State legislator declines to comment on the exposure of his ludicrous rationale of the law he championed.
Category Archives: Political Wankery
The NCAA has become a black market. At some point, Laremy Tunsil’s petty, common, under-the-table transactions as a college football player at Mississippi metastasized into something else, something that looks suspiciously like a smear campaign and a blackmail attempt. This is the ultimate ill of an old-world system that earns millions for everyone but the players: It left a 21-year-old vulnerable to a vengeful shyster operating in an underworld…
The worst part of this subterranean economy is the way it criminalizes the wrong people for perfectly trivial behavior…
There’s not a person in the pro or college football worlds who doesn’t have a pretty good idea of what happened: how Tunsil probably grew sick of having to grovel to the assistant, who made him feel like a thief for even asking; the growing awareness of the future awaiting him in the NFL coupled with the need-it-now frustration; the peekaboo teasers of wealth to come and overtures from the “runners” for agents trolling for clients, offering to front him what he needed in exchange for the ability to steer him come draft time; followed by the rage and the threats of exposure when the mutual use fell apart with the arrival of Sexton in Tunsil’s life.
… would it be much of a stretch for some prosecutor to go after the NCAA under Todd’s Law the next a Georgia player runs afoul of the unlawful benefits rule?
Before you laugh, let’s not forget the passionate rationale behind the bill, folks.
“That’s what really got most peoples’ dander up,” said Fleming, a rabid Bulldogs fan with undergraduate and law degrees from UGA. “I was disappointed when it happened. But I understand the young man comes from a very humble background. His mother didn’t have funds to properly repair the roof on the trailer she raised him in.”
The law has two possible penalties, one criminal, one civil, Fleming said.
“We plugged it into a law about alumni being overzealous,” he said. “Now it’s a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. It can be up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
“On the civil side, the university can sue the person who does this for any damages sustained, like losing a TV contract, not going to bowl games.”
Or being shut out of a national playoff game because of a star player’s sudden suspension or ineligibility, maybe?
Like I said, yeah, I think I’m kidding. But I can’t quite bring myself to say it would totally surprise me, either. If enough people were pissed off… er, uh, got their dander up about that, it would be good politics, if nothing else – and it’s not like our fair state doesn’t have a track record of going after the NCAA when there’s enough money involved.
Pretty funny, hunh?
I got a couple of emails yesterday about MaconDawg’s much ado about nothing post regarding SB 323 asking me what I thought about it. Honestly, some of what he writes strikes me as spot on and some not so much.
For example, he’s got the big picture right.
And so it should not be terribly surprising that the Georgia legislature passed a bill (really an amendment to a bill) which now gives state athletic departments 90 days to acknowledge their receipt of information requests (commonly called Freedom of Information Act or “FOIA” requests) rather than the prior statutory 3 days. Journalists, including journalists with SB Nation, have come out swinging against this. I want to be clear about something right up front: I agree with them. At its heart this new law is designed to keep information hidden from the public for longer. Anyone, whether the bill’s proponents, the Lieutenant Governor, or Kirby Smart who tells you differently is lying right to your face.
But it’s when he turns to explaining a number of reasons why this isn’t as a big deal as it may seem that I have to differ with him. Start with this:
And here’s where opponents of the new law are missing the boat. Under the existing law in Georgia, and almost every other FOIA law in the nation, there was no firm deadline on how long they had to get me all the documents. Courts have awarded penalties (usually attorney’s fees) in cases where the institution is clearly stonewalling. And a court may make the state show what affirmative steps it has taken to gather and provide the information. But at no time has anyone in the UGA Athletic Association been under a duty to get me all the information which I seek within 3 days. Never. And there is no firm guidance regarding what information is immediately available.
This law, at least as I read it, doesn’t eliminate university officials’ duty to respond to my request in a reasonably timely manner. It gives them 90 days to tell me they a) don’t have the information I requested, b) need additional information to determine whether they have it, c) won’t be turning it over because they don’t have to (for reasons of student privacy, for example), or d) will get it to me sometime before the Big Bang Theory gets cancelled.
That’s not inaccurate as far as it goes, but then he adds this as a conclusion: “This new law does not prevent the UGA Athletic Association from obfuscating and buying time. Nor however does it allow them to do so where they couldn’t before.” Well, except for that whole thing about not even letting the requesting party know whether any information exists in the first place for an additional eighty-seven days, I suppose he’s right.
And this strikes me as somewhat wishful thinking:
… Also bear in mind that there’s nothing in this new law that requires athletic associations to wait 90 days before responding. If I make a fairly simple request for readily available information I’d still expect that the folks in Athens will probably get it to me within a few days, as before.
The issue, it seems to me, won’t be over how simple a request is, or how readily available such information may be. It’ll be how comfortable the athletic department is about letting the world know it exists when the request is made. And that is really what lies at the heart and soul of the new law – that some potentially unpleasant matters are time sensitive and don’t have a particularly lengthy shelf life. Why should we expect Butts-Mehre to respond any sooner than it absolutely has to in such cases?
No, the world isn’t going to end because of SB 323. And, like MaconDawg, I don’t expect the school to use this new law as an excuse to behave in an egregiously nefarious way. But if this law is such a benign thing, again, all I can go back to in response is to question the way in which it passed, as I did in this post:
So, ultimately, here’s what you’re being asked to swallow here:
- In the midst of recruiting, organizing the program and his very first spring practice preparation, Kirby Smart somehow found the time to show up for a friendly chat with the folks in the Georgia General Assembly.
- In the midst of a typically contentious session, members of the Georgia General Assembly found the time to ask what could be done to help the Georgia football program.
- Kirby Smart casually mentioned that Nick Saban has an easier time of responding to open records requests but didn’t make a big deal of it, even though he’s described as “the key influence to members of the General Assembly deciding to act”.
- Just as casually, Georgia legislators tacked an amendment on to an existing bill that gives Butts-Mehre unprecedented scope in responding to open records requests in the future.
- Even though the bill’s scope clearly exceeds the stated nonsensical goal of protecting recruiting secrets, neither Georgia’s athletic director nor its president had anything to do with it.
Georgia wasn’t acting like it was such a small thing when it pushed for this, so why should we believe it’s a small thing now that it exists?
And that somebody is Chris Christie, pandering away.
Christie saw the video of offensive tackle prospect Laremy Tunsil apparently smoking marijuana sometime in the past through a gas mask bong, which apparently got him really, really high.
“It’s unbelievable,” Christie said. “Because the bong hits aren’t enough. Give me the gas mask too. It’s incredible. I can’t take my eyes off it. It’s unbelievable.”
For Christie the former U.S. attorney and a devout guardian of both Rutgers football and American ideals of justice, Tunsil’s actions are a grave problem.
And the governor has a strong take on what to do about it, via BuzzFeed’s Christopher Massie:
“When I was a prosecutor, I would’ve gone in and cuffed this guy,” Christie said. “I would’ve been all over it.”
That would have been fun to watch. When’s the last time Christie cuffed somebody bigger than him?
You want to know why a school might want to change a state’s pesky Open Records law? Read through this story about what the University of Illinois spent on its search for a new athletic director – the search only, mind you – and you’ll get an idea.
All told, the cost to keep those interviews far from prying eyes in Illinois exceeded $11,000 — from the limousine service that shuttled candidates back and forth, to the Indianapolis Airport ($1,096.52) to the breakfast and lunch buffets at the hotel ($3,854), to dinner for 12 at restaurants like Prime 47 steak house ($987.31, including the $160 tip).
That doesn’t include more than $11,000 spent on the flights, hotel rooms and other travel expenses for candidates themselves.
Maybe that’s the kind of recruiting the Georgia legislature had in mind when it passed SB 323.
Nathan Deal is all in on Senate Bill 323.
Our AJC colleague Dan Chapman asked him Wednesday why he signed Senate Bill 323, which allows the athletic departments at UGA, Georgia Tech and other state colleges to wait 90 days before responding to Open Records Act requests. Athletic associations, like all state agencies, previously had three days to acknowledge the requests.
“The members of the General Assembly felt that that was necessary and I’m sure Greg and you have already tried to figure out how long it takes for the University of Alabama to respond to similar inquiries already being made of the University of Georgia as well,” he told Chapman. “We’ll see how long it takes you to get a response from them.”
I never thought I’d see the day when the overriding goal of my state government would be for this state to become more like Alabama. Or that most people would think that was swell. Maybe we ought to scour their books for a few more ideas.
If you want to get a taste of what’s really behind Georgia’s new Open Records law (hint: it ain’t recrootin’), start by taking a look at this Jon Solomon piece about the money spent by schools on search firms when they replace head coaches.
At Georgia, after Mark Richt was fired, there was little doubt who the Bulldogs had pegged at No. 1: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Georgia paid $42,175 to CarrSports Consulting for Bill Carr’s help in the search.
Carr didn’t act as an intermediary for Georgia and didn’t contact anyone connected with Smart, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. Instead, McGarity said Carr helped by talking with him on the phone and meeting in Atlanta for multiple days to discuss every facet of the search.
“You talk about strengths and weaknesses of a number of candidates,” McGarity said. “You look at things as simple as YouTube videos. How does an individual handle a tough situation? Are they able to be an effective communicator? Some candidates have a lot more available online than others. With the ability to search and take the time necessary to do that, you have so many more tools at your disposal that can help elevate candidates or dismiss candidates.”
McGarity said Carr helped in case Georgia had “blind spots” when discussing candidates. He also helped prepare the Bulldogs for the transition of a new staff.
“In some ways, we had been operating for 15 years in one way,” McGarity said. “So having someone assist in that transition period on what we should expect and how we should approach certain things administratively was extremely beneficial to us as a staff.”
“Ah,” you say. “Bluto, it’s been more than ninety days since Kirby Smart was hired. Wouldn’t this information be available now, even under the new law?”
It would. But look what you’re getting at this point – a fairly dry assessment of McGarity’s management decision that’s placed in the general context of how every school handles this. What’s lost now is the context of judging McGarity’s comment at the time of Richt’s presser that he intended to retain a search firm going forward.
As we know, that was a complete load of crap. McGarity spoke to Carr in mid-October. The reality was that Kirby Smart was the man he wanted from the beginning; any preference to conduct a patient search to hire Smart went out the window when word leaked that South Carolina was talking with him about that head coaching job.
Now none of this is exactly a serious threat to the American way of life, certainly, but it is an indication of how Georgia’s athletic department goes about its business. Except that ninety days out, our impression of the contradictions in McGarity’s statement loses the impact of immediacy. Which is what he wants, and, with the benefit of the new law, gets.
Maybe that doesn’t matter to you. Maybe it goes out in the wash when Georgia wins the SEC this season. But if you’re somebody like me who’s shaken his head over the years about the way Butts-Mehre operates and how that’s had an impact on the performance of Georgia athletics, it’s not exactly a cause for celebration. If it would help to see this in a more graphic way, try to imagine how Michael Adams would have operated had this new law been in place two decades ago. Yeah, me, too.