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Morning Coffee: A 'secondary' issue

Tuesday, July 5

Mark Richt has made headlines in the past for the kind of inadvertent secondary violations that are often not released for certain SEC peers.

If you check out the dashboard link on the Dawgs247 message board you can track the most viewed topics in our site's brief history. Third on the all-time list is this story from earlier this year on UGA reporting a secondary violation for the "missing man" formation during Isaiah Crowell's official visit.

Obviously, there was some interest, which makes my rant for some strong Tuesday coffee all the more important, since you probably would not have seen that story had it been about a few other SEC coaches.

Ever wonder how certain stories like that appear for some schools and not others?

It has to do with open records laws and a university's willingness to comply in a timely manner to media requests for information in accordance with those laws. Public colleges are public institutions, so they are subjected to federal and state laws regarding the release of information like self-reported NCAA secondary violations. Every SEC school except Vanderbilt (a private school) falls under these general guidelines.

You should be proud to know that UGA is one of the best colleges you will find in the transparency department, with a full-time employee dedicated and available to respond to open records requests. As a former beat writer at the University of Tennessee, I can also vouch for the Vols as being top-notch responders in this area.

For each school, it is on a case-by-case basis and not everything is made available. But nearly all responses are given in a timely, professional and complete way with appropriate details.

That includes self-reported athletics violations, which has spawned UGA stories like this one, this one and this one, all within the past year.

Unfortunately, the difference in the way schools handle this issue also leads to articles like this one from ESPN.com in Dec. 2009, which cites UGA and UT as leading the way in secondary violations.

Lane Kiffin caught flack for secondary violations during his year at Tennessee partly because the school followed laws in making those self-reported violations available to the media.

Really?

Could it have been maybe those were the schools actually willing to own up to certain violations when other schools would not?

How does that happen? State laws have varying quirks can be interpreted in different ways from a legal standpoint. For this reason, some schools feel justified to simply ignore requests, pick and choose details to withhold or simply stall on a reply until it works best to offer an answer.

Case and point, I held a Twitter conversation Monday about the University of Alabama just releasing two years worth of self-reported violations, responding to media requests that dated back all the way to 2007.

I know because mine was one of them, dating back to my first week on the beat in Tuscaloosa in Aug. 2007.

Most of the Tide's misdeeds released were petty things that typically fall under the label of secondary violations (though the summary provided by UA offered basically no detail or names as to each violation), but that's really not the point. The point is that UA has still not made available self-reported violations from 2007 through the end of June 2009, which should make anyone wonder exactly how many were logged during Nick Saban's first couple of years in town.

But hey, give Alabama some credit. It is actually ahead of state rival Auburn, which reportedly hasn't released its own self-reported violations in who knows how long.

Public accountability and transparency is never a bad thing. A climate of secrecy breeds the one-of-a-kind paranoia that exists among fans in the state of Alabama. After all, if you don't know what has been reported to the NCAA, you also won't know WHAT HAS NOT been reported to the NCAA. So there is no check to rampant rumors among Bama and Auburn fans about NCAA letters of inquiry and investigations ... Because there really could be one being hidden from the public eye!!!

My problem, however, isn't with the schools. Each one is free to handle open records requests as it sees fit. At the end of the day, it is up to media organizations to legally prompt compliance that isn't given.

My problem is the fact that schools like UGA and UT wind up looking worse in the public eye for doing the right thing and complying with open records laws in the proper way. There should be a reward for such activity, but instead those schools are the ones singled out by national media and bloggers just because the information being discussed simply isn't made available at other institutions.

But no one mentions that, meaning the problem is a lack of awareness. Most people don't understand (or care about) the way information is passed along by SEC schools, so they also don't know what information is not being passed along.

So be sure to remember this the next time a fan of another SEC school ribs you about some kind of minor violation being reported at Georgia.

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last night my aunt's house burned down... they lost everything... please keep my family in your prayers... #Godbless

UGA freshman WR Justin Scott-Wesley

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