ESPN.COM’s DAWGNATION blog has reported that the University of Georgia and its football coach Mark Richt have been disciplined by the NCAA for violating NCAA rules for–get this–paying his coaching staff out of his own pocket.
Coach Richt received news that 10 members of his staff would not receive 2010 bowl bonuses due to the university being effected “difficult economic conditions.” In response, Coach Richt made the dubious decision to honor his staff by writing checks in the amount of $10,842, $10,000, $6,150, $15,227, and $15,337.50 to five of his coaches. He also stepped out of NCAA bounds by paying $6,000 to a fired coach who needed money to get by between gigs. The other four check totals were not disclosed. As of 2009, Coach Richt was reported to be making $3.096 million per year.
While some college athletic scandals give warrant to the call for more stringent policing (See Ohio State, Penn State, Syracuse, USC), other scandals cause observers to shake their heads in confusion of the violation at hand (See Baylor, Georgia).
I understand that Coach Richt’s actions violate some rule in the NCAA handbook (Georgia admitted that Richt cleared the actions through the proper leadership channels), but his crime seems to be nothing more than a leader taking care of his staff in the midst of a down economy. Richt makes $3 million a year and paid somewhere between $62,000 and $100,000 in bonuses to his team members. For those doing the math, that is somewhere between 2% and 3% of his yearly salary–less than what Richt puts in the offering plate on Sundays.
Coach Richt is certainly guilty of breaking NCAA guidelines (although it should be noted that he cleared his intentions with the University of Georgia before writing the checks). But Coach Richt is also guilty of good leadership and maintaining a semblance of honor and respectability. This is likely the reason that the NCAA gave him the equivalent of a light slap on the hand, which if you think about it was probably palm-to-palm in the form of a High Five.