This is the time of year when a fortunate few might receive a holiday bonus from their benevolent boss. University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt has been that boss for the last several years, but in an increasingly difficult to navigate minefield of NCAA violations, a little holiday spirit can get you in hot water.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt thought he was doing his assistant coaches a service, but it turns out he was violating NCAA rules. (John Bazemore/AP)

Based on a standard open records report released Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Richt, believing members of his stiff were underpaid for their work, unknowingly violated NCAA rules by compensating them with his own money.

The school’s athletic department was aware of the payments but did not realize they violated NCAA rules on supplemental pay. As punishment, the school was forced to send letters of admonishment to Richt and the coaches who received the payments, and provide additional education to its staff about NCAA rules.

“The report stands on its own,” athletic director Greg McGarity told the AJC. “There’s nothing to add. We’re moving forward.”

Among the illegal payments Richt made according to Georgia’s investigation:

$15,337.50 to tight ends coach Dave Johnson for a five-year longevity bonus after Johnson took a job at West Virginia just prior to his five-year anniversary with the Bulldogs

$15,227 to 10 non-staff members after the school refused to pay them bowl bonuses, citing “difficult economic conditions being experienced by the University”

$10,842 to former recruiting assistant Charlie Cantor over an 11-month period

$10,000 to former linebackers coach Jon Jancek after Georgia declined to give him a raise when he turned down another job

$6,150 to director of player development John Eason when he stepped down from the coaching staff to take an administrative position with a smaller salary

$6,000 to defensive ends coach Jon Fabris when he failed to find a job after his UGA severance package ended

Richt earned more than $3 million each of the last three seasons.

So what do you think? In a difficult economic time in which coaches are leaving programs in the lurch for the promise of a pay-day, should Richt be penalized for a little charity? Is this a rule that makes sense, or is the NCAA going too far by punishing Richt for rewarding and supporting his staff when they need it most?

LSU’s Les Miles may have earned the AP coach honors, but AJC columnist Mark Bradley might cast his vote for Richt:

“Were I Georgia, I wouldn’t just ‘self-report’ this ‘secondary violation.’ I’d shout it from the mountaintops. I’d make it the first sentence in Mark Richt’s official bio, which would now read:

“‘Mark Richt, in his 11th season coaching the Bulldogs, stamped himself the World’s Greatest Boss by paying staffers OUT OF HIS OWN POCKET!’...”

“OK, it was technically a violation — a violation in the way that jaywalking to push somebody clear of a runaway bus is a legal misdemeanor. I think everyone can agree to let this one slide without penalty. Me, I’d consider giving Richt a raise for philanthropy, but that would kind of defeat the purpose, would it not?”

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