UGA football penalized by NCAA for ‘recruiting inducements’

The Georgia football program was penalized three times for three different NCAA violations — including one that brought a $10,000 fine — over the final four months of 2019, according to a summary provided by UGA in response to an open records request.

All three of the violations were classified as Level III, which is considered minor. However, one of the infractions was the result of three separate incidents and resulted in 11 corrective actions, including a $10,000 fine and the "reorganization of the football recruiting staff."

Dacia King was fired as recruiting relations director in April and on-campus recruiting director Lukman Abdulai resigned in June following a suspension.

The actions were the result of football prospects receiving free or discounted merchandise from UGA bookstores on three different occasions between March 2017 and January 2019, according to the summary. UGA does not identify the prospects involved.

That is considered a recruiting inducement, which is a violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1.

As a result, Georgia had to reduce by four its number of official visits for the current recruiting cycle, could not have accepted unofficial visits for a three-week period, had prospect evaluation days reduced by three this past fall and by nine this coming spring, had to cease the recruitment of the involved prospects, is banned from recruiting one undisclosed high school for a two-year period, limited the number of prospects allowed postgame locker room access and enhanced the school’s “bookstore policies.”

“We have a strong culture of compliance at UGA and reporting secondary violations are a sign of a healthy athletic department,” athletic director Greg McGarity told the AJC. “Our coaches, staff and student-athletes are fully committed to doing things the right way. When mistakes are made, we will handle those mistakes the right way as well.”

The NCAA also required rules education sessions for head coaches of all 21 of the school’s sports programs, as well as for bookstore employees. Also, UGA football's equipment operation was subjected to an external review and, going forward, will undergo biannual audits.

“We cannot comment on specific NCAA matters beyond the summary report other than to say mistakes were made and we handled them the right way,” Will Lawler, executive associate AD for complaince, said on the $10,000 fine. “However, generally speaking, institutional fines are one of a multitude of potential penalties that can be imposed for level 3 violations.”

Even though they were also deemed Level III violations, the other two football infractions appear relatively minor:
• Last August, an undisclosed UGA "staff member" retweeted with comment a recruiting reporter's social media post indicating that a prospect had committed to the Bulldogs. That staff member was banned from telephone contact with all recruits for 14 days and Georgia's staff was banned from contacting the committed prospect for the month of September.
• In late October, an undisclosed "commercial entity" posted a picture on its social media account of a Georgia football player wearing their products with that player's permission but without compensation. The photo removed of the same day and all UGA football players were provided with rules education regarding such practices.

The three football violations were among a total of seven violations committed by UGA sports teams that were reported to the NCAA over the last six months. UGA also reported Level III violations in men’s basketball, men’s tennis and track. All were corrected by rules education.