressive young man…. thank you coach Richt for taking the time to acknowledge accomplishments like this off the field!!!!! keep up the good work bulldogs!!!!!!


April 27th, 2009
2:31 pm

It’s a shame we have to ask a coach to break the rules to attend something like this…NCAA is so big on preaching academics and yet have an idiotic rule like this. I live in North Carolina and people up here are hoping Coach goes regardless of the NCAA…they compare it to Coach K in this situation. This guy has completed an amazing achievement and is going to a great college..this should be the type of thing they want to promote, not cover up. Hopefully, the NCAA will remove their heads from their rear-facing orifice and get a clue.


April 28th, 2009
9:39 am

When I was in school, in Georgia, not so long ago, the highest score you could earn was a 4.0.
Does this mean that down the road maybe we will see a 7.0 or a 10.0 or higher?
I don’t get it………


April 28th, 2009
1:58 pm

[...] learning late last week that Troup offensive lineman Chris Burnette narrowly missed out on being class valedictorian, Georgia officials called the NCAA and learned that a waiver [...]


April 28th, 2009
5:16 pm

If the NCAA allows Auburn to use a pimped out stretch limo as a recruiting tool, why can’t Mark go to a graduation? The kid has signed with Ga. Auburn is in fact enticing recruits with a fancy limo and coaches driving up to their front door in it.