Overzealous “UGA fan” calls recruit about his commitment status with Bulldogs

A person claiming to be a UGA fan recently called one of the team’s top football recruits to clarify the status of his commitment to the Bulldogs.

The ill-advised contact between the “fan” and the prospect, and the story behind it, instantly went viral on Twitter, and ignited heated discussions on a UGA team website and Rivals.com’s national message boards.  It also created some speculation that UGA may have to report an NCAA secondary violation — even though UGA appeared to have nothing to do with the phone call, and the unidentified person claiming to be a UGA fan may be a fan of another school.

An NCAA spokesperson told the AJC on Monday that it did not have enough information to “speculate about the situation” and how it applied to the rulebook, and recommended contacting UGA. Jim Booz, who works in compliance at UGA, said Monday he was aware of the situation and said that no NCAA secondary violation had occurred. “Based on the information at this time, there’s not enough information to conclude that there’s a rules violation.”

If anything, it’s a wild and wacky story about how passionate and overzealous some college football fans are about recruiting, and how far they will go to encourage top recruits to go to their favorite school – even if it may threaten to get the college in trouble.

For the record, there’s some gray area between defining the difference between a “booster” and “fan” in NCAA Bylaw 13.02.14,  based on the interpretation of this qualifying clause — [Persons that]  ”have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program.”  That’s about as gray as it gets. But it’s clearly against NCAA rules for boosters or fans to lobby their college to recruits on Facebook and Twitter, even though it happens dozens a time per day across the country. That’s an NCAA secondary violation that may never again be enforced, just because of the sheer magnitude and rapid growth of Social Media.

However, it’s more personal contact like a random phone call to a recruit or in-person interaction that really raises eyebrows.

The UGA soap opera kicked off last week after a California newspaper reported that College of the Sequoias defensive back Steven Nelson said in an interview that he had committed to Texas Tech – which Nelson later denied. Nelson has been committed to UGA since last February.

“There’s no truth to that, and I was thinking about pressing charges because that’s false information,” Nelson said.

Last Thursday, Nelson was contacted by a person who wanted to know if he had indeed switched his commitment from UGA to Texas Tech. They talked for about 5-10 minutes.

“I get phone calls almost every day from college recruiters and reporters,” Nelson said. “He called me up, and I forgot what his name was. The way he was talking, I thought he was a reporter, so I stayed on the phone. He was just trying to convince me to stay with Georgia, told me how good of a player I was, and wished me a good year.”

“I didn’t think nothing of it until somebody called me, an ESPN guy [DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi], who told me the guy put it on Twitter that he talked to me on the phone.”

There was also a Rivals subscriber who claimed the same thing on Georgia’s team website, UGASports.com, and later got banned for it.

“Here’s all I know,” said Steve Patterson, publisher of UGASports.com. “One of my guys contacted me and said there was somebody on DawgVent saying they had been calling prospects of UGA. As we all know, that’s against NCAA bylaws, which are very encompassing when it comes to things stuff like that …

“The site staff removed the post. Then after that, the guy went on and on about how could do that if he wanted, and [to heck with] the NCAA. Then the guy sent some harassing emails to our staff. They contacted me and asked what to do, and I said blacklist him and have him contact me. That’s the last we all heard of it until he made some other posts around the Internet.

“He threatened to say he was going to call prospects, and then call Coach Richt and say we instructed him to do this, which is absurd. Over the years, we’ve gone out of the way to be very educated as a staff at UGASports on the NCAA rules, and we’re written extensively on the various bylaw changes. We’ve actually withheld doing things the way some other people in business, you could say, operate when it comes to dealing with coaches because of that, because we’re a dot-com, and we’re held to a little bit of suspicion in the first place. So we’ve always kept a very even keel when it comes to NCAA rules.”

“We will not stand by and let people knowingly break rules, whether it’s our rules or the NCAA’s rules. If some guy got on the DawgVent and said, ‘Hey, I just drank a 12-pack of beer and I’m driving home as fast as I can’ … I’m not saying we’d call the cops, but we’d definitely remove that post and say, ‘Dude, if you’re going to living outside of the law like that, our board is not a forum for you to brag about it.’”

UGASports.com ended up looking like the “good guys” in this situation. They have no obligation to help UGA monitor possible violations, inform its readers of the NCAA rules, or ban a paying customer for any type of post. Patterson sent an email to Claude Felton, UGA’s sports information director, to make him aware of the situation. “That was end of it until today. I guess he’s out there running his mouth or running his fingers somewhere on the Internet, which goes to show what a loose cannon this guy must be in the first place.”

This recruiting drama really picked up steam when a poster with the screen name of “BoneafideDawg” claimed on Rivals.com’s national messages boards he was “banned on the home board for saying I called a recruit.” It was unclear if this was the same person that called Nelson or posted on UGASports.

There were at least six pages of posts from fans from several SEC schools before the thread was deleted. “BoneafideDawg” made a futile attempt to defend the actions. Here’s a couple of his comments:

Some loser said I violated NCAA rules and I told him I didn’t since I wasn’t representing any program. I think informing other posters of this is what got be banned as Rivals want us to think they have some kind of special domain. Anyway … [expletive] them. I’m done paying money to kiss [expletive].

Why are you so conditioned to think you have to have a press pass to talk to an American citizen? These sites have people thinking they have some kind of special clearance. They don’t

Back to UGA: According to Booz, “There are five things that make someone become a booster, and one of them is if a fan is assisting in the recruiting of a prospect on Social Media, or over the telephone, or in person. If they solicit the enrollment of a prospect, then that’s a violation of NCAA rules.”

When the Bulldogs send out season tickets each year, there’s also a letter from UGA athletics director Greg McGarity which addresses contact between boosters and prospective student-athlete.

“Basically it says ‘Please leave all the recruiting up to our coaches,’” Booz said.

THIS JUST IN …

BECAUSE WE MISS THE OLYMPICS

MORE RECRUITING

– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

Note: Inappropriate BLOG comments and personal attacks will NOT be tolerated. We love the lively discussions but hate-filled, harassing and irresponsible comments are unacceptable.

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276 comments Add your comment

thwuga

August 21st, 2012
10:16 pm

Overzeleaou? Not hardly. Try desperate ’cause UGA is gettin a bunch of 3 star players while all the other 4 and 5 stars head out of state or to GT in a couple of cases. The UGA program is a sinking ship and everyone, including this fan, knows it. 6th best team in the country? Hardly.
Several experts are ranking them there because they play a mickey mouse schedule. If they can’t win 9 or 10 games with that schedule minus the only teams in the SEC that count – AL, AK, and LSU. Everyone knows USC is a superior team but has a harder schedule which is the only reason UGA ends up in Atlanta next December only to get waxed once again by the West Champ. Then end up once again in teh Capital One getting spanked by another mid tier big 10 team. That’s about as good as it’s going to get for this mediocre program. Perhaps CMR can do a little more praying….

SEC Fact Finder

August 21st, 2012
10:49 pm

Every school has fans who do not know how to be a fan. Most Graduates of a school understand the importance of following rules especially where the NCAA is involved. We all tolerate those fans and hope they do nothing to embarrass us( one of my schools has had a guy poison trees, and another one decided to smear his own body parts on a passed out fan) and if they do they are prosecuted and embarrassed themselves.

I would never fret anyone wrote on some website, but when you start the calling of individuals then you may have crossed the line from public to private lives and that is where you cross the line in my book.

Good to you and your teams in the upcoming season.

ALABAMA FOOTBALL

August 21st, 2012
10:53 pm

this could happen to any school anywhere. even n. dakota state badminton. non story

[...] don’t tweet at recruits, and definitely do not call them. If nothing else, it’s [...]

bob

August 21st, 2012
11:12 pm

Wouldnt it be easy to find out if this guy was actually a UGA fan or someone trying to stir crap up? Just get his email/twitter and give it to the NCAA then let them handle it.

Ricky Grooms

August 22nd, 2012
12:11 am

Georgia fans SUCK!!!!

Jan Kemp

August 22nd, 2012
5:04 am

Georgia is the Clemson of the SEC…

“no, really. This is The Year.”

saban

August 22nd, 2012
7:59 am

Where are the photos for the yearly pool party at the Ramsey center? Just asking……… UGA The Boys Home of the South!

Get Real

August 22nd, 2012
8:30 am

There is a chance this guy was not even a Georgia fan but the fan of a rival team wanting to sabotage UGA.

UGA should implement a policy that if any real fan does this then they would be banned from attending UGA football games or any other UGA sporting event.

BILLY JACK

August 22nd, 2012
8:33 am

thwuga-yea UGA has all 3 star recruits-try around 11 4 star and will add 3 or 4 5 star jackass-go back to your techie recruiting class-if Mark Richt had techs recruiting class he would jump off a bridge.

First things first

August 22nd, 2012
9:35 am

Are we 100% sure that the guy IS a UGA fan or alumnus?

I am a UGA man, class of 71 & 73, what if I call a kid and insist that I am a dyed in the wool CRIMSON TIDE fan AND lie and insist that i am also an alumnus. DOES THIS place Alabama under immediate NCAA scrutiny?

First, it needs to be proven that the guy is a fan. Neither Alabama or Harvard or UGA or LSU or the REAL USC ( LA area) can stop this stuff. It could be dirty tricks.

GO Dogs

zbulldawg

August 22nd, 2012
10:27 am

Some news paper in Cal.,Might have wrote or said that some unknown so called fan ! Might have called a recruit about UGA ! PURE TRASH at it’s best. The well respected sites banned this trash & here you are writing about it .? JUST PURE negative trash !!!!!!!

[...] Georgia fan hadn’t. It’s reported that a rouge fan called College of the Sequoias defensive back Steven Nelson after rumors shot around the i…, and decided to attend Texas Tech instead. Said Nelson: “I get phone calls almost every day from [...]

William H. Robinson

August 22nd, 2012
12:33 pm

Who cares anything about the Georgia Dawgs when it is evident West Virginia is going to wipe out the Weakly 12 and win the National Championship.

William H. Robinson

August 22nd, 2012
12:37 pm

Who cares anything about the Georgia Dawgs recruiting when it will make no difference in the standings, because West Virginia is going to win the National Championship.

Harvey Updyke

August 22nd, 2012
1:40 pm

Sounds like a Bamard

UGA Insider

August 22nd, 2012
2:09 pm

Dear UGA fans…

It is only a few of you who this pertains but please… STOP ACTING LKE ALABAMA AND AUBURN FANS!!!!

Alabammy

August 22nd, 2012
3:14 pm

Hey it’s UGA Insider!!! The local idiot who seems to be 100% incorrect on everything he predicts! The good thing is if you always bet opposite of what he says you can do pretty well.

Alabammy

August 22nd, 2012
3:15 pm

UGA Insider had Bama losing several games last year because we lost everyone off our offense. He also has had Saban leaving for “greener pastures” for the past three years.

What else ya got Wonder Boy?

[...] after reportedly calling College of the Sequoias defensive back Steven Nelson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Seriously, leave the recruiting to the recruiters, [...]

[...] incident, which was initially reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has brought forth outrage from the internet as well. SB Nation says that while it is one thing to [...]

[...] after reportedly calling College of the Sequoias defensive back Steven Nelson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Seriously, leave the recruiting to the recruiters, [...]

bob

August 22nd, 2012
11:42 pm

“Overzeleaou? Not hardly. Try desperate ’cause UGA is gettin a bunch of 3 star players while all the other 4 and 5 stars head out of state or to GT in a couple of cases.”

First of all nice spelling.

Second of all, UGA had their best classes with lower recruits, once richt got 5 star recruits the team suffered so richt needs to stick to his strong points and coach up lesser players instead of taking 5 star primadonnas who think their poop dont stink…………..

[...] this is strange, a Georgia fan called a Georgia dedicate Steve Nelson, to make certain he was still committed to Georgia. The propagandize that he was loath on was Texas [...]

I told you

August 23rd, 2012
8:17 am

Hey I’ve been calling all of the 2 Star recruits in the country steering them towards GT. Wonder if CPJ will give me some free tickets or some new clothes!

cecil newton

August 23rd, 2012
5:33 pm

Immediately suspend the program until the NCAA has time to trace back all of the calls made to current players and current recruits. They actually need just go ahead and suspend some players while the investigation is on going. Gotta feeling, where there be smoke, there be fire. UGA fans have been riding dirty with recruits, time to suspend and repent, because UGA’s chickens… have come home… to roost!

After all, it’s what you guys advocated two years ago, eh? I mean Amen?