It’s official. Georgia had to report a secondary NCAA violation to the Southeastern Conference because of a picture I took at the end of UGA’s “Dawg Night” prospect camp on July 16 in Athens.
I’ve come to call it “Picturegate.”
UGA’s paperwork was sent to the SEC office by Interim AD Frank Crumley on August 9, copies of which I obtained last week via a Freedom of Information request.
To be accurate, I should say “copy,” as in a single page. Not much to it really. Just a letter from Crumley to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive stating Georgia was reporting an “institutional violation” because “an assistant football coach posed for a picture with a prospective student-athlete (PSA)” at a camp and the picture ran on a newspaper’s website (wonder which one?). After that the letter essentially apologizes and says they’ll try not to let it happen again.
“We regret the violation occurred and will work towards implementing a policy for attendance at camps that specifies the media may not be present on the field when camps are over,” UGA suggested.
I’ll let you know when the NCAA bowl ban hits.
First, an editorial comment: Dumbest rule in the history of the NCAA’s dumb rules.
The alleged infraction took place at the end of UGA’s “Dawg Night” prospect camp on July 16 in Athens. The Bulldogs supposedly ran afoul of NCAA regs when I snapped a picture of assistant coach Stacy Searels posing with recently-committed prospect Zach DeBell at the end of the night. Apparently the key here is that they’re posing arm-in-arm and looking into the camera. For that and other reasons, it was determined to be a violation of Bylaw 13.10.1: “Presence of Media During Recruiting Contact.”
I thought DeBell, who recently turned 17, summed it up best. “I kind of laughed about it really,” the 6-foot-7, 260-pound lineman said. “They told me and I was, like, ‘it’s a violation to take a picture with my coach?’ OK, if you want to violate me for that, go ahead.’”
But if the interpretation is indeed “media present during recruiting contact,” then it was going on all night. Never mind the mere attendance of dozens of media members at an event specifically created make contact with recruits. Just sticking strictly to photography, I took 12 pictures (I counted) with my AJC-issued Canon PowerShot A630 (range: 10 feet) and ran one for publication. Meanwhile, multiple photographers from Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com — subscription-based fan sites — snapped hundreds of pictures through telephoto lenses of coaches interacting with recruits and published them in extensive galleries.
In fact, Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi posted a multiple-shot sequence of one player in the actual act of committing to one of Georgia’s assistant coaches. Excellent, spot-on photojournalism, actually. And the Athens Banner-Herald ran a pic of DeBell and head coach Mark Richt taken by Dean Legge of DawgPost.com that is almost identical to the one I ran except neither party is looking directly into the camera.
I’m not pointing out all this to get Georgia in further trouble or to point fingers at these other outlets. It’s merely to draw attention to the ludicrousness of the supposed infraction.
And if any of these photos are considered impermissible, then so should be similar ones taken at Florida’s “Friday Night Lights” camp, Auburn’s “Big Cat Prowl” and every other “named” camp that has popped up in the SEC and beyond in which elite prospects are invited to attend and media types are welcomed, too.
As for my part in it, I have no apologies.
The fact is, as much as I enjoy and appreciate access to these prospect camps, media probably shouldn’t be attending them at all. Not according to the NCAA’s beefy rulebook anyway. Bylaw 13.10.1 states: “a member institution shall not permit a media entity to be present during any recruiting contact made by an institution’s coaching staff member.”
Sure, there’s some teaching and learning going on at these “camps.” But, let’s face it, their purpose is to let recruits and all of you know which blue-chip prospects are on campus and how serious they are about eventually signing. The gold standard this night was the two commitments and photographic proof that Isaiah Crowell and James Wilder Jr. were in attendance. Everything else was just window-dressing.