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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From Columbus, some more insight on the Jarvis Jones situation

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity provided an update Monday night on the Jarvis Jones investigation, saying the school had been doing its due diligence and was hoping to have a report to turn into the SEC (and perhaps NCAA) by the end of this week.

How much jeopardy Jones is in remains an open question. And even if UGA's internal investigation satisfies itself and the SEC, the NCAA may have additional questions.

So for a bit of background and insight, I now bring in Chris White, a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. Chris has been the lead preps writer at the Ledger-Enquirer for several years now. In addition to those duties, he covers other miscellaneous events in Columbus, including a lot of games hosted or put on in conjunction with the parks and rec department. It was through working at those events that he dealt with former parks and rec director Tony Adams, and wrote several stories on Jones while he was at USC and when he returned to Columbus during breaks.

Emerson: Chris, for those who aren't quite sure on all the details, what is the essence of what happened here with Jarvis Jones, and why could his eligibility be in jeopardy? And briefly describe how all this came to light.

White: Jones is facing the possibility that he received improper benefits, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. In short, he was given plane tickets to travel to and from Los Angeles that were paid for out of an account set up – illegally – to run a parks and rec-sponsored AAU basketball team Jones was a part of. Blurring the issue a bit is who was running the team and oversaw that account, a former parks and rec director who was also a longtime father figure to Jones. The issue came up when Ledger-Enquirer reporter and now metro editor Chuck Williams began covering an audit of the parks department. After investigations, former parks and rec director Tony Adams and East Marietta Basketball director William Fox pleading guilty to felony conspiracy to defraud charges and former parks and rec employee Herman Porter pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft charges.

Emerson: There is no dispute, presumably, that Jones was the recipient of the plane tickets. That leads to two key questions: Did Jones have enough of a pre-existing relationship with the man, whom you describe as a father-figure? And even if he is a father figure and satisfies the NCAA's definition of a pre-existing relationship, did the money come explicitly from him, or from a more general account, almost a slush fund?

White: The relationship between Jones and Adams, the former parks and rec director, goes back to at least Jones’ middle school years, as far as I know. Jones’ legal guardian was a 10-year employee of the parks and rec department when all of this became news, and so of course Adams was her supervisor and knew both of them. I haven’t been able to get a clear answer as to how Adams’ relationship with Jones began and whether it started as more of a personal mentor or strictly as a coach. But this late in the game it’s almsot a moot point arguing which came first or where the line is drawn. From my experience – and I used to deal with Adams regularly and talk to Jones whenever he was home on break – the two were very close. Wherever Adams went, I could find Jones hanging around. If I was trying to reach Jones for a story, I’d call Adams and two minutes later hear back from Jones. And seeing them interact it was clear, at least to me, that their relationship was deeper than the average coach-player relationship and more along the lines of a father-son relationship.

The issue with the source of the money definitely complicates things even further. The account was set up with an unauthorized city tax ID and in the name of the Georgia Blazers AAU program, and the outcome of the case shows it was used illegally as it funneled money away from the city and was used for some non-Blazers purposes.

So on one hand, the money for the flights came from an account set up and maintained illegally, and an athlete received benefits from an AAU coach and program, which the NCAA has cracked down on before. But on the other hand, could it be possible Jones simply assumed the plane tickets were simply the sort of favor or gift that many other athletes get from their parents, relatives or mentors and paid for legally? It seems impossible to guess all the motives of everyone involved, especially when the line between coach and father figure are so blurred.

Emerson: So let’s move on from that “known” issue and on to this: When we spoke to Georgia A.D. Greg McGarity on Monday night, he talked about being “hopeful that there wouldn’t be anything else there” other than what the Ledger-Enquirer reported, and the police report included. That’s sort of an obvious allusion to last year, when A.J. Green was eventually cleared on the original reason the NCAA wanted to interview him, but suspended once the NCAA investigation found something else. Now obviously I know you’re not privy to UGA’s inquiry into the Jones case or the police report, and you also wouldn’t want to speculate. But based on what you know, does it seem like the plane tickets would be the main/only point of jeopardy for Jones?

White: This is definitely not the only concern for Jones in terms of an NCAA investigation, and police records from the parks and rec investigation show there were withdrawals made from this account by Adams that may be tied to Jones.

From my notes on the massive amount of police reports we received from the parks and rec investigation– and I only made it through about a quarter of the files – and our coverage, there are definitely some serious concerns that have yet to even be addressed.

In fact, we’ll have a story in Wednesday’s paper detailing a couple new bits of information in the police report.

Emerson: Thanks Chris. We’ll look out for the story.

To the readers, (Seth speaking here again), here are my finishing thoughts: The key question remains whether Jones will be able to show that he received the money from someone he had a pre-existing or long-term relationship with. As Chris mentioned above, it would seem that Jones and UGA can argue that, and a relationship going back to middle school normally fits the NCAA's test.

But the source of the money could be where it gets dicey. If it wasn't Adams personally paying Jones out of his own account, and rather from a larger fund, as the police records show, there could be concerns.

But we once again have to add this qualifier: In NCAA cases, it's hazardous to make predictions, as a lot of people should have learned from the A.J. Green case last year.


Yodi said...

I obviously don't know all of these NCAA rules, but in this case why would the source of the money be relevant? Okay, I'm a star player for Georgia and my father is a kingpin, he used drug money to buy me a new car. Is that a NCAA issue? I just don't see why or how this could be the NCAA's business. I could understand if the money came directly from an agent to Adams then to Jones.

Seth Emerson said...

Yodi, the issue is the fund that paid for Jones' plane tickets (and anything else). If it was purely controlled by Adams (the father figure), then that helps Jones' case. But if it's found that the fund was controlled by more people, then that muddies the water. (And this is assuming Adams and Jones are ruled to have a pre-existing relationship.)

ben said...

But how would Jones' pleading ignorant to this be any different than Ohio State saying no one but Tressel knew about the players' infractions.

The sins of the father (figure) should not be cast upon the son.

Doug said...

Another question the NCAA is probably looking into is where did the money come from that ended up in the account? If all deposits are tied to city rec department fees or something like that he is probably fine, but if there are deposits that are cash or from strange sources he is in deep poop.

Doug said...

btw, thanks for the update. I was confused about what happened in Columbus, and this cleared it up.

JWaller said...

I read Adams had a relationship with Jones' mother I believe it was, the last couple of years and if so than that REALLY muddies the waters of the personal relationship and whether it is a violation of ANY kind. Just what I read that is a factor the NCAA has to consider.

Jake said...

The NCAA's rules are more complicated and confusing than the IRS tax code.

Cam's father trying to sell him to schools for money? Totally fine.

Getting plane tickets from your father-figure (who is dating your mother)? Big trouble!

I despise the NCAA because I think they're morons and they have no idea how to enforce their own rules. By the way, does the NCAA even have any checks and balances, i.e. do they enforce the same rules that they write? If so, how do they have such a hard time interpreting their own rules?