Gurley Gives Georgia a Chance to Take a Stand Against NCAA: An Open Letter to Greg McGarity
Dear Mr. McGarity,
I know this is a difficult situation for you. I know that it exposes everything that is inherently wrong with the way we fans treat you and the people you work with.
Give us a National Championship or we’ll stop contributing, we say, even though you have very little to do with whether or not that happens. Give us the best facilities or we’ll stop contributing, even though our contributions are the only thing that will make new facilities happen (and those new facilities can’t only be for football). Give us all the wins we think we deserve or we will definitely stop contributing.
And here we arrive at the problem.
If you sit Todd Gurley for an alleged NCAA violation and we lose, then you’ll be blamed for a cowardly overreaction to an NCAA investigation that hadn’t even begun. If you play Todd Gurley and we win, you risk rubbing it in the face of one of the most vindictive and childish governing bodies the sports world has ever seen.
Play him and the wins could be vacated. Sit him and you risk alienating your fan base while further lending credence to the idiotic notion that one of the best coaches in the country really has lost control of the behaviors of twenty-something kids.
I know those stakes are tough, and I know that there are probably even higher stakes behind the scenes that I will never know about. But Mr. McGarity, it is time to stop cowering in the corner every time the NCAA takes a step in our direction. It is time to stand up and say ‘stop’ to punishments that are 1.) arguably illegal under the O’Bannon ruling 2.) excessive by any reasonable standard and 3.) punish teammates who have done nothing wrong and whose careers are often much more affected than the perpetrator of the so-called ‘violation.’
It is time to fight this. It is time because in this particular fight you have everything on your side.
First, you have the law on your side. The O’Bannon ruling has already stated that it is illegal for the NCAA to create by-laws that prevent student athletes from benefiting from their likenesses. Judge Wilken went so far as to say, basically, that the NCAA is guilty of ‘price-fixing.’ The NCAA has appealed the ruling but they will lose, and you know that.
Sure, we know you don’t want to propose an open market in which athletes can sign pseudo-endorsement deals with memorabilia brokers, thereby creating a second arms-race with rival programs for the best recruits. No one is asking you to do that. But what you can do is assert that while Gurley will be punished “in house” the NCAA has no right to punish him. And if they decide to punish him further you will sue the living hell out of them under the O’Bannon ruling.
Second, you have public perception on your side. The NCAA, in this case, looks to be saying something like: “Hey Todd, if you had exchanged your autographs for something that wasn’t money (tattoos perhaps) we would only have suspended you for one game. If you had stolen something (crab legs perhaps) we would have not given a damn at all. Finally, if you had actually gotten into a bar fight, screamed obscenities such as ‘f*ck her right in the p*ssy’ in a crowded student center, or had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman while she was unconscious we really wouldn’t have given two sh*ts about it. Instead, you decided to take money for your likeness, money that only we are allowed to take. In short, you took money from us. That was our money, Todd, and we punish people who take our money.”
The NCAA has ceded the moral high ground to you and your athletic department, Mr. McGarity. Be remembered as the guy who made them pay for it.
Finally, you have the press on your side. The press are dying for a real, honest-to-goodness, protest story to cover as the NCAA continues to look more and more like the monopoly guy or a plantation owner. Furthermore, this story only broke because the autograph dealer chose to film Todd Gurley signing these things and then requested that various media outlets leak the story. He didn’t just provide a tip. He asked them to leak it.
Now, we can all assume that this dealer did not just now realize that paying athletes for autographs is against NCAA rules. In fact, we can probably assume he has dealt with countless other athletes besides Gurley doing pretty much the same thing.
But on this occasion he decided to film it and leak it to the press. In short, Todd Gurley was entrapped by a very small person looking to make millions of dollars off of leaking the video to TMZ or ESPN.
Todd Gurley, in the eyes of the press, will play as the victim rather than the perpetrator. Apart from Colin Cowherd or Skip Bayless (and there really is no pleasing these guys when young black men are involved), every other columnist in the country will cast more shame on the “dirty industry” of autograph dealing than your program.
They’ll say that it should be illegal to even approach a college athlete whose career could be jeopardized by NCAA violations. They’ll say that dealers like this who prey on the precarious and exploitative situation in which all college athletes find themselves should be in jail. They’ll say that the NCAA has done nothing to crack down on this industry, but has instead chosen to punish the players that it has vowed to protect.
They’ll say all those things and more. And, make no mistake, you will win. And it will be a desperately needed victory for college athletes everywhere.
But you will have to pay the price for this victory, and it will not come cheap.
The NCAA will burn you for crossing them. It is their way, and we know it is coming. You’ll never meet an organization that will fight harder against you than the NCAA because they know that this is the first in a long series of “last” fights. They know that it will be a punishment like this against a player like this who plays in a conference like this that will be their undoing.
They know that as soon as someone under them decides to call their tactics Machiavellian, their punishments ridiculous, and their authority non-existent that the curtain will be drawn back from our eyes, and we’ll all see that the man behind the curtain has never been Amateurism or education or student-athletes. The man behind the curtain has been and always will be money.
In short, Mr. McGarity, if you say that the success and well-being of your student-athletes is your highest priority, if you say that this program can and always will do things the ‘right way,’ and if you say that you want to make the fans and alumni of this great program proud, then fight this.
We don’t want you to play a player who shouldn’t play. We don’t want you to brush anything under the rug. We don’t want you to fight because it will win us more games, a playoff spot, or even a championship.
We want you to fight because it is the right thing to do.
Stand on your feet, Greg. It is going to be a long fight but know this – we will all be in your corner.
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