Georgia broke an NCAA rule in the recruitment of prized tailback Isaiah Crowell and will respond by barring coach Mark Richt from phoning recruits next month, according to a letter from UGA athletic director Greg McGarity to the NCAA.
An attempt by Richt in January to demonstrate the Bulldogs’ need for Crowell by having him stand in as the missing tailback in an offensive formation with current players resulted in a secondary violation of the rule against “game day simulation” with recruits, McGarity wrote.
Crowell signed with Georgia last month, and the school’s self-reported violation had the temporary effect of making him ineligible. But the NCAA staff, acting on a request in McGarity’s March 4 letter, already has reinstated Crowell’s eligibility, according to an e-mail from the NCAA to UGA on Friday.
McGarity told the NCAA that Richt did not believe the January scenario constituted a “game day simulation.” However, McGarity wrote that “as a result of the violation,” Richt will receive a letter of admonishment and will be prohibited from telephoning recruits and their parents during the NCAA’s “spring evaluation period” in April.
The NCAA could accept those penalties or could impose additional ones. In most cases, if the NCAA agrees the violation is secondary, meaning inadvertent and resulting in no significant advantage, self-imposed penalties are accepted.
McGarity said Monday that he “will have no comment other than what’s in the letter,” a copy of which was obtained under the state’s Open Records Act. Richt was not available for comment, spokesman Claude Felton said. Crowell did not return messages.
McGarity described the incident in detail in his 1 ½-page letter:
“[Crowell] was on campus for his official visit January 21-23, 2011. . . . [Richt] and the football staff arranged for the offensive linemen, wide receivers, fullback and quarterback to gather . . . in the indoor practice facility that [Richt's] office overlooks. The [players] . . . were dressed in their game-day uniform tops.
“Coach Richt, [Crowell] and [Crowell's] family left his office to join the group. By the time [Crowell] made his way to the field, the team was in an offensive alignment without a running back. [Crowell] was subsequently handed a jersey and stood in the vacant running back position . . . After [Crowell] stood in the position, the student-athletes broke from the alignment and talked to him. The activity lasted less than five minutes.”
Richt’s idea “was to create a feeling for [Crowell] that he was needed,” McGarity wrote, adding that Richt didn’t think having a recruit stand in a formation without running a play constituted a violation. However, Richt “did not check with the compliance office beforehand.”
The SEC subsequently informed Georgia that the NCAA rule against game-day simulation is “all-encompassing and includes the activity [Crowell] participated in,” McGarity wrote. Also, it is against the rule for a recruit to try on or wear a game-day jersey outside of the locker room.
Georgia “does not believe a recruiting advantage was gained as [Crowell's] mother has stated that her son knew he was going to attend UGA since he was a young child,” according to McGarity’s letter.