Warning: No funny witticisms or clever pictures follow. I'm supposed to be on vacation, dangit. And anyway, this isn't a funny event.
I'm supposed to be on vacation. After seeing this news, however, I simply had to log on and comment on this issue.
When I saw the news that Senator Sweatervest had resigned, my first thoughts, beyond only mild surprise, were, to paraphrase, "No one can give Mark Richt any guff anymore about his ticky-tack NCAA violations reported every year."
For years, Jim Tressel's reputation has been much like Mark Richt's. Both coaches were considered honorable, respectable men whose faith was important in their lives, and who strove to not only build championship teams, but uphold a higher level of ethical conduct in their program than was required by the NCAA.
A lot of people see the relatively frequent minor "ticky-tack" violations that UGA reports every year and assume that Mark Richt can't keep control of his program. Georgia self-reports NCAA violations of rules that are stupid, obsure, and minor... and somehow people then conclude that Mark Richt's players are either thugs or CMR simply can't enforce a reasonable disciplinary code.
We're finding out now that Jim Tresssel frequently took the other track, though, and willingly "looked the other way" while small violations happened under his watch, then escalated from minor "ticky tack" problems into tattoo-gate.
When you willingly allow yourself to be set on an ethical (and faith-based) pedestal, 100% full disclosure is the only option when it comes to transgressions of the law, be they of the NCAA or statutory variety. As a head coach, you might think it's really stupid for a cop to arrest a kid for coming to drive his brother's car home without a license (and you'd be right), but if you try to "pull some strings" or "keep the issue under wraps," then you send the message that for certain players, certain rules do not apply. The only way to teach the lesson to your team that your character, conduct and ethical standards are serious issues that cannot be contravened is to have a full-disclosure, no-cover-ups policy towards breaches of these policies. 18-22 year old kids are going to make bad decisions and make mistakes, no matter what character lessons you try to teach them. The fact that Georgia reports these minor violations doesn't mean that other programs don't have them, too... it simply means that Mark Richt doesn't want any of his actions to be construed as even possibly, potentially smelling of a cover-up.
Some may argue that these standards harm our program's top-level competitiveness, and to a certain extent, I agree. If you're Bobby Petrino or Houston Nutt, you don't have to worry about putting up a facade of "taking the higher ground" in the way you conduct your business. Personally, though, if it means having 2 SEC titles every decade instead of 4, I would happily take the trade-off of having a coach in whom I can be proud to call the head of my program.
Mark Richt makes no secret of the fact that he holds himself and his program to a higher level of conduct and character, and I love it. I am glad that, when my son or daughter comes into this world, I can proudly point them towards Coach Richt and say, "That's the kind of man/woman you want to be when you grow up." (I mean, I hope they say that about daddy, too... but having a major celebrity figure of whom you can be proud certainly doesn't hurt, either.)
If Mark Richt ever has a "Jim Tressel" moment, he knows he will destroy not only his job, but the entire personal example he has built up to this point. That's why he goes out of his way to try and make sure that (if you'll forgive the pun) every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed. That's why we should not be scraping him over the coals every time the University suspends him from recruiting for 14 days because he accidentally butt-dialed his wife on a no-wife-calling-from-3PM-to-6PM afternoon.
Mark Richt is a man of his word, and we should be celebrating that fact, and the fact that it is made ever clearer by this revelation from the State University of Ohio.