Sprints Weighs the Impact of the A.J. Green Suspension and Defends the NCAA // 09.09.10

SECRET AGENT MEN

Earlier on Team Speed Kills:
NCAA Drops Hammer on A.J. Green for Selling Jersey to Agent
Why A.J. Green Got a Four Game Suspension

The fallout
Mark Richt tries to downplay the loss, at least as much as he can.

"We still are going to run our system," Richt said. "We're still going to have guys that will make plays. We'll still get after people. It won't change us an awful lot. We won't run a lot of different plays. It will just probably look a little bit different. Let me say it this way: when A.J. is in there, those plays look a little bit different because of his abilities."

Garnet And Black Attack takes a measured view of how much this might help South Carolina.

I don't think that Green is the key figure in this game, which I think will be won in the trenches. However, Green is clearly a weapon Aaron Murray could use to help him out if we're able to force the game out of Georgia's RB's hands. Green's absence will give Ellis Johnson a bit more of a carte blanche to play the run and to blitz Murray when he throws.

And in a series with a history of close margins, any loss could be enough.

And now the arguments begin
Those would be the errant arguments that the NCAA somehow went off the reservation in deciding the sanctions for A.J. Green.

Full disclosure: I have no doubt that South Carolina will have an easier time defeating Georgia without A.J. Green than with him. But I would rather South Carolina defeat Georgia with A.J. Green than without him; many Dawg fans are so dismissive of the Gamecocks (even though some Georgia blogs and Twitterati devote seemingly endless attention to South Carolina) that I would take a higher risk of losing in return for offering UGA no excuses for a Gamecocks victory. And as someone who plans to attend the game Saturday, I would like to watch Green play in person.

All that said -- even if the Marcell Dareus precedent is incorrectly applied to A.J. Green (we'll get to why shortly), he would still likely be suspended for this weekend's game in Columbia. It makes no real difference to me if he plays against Arkansas or Mississippi State or not; those games are probably going to be inconsequential to whatever hopes South Carolina has of winning the SEC East regardless of what happens Saturday. At Dawg Sports, the Mayor even argues that a two-game suspension "would be a stretch, but at least it could be argued with a straight face that it's reasonable."

If that indicates that Kyle isn't a fan of the decision -- yeah, you could say that. As always, the Mayor is a passionate and eloquent defender of his cause -- but in this case he's simply wrong. (And as always, I can only quote parts of his argument here and encourage you to read the entire post.)

Whether the purchaser was a sports agent, an orthodontist, or an overzealous fan hoping to surprise his kid with an extra-special birthday gift ought to be immaterial. It was hardly an act of subterfuge to conceal the transfer of cash from an agent to a 2011 first-round draft pick if an agent -- or someone connected to someone the NCAA says meets the definition of an agent -- paid for a valuable item the price the market would bear, and I know more than a few Georgia fans who would drop that kind of cash for a jersey A.J. Green wore in a bowl game.

Except that it does matter. Sure, there might be a Georgia fan or more than one who would pay this much for a game-worn A.J. Green jersey. But there is no fair-market value for the Green jersey, in part because it is against the rules for Green to sell the jersey in the first place and in part because the value of any memorabilia is subjective.

Furthermore, Green had to pay nothing for the raw materials to make the jersey, which makes it the perfect vehicle for what comes close to money laundering (an agent pays the player not for the jersey, but to give him an advantage when the first-round draft pick becomes available). While I wouldn't call the Mayor or all of those who agree with him "clueless," Dan Wetzel makes the point more simply:

People are clueless. It's not the jersey the agent was buying. It's the future NFL player who wore the jersey the agent was buyingless than a minute ago via web

 

Back to the Mayor's argument:

What ought not to be immaterial, on the other hand, is the fact that Green appears to have been entirely forthcoming and completely vindicated in the investigation that placed him in the NCAA’s crosshairs in the first place. ...

His statement regarding the infamous soiree in South Beach was utterly unequivocal, his alibi was verified independently, and his desire to speak in his own defense was quite clear. ...

The NCAA interviewed Green in July and has kept him twisting in the wind for weeks on end while the organization tried to justify this massive expenditure of effort, all to uncover a single sale of one lousy Independence Bowl jersey.

So where does that line of reasoning end? After all, Green wasn't investigated for getting monthly payments of $20,000 from a booster, but if the NCAA had found in the course of its AgentGate investigation that a booster had been paying Green, should that have been taken into account? Should we then believe that it was nothing but the NCAA attempting to justify it's investigation?

Of course not. The Whitney Hotel investigation also was not what the NCAA started looking at in Columbia, but I believe that once they found it they had every right to pursue it. It doesn't make a difference how the NCAA found out about the rules being broken, at least not when it comes to figuring out how to handle the rules being broken.

Secondly, is it possible that this is what the NCAA is investigating in the first place? After all, don't forget that Green has declined comment on the investigation in every way -- except to deny having been to South Beach. Is it possible that he felt comfortable saying that because he wasn't being investigated for being to South Beach in the first place? Let's not overlook the fact that we might have incorrectly jumped to the conclusion that the Green investigation was of a piece with the South Beach investigation. The Athens Banner-Herald:

The NCAA sent an e-mail to Georgia on July 21 asking to interview one player.

Green told the Banner-Herald in July that representatives from Georgia's compliance office and Richt asked him if he attended a party hosted by an agent in Miami on Memorial Day weekend. He told them he did not.

Nowhere in there does it even say that the NCAA asked Green about the Miami party. Even if they did, it would have been due diligence given that they were investigating the South Beach event at the same time.

Finally, if you're going to accuse the NCAA of a witch hunt: Where's the evidence? Sure, the NCAA moved at glacial speed. That's because (1) the name of the organization is the NCAA, and (2) they're rather busy right now. Unless there's some memo that the Mayor has saying "we've spent so much time and effort on this case, we have to find something," this is an attack on the NCAA that is not justified based on the facts and seems to be more about changing the subject than arguing the merits of the case.

And here we get the Marcell Dareus argument.

Dareus had a four-game suspension reduced to two games after receiving approximately $1,800 worth of benefits in the form of air fare, lodging, meals, and transportation during two separate trips to Miami. While he pled ignorance -- a tough sell, considering the two trips -- and came clean, the fact is that Dareus had twice as many incidents involving contacts with agents, received roughly twice as much in financial benefits, and had far more extensive involvement in the activity that spawned this entire investigation ... yet he received exactly the same original punishment, which later was cut in half.

That is not to say that the NCAA went too easy on Marcell Dareus; the Crimson Tide defensive lineman very well may have been subjected to reasonable sanctions. Assuming, probably safely, equal degrees of honesty on the part of both players, Marcell Dareus’s situation looks a good deal more fishy, and A.J. Green’s error was much more minor.

Except we don't know that both players were equally honest. Green would have had to have been honest to an historical degree to match Dareus, described by the NCAA as "one of the most truthful student-athletes we have ever interviewed," according to the Alabama compliance director. And whether you agree with the ruling or not, the NCAA probably took Dareus' dying mother into account. Green, thankfully for him, appears to have no such mitigating circumstances involved in his case. (I say "thankfully for him" because I think we would all rather miss two more games than lose our mother.)

Do we even know he knew he was dealing with an agent -- or an associate of someone meeting the NCAA’s definition of an agent -- when he sold the jersey? Unlike the NCAA, the Georgia receiver has no background in investigating such matters; he’s A.J. Green, not A.J. Simon, and, as EricBDawg astutely pointed out, the NCAA says "[t]he university declared the student-athlete ineligible" and the suspension is based upon "the facts of the case submitted by Georgia." All appearances are that Georgia and Green were cooperative and candid.

Georgia submitting the facts of the case does not mean Georgia was aware of the problem before the NCAA or somehow called attention to it. In fact, as Haney reports:

Alabama initiated its investigation into Dareus. The NCAA began its look into Green. ...

Dareus told investigators, too, that he left Miami as soon as he learned the trip was being paid for by agents. His mother also died around the time of the trip.

Even leaving that aside, though, the fact is that Green never should have needed to investigate to whom he was selling the jersey because the sale itself was in violation of NCAA rules (as even the Mayor acknowledges). But let's even set that aside for a moment and ask this: Do we even know that Green didn't know he was dealing with an agent? We can argue this both ways as long as the facts of the case aren't clear.

Even that isn't really relevant. The NCAA can't create a gaping loophole in the rule that would allow student-athletes to claim they "didn't know" that the person who paid them $100 for the shoelace they wore during the SEC Championship Game was an agent, then essentially dare the Association to prove it.

... Marcell Dareus got a two-game suspension for twice as many contacts and twice as much profit. Benching A.J. Green for two games would be a stretch, but at least it could be argued with a straight face that it’s reasonable.

Except that the rules don't work that way, and the Mayor knows it. Just like with the criminal code, the NCAA divides the cases into tiers, deciding the sanction based on which tier you fall into. The highest tier, in which both the Dareus and Green cases fall, is more than $500. It calls for missing 30 percent of a team's games -- or about four games. It's 3.6 if you want to be technical, so I guess the NCAA could let him back into the game with nine minutes left in the third quarter against Mississippi State if they wanted to do that. In any case, the rule is clear; barring mitigating circumstances, four games is the punishment no matter if you take $501 dollars or $1,501. (Within reason, of course; if you get $50,000, your season and perhaps career is likely over.) As Groo wrote, the punishment "is consistent with NCAA guidelines for reinstatement."

The NCAA is punishing Green as though he did the things he was accused of doing and that the investigation leaves us to conclude he did not do.

No. The NCAA is punishing Green as though he did the things he was found to have done. And it's doing so because to let Green walk would be to weaken its anti-agent rules, something the last few months tell us would be a colossal mistake.

Dr. Saturday makes the argument on money
There are a lot of people who sympathize with this, so let's address it.

In any other avenue of American life, Green would have a stake in that business, because he essentially created it with his popular talent. But that could be any No. 8 who plays for Georgia, right?

Of course, this would not be an amateur sport then, it would formally become a developmental league for the NFL. If you want that and all the things that come along with it (death of the offensive variety, a series of 24-21 games), you're welcome to it, but I prefer to keep things the way they are.

That is not to say that something like a capped and reasonable monthly stipend for shopping money wouldn't be reasonable, or that it shouldn't be paid for in whole or in part by royalties from things like replica jerseys or the NCAA video game series. But it can't be based on individual player royalties, unless you want to create huge inequities in the system. A.J. Green is almost certainly going to sell more jerseys than Titus Young because Georgia has a fan base larger than Boise State's. Players who want more money would go to the higher-profile schools at an even higher rate than they are now.

Tying it in with Dr. Saturday's favorite cause: It would be somewhat odd to create a playoff system that is purportedly fairer to smaller schools, then create a compensation system that would make it harder for them to get the players necessary to get there.

This can't be good for UNC
Meanwhile, AgentGate-linked Greg Little has hired a lawyer and "just hope[s] for a quick resolution" of whatever he hired a lawyer for.

OTHER NEWS

Saban doubts Ingram will return by Saturday
Looks like Mark Ingram will miss at least one more game.

He might be ready by the game, but he won't be able to practice enough to be ready. But I think after that, maybe we have a chance to get him back if he continues to progress.

I'm still not sure that Ingram's Heisman chances are in that much trouble. He rushed for fewer than 60 yards in three games last year and still managed to win the trophy. But it depends on how good Ingram is when he comes back and whether anyone else gets more attention in the meantime -- aside from Brent Musburger, who will now spend the next few weeks demanding Kellen Moore be given the award RIGHT NOW.

Saban demands you respect JoePa and his players -- or else
Nick Saban issues a non-Bobby Johnson-approved warning to Crimson Tide fans not to be inhospitable to this weekend's Yankee visitors.

And I think it would be a (bleep) crying-(bleep) shame if we booed 'em when they come into the stadium like we did last week's team. I just don't understand that.

Fans, please listen to him. It sounds like he's ready to aim his laser eyes at someone.

Can Mike Slive fine him for criticizing Big Ten officials?
Robbie Caldwell might want to make sure he has $30,000 in the bank, just in case, after he talked about an apology for the outrageous idiotic questionable personal-foul call in the final minutes of Vanderbilt's game against Northwestern.

Caldwell confirmed that he received some admission of error from Big Ten officials regarding a late personal-foul penalty in a 23-21 loss to Northwestern. ...

"What good does it do?" Caldwell said. "It's amazing to me. … The same people will be working the games. They'll be rolling on, bottom line."

The Big Ten: The only conference with worse officials than the SEC (because they have to the edge in something).

Jacksonville State is happy about its Ole Miss win
As you would imagine. Quarterback Marquis Ivory:

"It's been pretty exciting on campus, students are really keyed up and talking about the team," Ivory says. "But we've put (Ole Miss) behind us. We're focused on Chattanooga now, because we know now everybody is going to take a shot at us."

Think about that for a minute: A team is putting the Ole Miss victory in the past so they can focus on Chattanooga. Mississippi State and LSU fans, you're welcome.

What, all seven TV sets in Boise weren't tuned to the game?
Where was the Boise-Virginia Tech game watched by the largest percentage of TV sets? Boise? Virginia?

No, Birmingham, Alabama produced the highest metered rating for the Boise State-Virginia Tech game, with a 23.7, further proof that this city loves quality college football.

According to ESPN, the next-highest markets were Richmond, Va. (16.5) and Norfolk, Va. (15.7).

Part of this might be that Virginia Tech and Boise State are in cities that are parts of markets that include more than just the campus and its environs, so the actual local rating might be higher if it were available. But that's still impressive.

At least he debunks the paranoid 'N.Y. TIMES HATES KENTUCKY, SEC' talk
John Clay would like you to know that, just like all of the other 754 incidents of John Calipari recruiting players recruiting players who might be ineligible, "Enes Kanter isn’t a John Calipari scandal. ... It isn’t even a scandal.

The reasoning:

It’s a thorny eligibility issue that existed long before Calipari coaxed the Turkish star with the tremendous upside into signing on the dotted line to play Kentucky basketball. There have always been lingering questions about Kanter’s eligibility, and such issues were illuminated by Pete Thamel fo the New York Times with his story posted Tuesday night. ...

Besides, this is not really a Calipari story, not in any scandalous sense, just as it would not be a Lorenzo Romar story had Kanter stuck with his earlier commitment to Washington. It would only be a Calipari story if the coach, or UK, attempted to keep information from the NCAA that would affect Kanter’s eligibility. [Emphasis added.]

Except that it is a John Calipari story, because of the way John Calipari runs his programs. Calipari has always skirted along the rules of the NCAA. He's doing the same thing here: Taking a chance on a player that he knows has a good chance to be ineligible when all is said and done.

It is not a Calipari story because Calipari is involved in anything that happened in Turkey, but because he doesn't care what happened in Turkey. All Cal cares about is that he had a chance to recruit a high-caliber player; everything else is irrelevant in his world.

In fact, in a CBSSports.com piece that Clay links to -- in part because it supports the idea that Cal should not be blamed -- makes it clear that was not just foreseeable, but foreseen.

In my years of covering college basketball, I've never heard an incoming freshman called a "pro" more than Kanter has been called a pro by industry sources. One coach who initially recruited Kanter but quickly stopped told me he did so after determining "the kid should be ruled ineligible for life." Other coaches have laughed when I told that story, but nobody has ever argued the other side.

This comes in a sport that by all appearances has a less scrupulous recruiting reputation than college football. If that's enough to give a coach like Calipari pause about a player, nothing is.

John Pawlowski gets raise, extension
For the uninitiated: He's the baseball coach at Auburn, which had a great season last year.

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