As it turns out, Georgia has committed just as many NCAA secondary violations as Tennessee in the past year.
Volunteers’ coach Lane Kiffin, once referred to in a Florida Times-Union headline as “Lane Violation,” has been hammered by the national media — and more than once in this space — for his penchant for breaking NCAA rules. Tennessee has been cited for six in the year since he was tabbed their new coach on Dec. 1, 2008. Now they face at least two more violations as the NCAA continues an ongoing inquiry into the possible misuse of recruiting hostesses, impermissible visits and other infractions.
Those numbers sound roguish, but they can’t really be placed into context without some perspective.
So I contacted the University of Georgia to find out, via a Freedom of Information request, how many violations the Bulldogs had committed in the same period. You may be surprised to find out — I was — that they’ve also had six secondary violations in the last year.
What I don’t have yet, but have set out to get, is the numbers for other SEC schools. Or at least those that comply with federal and state sunshine laws. For some reason Alabama and Auburn always tap-dance around these things. But we’ll try. And Vanderbilt always gets out of it because it’s a private school.
Georgia Tech reported that it had no NCAA violations since Dec. 1, 2008.
So just for the purpose of this blog — don’t mistake this as an investigative piece — I tried to find some of those numbers online. The best Google could do for me was a June 28th story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel that had Tennessee “leading” the SEC with six secondaries, followed by Ole Miss (5), LSU (4), Georgia (then with 3), Mississippi State (3), South Carolina (3), Arkansas (2), Florida (2) and Kentucky (0). You’ll note that Bama and Auburn aren’t included.
LSU, it should be noted, is also being investigated in an ongoing NCAA probe.
So what to make of all this?
I asked Eric Baumgartner, Georgia’s director of compliance, if this constituted a particularly bad year or if it was about the norm for the Bulldogs.
“Well, if you look back over the past couple of years, that’s been pretty consistent, though I don’t like using the word consistent,” Baumgartner said. “I’m not necessarily worried about the number of violations. I’m worried about repeat violations. If the same thing is happening over and over, then something’s not cooking. But (six) doesn’t feel like a significant amount.”
That meshes with what both Kiffin and UT athletics director Mike Hamilton have said throughout.
“I don’t believe it’s an inordinate amount,” Kiffin told reporters recently. “They’re not deliberate but unfortunately they happen.”
Secondary violations are classified as Level I and Level II, I being more serious and thought to create some sort of recruiting advantage. Major violations are the most severe but none have been reported in this case.
The Bulldogs’ were as follows (by date reported by UGA):
Tennessee’s violations in general involved Kiffin more directly but also are considered secondary:
In any case, the SEC has been outspoken in its stance that even secondary violations are taken serious. And as evidenced by the stack of papers that passes through the hands of compliance officers, coaches, ADs, commissioners and NCAA administrators for each one, they do.
“Every one of them matters,” Greg Sankey, SEC associate commissioner for compliance, told the Birmingham News a while back. “I have a 427-page rule manual with thousands of interpretations. The reality of the regulatory culture is you’re going to have violations — circumstances where people go outside the boundaries of the rules. There is a system that involves conferences, the NCAA staff, the Committee on Infractions, that determines what type of action is warranted as an outcome of secondary violations.”