‘Picturegate:’ UGA reports NCAA violation after Dawg Night

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.”

A permissible photo of Georgia commitments Zach DeBell (L) and Nathan Theus from Dawg Night.

A permissible photo of Georgia commitments Zach DeBell (L) and Nathan Theus from 'Dawg Night.'

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.

  • Number one, I’m not a member of the NCAA. I didn’t break any rules and it’s not my job to memorize their 400-page manual.
  • Number two, I’m a reporter. It’s my job to observe and report what I see. In this case particular case I was a welcomed guest standing on state property taking pictures of a public event (there were at least 100 spectators, probably more).
  • Number three, no guidelines were given by UGA other than we were not allowed (by NCAA rule) to interview players while they were attending the camp or even on campus. I didn’t. In fact, I had to wait until after the whole gig was over to call DeBell and Nathan Theus (both of whom committed  to Georgia that night) even though I stood right next to them and their parents off and on for three hours.

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.

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143 comments Add your comment

Destin Dawg

August 16th, 2010
6:18 am


August 16th, 2010
6:28 am

The schools like the media attention when it helps their recruiting. Asking a recruit whether he approves of NCAA regs is sort of beside the point (”if taking money is a violation, so violate me” – Reggie Bush).


August 16th, 2010
6:37 am

UGA violated the rules…these young stud players should not have to go through such a thing…They should come to TECH where our coach Paul Johnson is building a massive force that will vanquish our foes…Johnson likes to give our boys a hands on approach which really awakens there inner man !!! Come to TECH…You boys will not have to worry about the naughty media here. What happens at TECH stays at TECH !!!

Excelsior !

Destin Dawg

August 16th, 2010
6:41 am

Hey.. I mean PICTURES ?? Really !! You see sports stars, coaches, autographs, caps, balls, unless they’re selling the sports memoribilia…taking cash $$ of course would be wrong …


August 16th, 2010
6:50 am

It sure didn’t take much to run afoul of the NCAA. I expect any school can do it.


August 16th, 2010
6:51 am

Chip, great article and you couldn’t be more correct. I own and operate a college football recruiting service in Atlanta, and the NCAA is yet another one of these governing bodies that has grown to the point of being intrusive and oppressive to all those party to college athletics. Yet, the stated purpose the NCAA gives for why they exist and why they do what they do is, “To protect the amatuer status for college level student-athletes.” They have imposed so many rules that it is pretty much impossible to unwittingly not violate one of the thousands listed in the 400-plua page manual. Let’s not forget that any high school kid interested in participating on college athletics must register online with the NCAA Clearinghouse and pay a $50 registration fee before a college coach can contact them. Many, if not most, of these high school kids do not end up playing a sport in college. Do you think the NCAA refunds their $50 ???

Golden Hand

August 16th, 2010
6:54 am

The rule’s pretty simple. You can’t have these recruiting camps and invite the media, full stop. The point of the rule is to avoid giving the football factories that stage these sorts of events yet another competitive recruiting advantage (because, face it, even Rivals wouldn’t cover one if Temple held it). The picture isn’t the problem; it just documented the event.

NCAA Rules

August 16th, 2010
6:56 am

Does the NCAA have a rule about a prospect going to the bathroom? This is crazy. Too many rules, two many regulations, too many violations. Recruiting needs to be simplified and major rules need to be enforced. One picture and such an uproar. The pay sites must have something on the NCAA. I see violations on them all the time. Florida is the world’s worst and they never seem to have a single issue with the NCAA when you know there are violations at every school. There’s not enough staff in any Athletic Department to watch over all the 400 plus pages of NCAA rules. I would hate to the the director of compliance in any college who tries to enforce every rule. Come on NCAA, come to the real world.


August 16th, 2010
6:56 am

Paul Johnson also likes to do personal hands on rubdowns of our boys…You can’t ask for anything more!!! Come to TECH for an experience you will never forget !!!!

Excelsior !!!


August 16th, 2010
7:01 am

Honestly, the NCAA sucks. At some point, there is going to be a backlash against them and order will be restored. They cannot continue to act like some sort of divine, untouchable force. For that matter, the same goes for ESPN.


August 16th, 2010
7:21 am

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August 16th, 2010
7:22 am

NCAA may be crazy, but they are not going away. Given your role at creating the picture, outing the picture and the violation, and then continuing to pour gas on the fire, it seems the easiest fix is just to ban you from campus. It may not be your job to memorize the rule book, but if you keep throwing your subject under the bus you’ll never get any access. The fact that you seem to relish your role in this foolishness does not say much for your intelligence.


August 16th, 2010
7:31 am

1. It’s a stupid rule. 2. Georgia officials should have given the media better guidelines. 3. While you didn’t intentionally violate the stupid rule on purpose your justification comes off a little sel-righteous and arrogant. Can’t a simple “Oops! No one told. I didn’t know.” suffice?


August 16th, 2010
7:42 am

So let me get this straight, the AJC and Chip Towers help commit a NCAA violation and then promptly start throwing everyone else under the bus. Sounds about right for this joke of an operation. Hope the AJC enjoys their ban from covering anything related to football functions at UGA.


August 16th, 2010
7:43 am

@ nclawdawg, you’re wrong. As a journalist for the AJC, Chip here is paid cash money for in-depth investigation, analysis, and good photography. He has no interest in obeying NCAA violations (in fact, he probably is paid and encouraged by the AJC to break them to get the good story and a good photo) (and the only interest he would have NOT to break them is the interest in the players themselves or the team or the game of football, but that’s not his job and doesn’t put food on the table). Chip has a professional responsibility to go out and push the boundaries of sports journalism. It’s UGA’s responsibility to tow the line and make sure that by allowing Chip to come to Dawg Night, no NCAA rules are violated.


August 16th, 2010
7:52 am

Who cares, UF QB John Brantley is growing a porn stache … Now, THAT is a story



August 16th, 2010
7:53 am

UGA Law, thank you for correcting nclaw who obviously was just enjoying being insulting and lacked an understanding of football and journalism. For the most part, I can’t stand the media, but the UGA coaching staff is not going to alienate the largest media outlet covering the Dawgs outside of Athens. The AJC is the largest single promoter that regularly covers Georgia Football.


August 16th, 2010
8:02 am

sudheer, the college recruiting being discussed hee relates to college football programs and them recruiting high school football players. You’re blogging about companies that recruit employees off college campuses!


August 16th, 2010
8:02 am

Chip did break the rule. The rule states that no picture of the recruiting can take place. It basically says that a recruit and a coach can not be shown in the media together. Whether other media memebers did is irrellevant. The thing I thought members of the media like Chip signed a document bascially agreeing that they will not break any NCAA ruels, that they will not recruit for a school for which they cover. I have always wondered how guys like Chip got around this.


August 16th, 2010
8:05 am

Vinings, the NCAA does not have a section on laws and punishments for media persons. The only entities that could ever get punished by the NCAA for ANYTHING, are the college and the student-athlete or prospective student-athlete. Chip didn’t have to “get around” anything.

[...] 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 “instit… at a camp and the picture ran on a newspaper’s website (wonder which one?). After that the letter [...]


August 16th, 2010
8:09 am

Chip, why did NCAA rule that Georgia signee Cady Lalanne did not meet academic requirements for initial eligibility?

another strike for UGA

August 16th, 2010
8:10 am

Stacy Searles should have known that this picture pose was a violation. These Bozo’s at UGA needs to get their act together. Media should be only allowed for a few minutes at dawg nite then be shown the door. McGarity will clean this mess up by hiring competent personnel and coaches and put in better controls.


August 16th, 2010
8:11 am

It may well be the worst rule in the history of the NCAA, but it’s still a rule that Chip Towers and the AJC played a major part in violating. It’s pretty reprehensible to attempt to throw others under the bus to try and take some of the heat off of yourself when quite obviously the others mentioned did nothing wrong. Radi in particular is a class guy, and maybe Mr. Towers could learn something from him. As for banning the AJC from covering events at UGA, that is ludicrous. But it’s not out of the question to tell them Chip is no longer welcome.


August 16th, 2010
8:13 am

Three observations:
1-What a stupid rule. 2-The responsibility of knowing all o the NCAA’s stupid rules is on UGA. They should have given the reporters specific guidelines to avoid this since, as Chip points out, it is not the ajc’s problem or concern. I will guarantee you they will do that now; so why werent we proactive instead of reactionary? Who is the compliance person at UGA? That is who scrwed up.3-I agree with the guy above who commented that it seems that Chip and AJC wont let this die and are enjoing reveling in it.


August 16th, 2010
8:14 am

Legally, you Dawg lawyers are neither right nor wrong; however, UGA Law, the key word in your last sentence above is “allowing.” Here, nclawdawg argues logic and common sense, while you–were I judge and jury–would lose not on the principle of law but on legal arrogance when you “Chip has a professional responsibility to go out and push the boundaries of sports journalism.”

This may be Chip’s right, but a true, honorable “professional” plays within the boundaries and doesn’t place ALL burden and responsibility of policing these boundaries upon others.


August 16th, 2010
8:17 am

Mike good info on the Clearinghouse $50. Should not this money be paid to the NCAA after a scholarship offer, not before? Or does the NCAA need this income to keep the lights on?

Dog Fan

August 16th, 2010
8:19 am

I think Georgia should not allow Chip Towers back to these events. He will throw them to the wolves if he can get the attemtion off of himself.

BWH Dawg

August 16th, 2010
8:21 am

I hope you NEVER attend a UGA recruiting event again. You don’t deserve to be there and should not EVER be invited. Keep your butt in Atlanta. Good riddance.


August 16th, 2010
8:26 am

Are you kidding me violation for taking a picture whats next giving recruit there favorite food if they commit this is stupid violation.


August 16th, 2010
8:30 am

Just typical of most people these days. Unable to take responsibility for your actions. So what if you knew the rules or not, you broke them. Apologize already and move on. Why do you have to pull out the “I’m the victim card?” A whole article about me, me, me. I was just doing my job. Grow a set, Chip.


August 16th, 2010
8:31 am

Way to go Chip! I just heard that the NCAA is going to make us give back Herschel’s Heisman Trophy!

A violation for taking a picture, give me a freaking break.

Hope your wife is feeling better!!!!!!

Clean House

August 16th, 2010
8:35 am

Dawg nite should be close off to the media anyway. Its obvious since ther are no controls in place at UGA that McGarity will have a huge task in front of him to get the program back on track. Hope he starts handing out pink slips to the clowns soon.


August 16th, 2010
8:39 am

Chip, I hate to say this but i have heard it my whole life “ignorance of the law is no excuse”..it is your responsibility to know the rules when it comes to the media…Had you ask the UGA i’m sure you would have been given the rules…With that being said i do agree that it is a stupid rule which probably gets broken many times over at events like this, but according to the NCAA that is no excuse…I understand your remarks regarding what happen but it seems that your are putting most of the blame on the dawg coaching staff…I feel you have a responsibility here also and should make sure you don’t do anything to cause a school to get in trouble..It is a shame that the NCAA has installed rules that almost make illegal to even breathe…but both the schools and the media must accept responsibility for this..don’t blame the school for not giving you the info…did you ask for the guidelines regarding the media’s role?…Anyway, thanks for clearing this up and good to have you back…


August 16th, 2010
8:39 am

edfigglebits UGA should not apologize for taking a picture all you see this damn AJC is negative stories they never UGA on the front page unless its a negative story I am sick and tired of the AJC.


August 16th, 2010
8:45 am

Exactly, 59bulldawg and Skydawg.
If you don’t care to learn or follow the rules or at least say, “oops”, don’t be surprised when you are not welcome next time.


August 16th, 2010
8:48 am

I mean, really. I haven’t read the rulebook, but I remember that LAST YEAR Kiffin had to report the same violation. Dumb rule? Absolutely. Putting UGA in the same position after reporting Tennessee’s violation is just as dumb.


August 16th, 2010
8:50 am

It’s not just the picture:
When scool have camps like this for recuits they are not supposed to have media coverage.


August 16th, 2010
8:51 am

Picturegate,pantygate,scootergate,taxicab gate ,injurygate midgetgate and on and on and on….


August 16th, 2010
8:52 am

I feel like I’m watching an episode of Law and Order..


August 16th, 2010
8:55 am

Golden Hand: I agree with you. The top 25 schools will hold this event and get great coverage and pretty soon ESPN will jump on board. This gives them an unfair recruiting advantage and doesn’t level the playing field. However, I don’t think, like you say a Temple, still would have a chance at a player that is considering UGA, Florida, Texas or Oklahoma just because their recruiting event is covered by the media.

Skydawg & 59bulldawg: All schools have a compliance person and they should have been consulted before the media was allowed to cover the event. The NCAA holds the school responsible for not enforcing its rules, not the media. Coach Garner or Richt should have called, e-mailed or talked with the compliance person to see if media is allowed and what is the ground rules. That person would have checked the NCAA manual or called the NCAA and found out that photos were not allowed by the media. Chip and everybody else would have been told to leave their cameras at home and no violation would have been committed. It is a minor violation and nothing major will come out of this, thankfully.

GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob the Builder

August 16th, 2010
8:59 am

Holy Crap, BigTimeTECHFan – it’s obvious you did not attend the “scool”

Fillin' up @ Juniors

August 16th, 2010
9:01 am

A world run by lawyers, equals a world run by arbitrary law. More laws = more Lawyers…Its like giving a farmer rights to plant anywhere he wants, and giving him endless seeds to do it with…


August 16th, 2010
9:05 am

Whart we haive heer is a laick of instytooshonal control. Them thare boys gotem a new sherruff in town and a hees gonna fix this mess.Yep thait irishman is gonna show’em a thang or two cause he learnt from them thare gators.

elmo lewis

August 16th, 2010
9:20 am

Anybody other than me tired of “gate” being attached to the end of each and every scandal?


August 16th, 2010
9:21 am

RainbowJacket: “They should come to TECH where our coach Paul Johnson is building a massive force that will vanquish our foes…”

And there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow . . .


August 16th, 2010
9:23 am

Who has more rules, the NCAA or the PGA?


August 16th, 2010
9:40 am

Remember, every rule that is in the rule book had to be approved by the NCAA’s members. Coaches, AD’s, Faculty Reps, & Presidents had to vote for these rules. If you think some of the rules are stupid and/or useless…don’t blame the NCAA, blame the individuals/institutions for allowing them to be in the manual.

old timer

August 16th, 2010
9:42 am

Chip Towers and some of the other writers at the ajc take pride in making any little thing at uga a big splashy headline and keep it on line for days on end. I would’nt care a bit if they banned Chip Towers.