I'm not a national-column guy.
When I write, I try to stick to our local sports, focusing on the accomplishments of our local athletes.
Read the pages of our sports section, and you will find one national column from me each year: Predictions for the NCAA Tournament. Of course, it's one that's meant to bring a little chuckle into your home. I stink at picking teams. Ask the Central Mountain baseball players, who continue to remind me of it each year.
This one, though, even has me scratching my head.
Rules are set in place as guidelines of conduct. I get that.
Then comes the story of Mark Richt.
For those who don't know Richt, he's the head ballcoach at the University of Georgia. If you read some reports, he is even considered a replacement for JoePa at Penn State - although none of those have been confirmed.
Earlier this week, ESPN released a story about Richt and his NCAA violations.
At first sight, you cringe.
Let's face it. When you hear violation, you think tattoos at Ohio State, alleged sex scandals at Penn State and Syracuse, and all the problems at "The U" during the 80's and 90's.
Richt's violation? He paid his staff out of his own pocket.
Huh? Doesn't sound like a "violation" to me.
Yet, it is.
According to the ESPN report, Richt's payments broke the NCAA rules on supplemental pay - a secondary violation. The punishment, according to the "World Wide Leader in Sports," was letters of admonishment to Richt and those he made payments to.
How much we talking?
ESPN said Richt paid one coach $11,000 over 11 months. Gave another $10,000 when the university declined to give him a raise after he turned down another coaching opportunity to stay at Georgia.
The one that got me thinking was that Richt, according to ESPN, paid about $15,000 out of his pocket when the school citing difficult economic conditions refused bowl bonuses to 10 non-coach staff members which included strength coaches, administrative assistants and video personnel.
Richt's salary is about $3 million as a head coach.
Let me reiterate. I understand rules are set in place.
Here's what I don't get.
It's Richt's money. Why is it the right of the NCAA to determine what Richt should do with his cash flow?
Here is a guy trying to do the right thing, in my mind. He makes more than enough apparently, and decided to help out some of his staff members that were maybe struggling or promised something they weren't receiving.
If the university is claiming "tough economic times" as their reasons for not picking up payments, then it shouldn't admonish Richt for helping his staff during the same economic climate.
In my mind, what is the difference if his assistant coaches picked up a part-time job at a local restaurant and earned an additional $15,000 there? Would that be an NCAA violation because he is getting a "supplemental income" somewhere else?
Instead, we should be applauding Richt.
We hear of coaches giving money back to their schools, like Joe Paterno did at Penn State.
We hear of coaches starting charitable organizations or providing large chunks of green to different worthy causes.
Richt decided to make sure his staff was taken care of.
Nothing wrong with that. In fact, in the season of giving, it makes you believe that the Christmas spirit and helping out your fellow man or woman still exists throughout the world of sports.
At times, it's hard to see. You are inundated with pieces about the sex scandals, the violations because of boosters and coaches that turn their back on others.
Look at Todd Graham at Pitt, for example. This guy didn't even have the decency to tell his coaches or players face to face that he was going to Arizona State a few weeks ago. Instead, he decided to send everyone a text message to inform them of his decision.
Send them a text while in Tempe, Ariz. for his press conference announcing he would be taking the ASU job.
Real class act there.
I'll wake up tomorrow morning, Christmas Day, and know there are still some decent guys in the world of sports. People who think of others before themselves.
There are people in high-up positions in college football that still recognize the quote-unquote "little people" below them.
Thank you, Mark Richt. You sir, are a real class act.
And it's nice to see you didn't let the Grinch (NCAA) steal your Christmas spirit.
Tom Fox is sports editor at The Express. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Merry Christmas to everyone in The Express' coverage area.