(Adds comments from David Pollack, 2:20 p.m.)
Ray Drew’s decision to have former Georgia football stars Randall Godfrey and David Pollack speak at his commitment ceremony in January has the Bulldogs in some hot water with the Southeastern Conference.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned that UGA had to report five NCAA rules violations to the SEC as a result of Drew’s Jan. 28 news conference at Thomas County Central High School. Drew, a five-star recruiting prospect, announced that day he was committing to the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end has since signed a national letter-of-intent with UGA.
Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity detailed the violations in a March 4 letter sent to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. That letter was obtained by the AJC through an open records request.
“The University of Georgia (UGA) is reporting an institutional violation of NCAA Bylaws . . . within our program,” McGarity wrote in the letter. “The violation involves prospective student-athlete (PSA) Mr. Ray Drew and two former letter winners who appear to be representatives of the University’s athletics interests.”
Godfrey and Pollack are not named in the letter but were known to be in attendance from the many photos and news reports that were generated by media outlets covering the highly-publicized event, including ajc.com. It was “immediately” after reading those reports that “UGA began to investigate the potential violation,” McGarity says in the letter.
After interviewing Drew, teachers and administrators at Thomas County Central, Godfrey, Pollack and members of Georgia’s coaching staff, UGA compliance director Eric Baumgartner determined the following NCAA bylaws were broken:
Such violations are generally considered secondary in nature and enforcement is usually handled internally by the SEC. Drew’s eligibility at UGA is not expected to be affected, but such determinations will be made by the conference and/or the NCAA after they review Georgia’s findings.
McGarity declined to elaborate on the report or speculate on possible repercussions that may result from it.
“The document speaks for itself,” he said. “We’ll wait to hear back from the Southeastern Conference.”
McGarity could not say how long it would be before UGA hears back from the league office.
Georgia claims to have had no prior knowledge that the UGA lettermen would be in attendance or that they would be participating in the actual ceremony, an important factor in the violations being designated as minor. “The PSA and PSA’s teacher (identified by the AJC as Randy Young) arranged for the two former letter winners to attend the announcement without the knowledge of UGA’s football staff,” the letter states.
McGarity writes that Drew and Young wanted the announcement to be done “on a grand scale.” Drew initially invited former NFL star Michael Strahan, whom he refers to as a “mentor” to attend as a guest speaker. But Strahan couldn’t make it due to a schedule conflict. So they turned to Pollack and Godfrey.
Another important factor is Georgia claims that neither Godfrey nor Pollack are season-ticket holders, which would distinguish them as “boosters.” They were not determined to be “representatives of the institution’s athletics interests,” UGA suggests, until they commented on Drew after he had already announced his decision to sign with the Bulldogs. Therefore they could not have influenced his decision.
“Georgia coaches knew nothing about it,” Drew told the AJC Wednesday morning. “. . . I met [Godfrey] two times prior to my announcement. I’d been at that In the Game [Magazine] banquet [in mid-December] where I won the humanitarian award and he was one of the guest speakers. Then I met him again at the Randall Godfrey Basketball Tournament [in late December] in Valdosta. So there was a preexisting relationship going on between me and Randall Godfrey before and that’s the reason I asked him to be part of it.
“My teacher, Mr. Young, had some kind of preexisting relationship with Mr. Pollack. He knew how to get in contact with him and thought it would be cool to ask him to come down. So he handled that end of the deal.”
For his part, Pollack said it never occurred to him that anything he did was against the rules.
“I think it’s important for everybody to know I didn’t have anything to do with Ray’s decision,” Pollack said. “He didn’t talk to me about his school choices; he didn’t ask me, ’should I do this or should I do that? All he said is he wanted me to be part of his signing when it happened.”
Pollack is a three-time All-American who now does a sports talk radio show on 790 The Zone on weekday afternoons. He was asked if it occurred to him to check in with UGA’s compliance office to make sure his attendance was permissible.
“No, I didn’t assume I needed to call Georgia to ask about it,” he said. “That wasn’t something that I looked at as being even close to being a violation. But we’ve seen the NCAA. There are plenty of dumb rules they have that you have no idea why they’re instituted. Obviously, it’s something I know I can’t be part of in the future.”
Georgia did not self-impose any sanctions, according to the report. Its only action was to step up its efforts to educate former letter winners on NCAA rules regarding interactions with prospects. “Booster brochures” will be mailed to all UGA lettermen,.
“UGA regrets that this violation occurred but believes this was an isolated/one-time incident with some unusual and atypical circumstances as explained,” McGarity wrote. “It is very important to note again that the PSA and the PSA’s school faciliated and arranged the announcement and the attendance of the former letter winners. Further, neither former letter winner was a representative of the University’s athletics interests until they agreed to participate in the PSA’s announcement, and neither realized at the time that their participation created a violation of NCAA rules.”
Drew was an elite national recruit with upward of 50 scholarship offers. A consensus five-star prospect, he was the No. 1-rated player in America at his position by Rivals.com and the No. 2 player in Georgia per the AJC Fab 50. Drew also is a licensed minister who preaches regularly at Paradise Missionary Baptist Church and a broadcast journalism specialists at Thomas County Central. Young runs the broadcast journalism department at Thomas County High and is a longtime mentor and confidante for Drew.
NCAA violations aside, Drew said he did not regret how he handled his announcement.
“No regrets at all,” he said. “That’s one thing I was brought up believing: Never do anything you will wind up having regrets for. If I have to take a few phone calls about something I feel went very well and made for a great day for the Bulldog Nation, I’ll deal with it.”
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog