The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/11/05

ATHENS A group of Georgia football fans took up a collection to pay for a Boise State player's father to fly from Baghdad to see his son play against the Bulldogs in Athens.

But the NCAA rule book got in the way.

Dan Miller, father of Broncos sophomore guard Tad Miller, is a retired police lieutenant who is training Iraqi police officers.

When Sam Hendrix of Signal Mountain, Tenn. "suthndawg" to his fellow Georgia fans on the Dawgvent, an Internet message board read a story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the Millers, he started an online movement to raise the $2,700 it will cost Dad to make it to Sanford Stadium to see his son play in the home opener Sept. 3.

"Within moments of suthndawg's post, there were 25 to 50 people who offered to pledge money," said Ryan Crowe, a 25-year-old legal assistant from Atlanta who offered to collect and distribute the funds. "It just took off from there."

But when Crowe checked with the two schools, he was told the UGA fans' generosity would be a violation of NCAA bylaws regarding extra benefits and expenses for student athletes and their families.

"Ironically, by providing this money, these [Georgia] fans would in effect become Boise State boosters," said Amy Chisholm, UGA's assistant athletics director for compliance. The NCAA defines a booster as "a representative of an institution's athletics interests."

NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent did not have an immediate response to questions about the situation Wednesday.

"Makes no sense to me," said Hendrix, a 56-year-old marketing consultant. "It just hits me that twice in a week, these people have lost touch with reality."

The NCAA caused a furor when it ruled last week that member schools' Native American mascots would no longer be allowed at championship events.

Word of the Georgia fans' good intentions and their being thwarted spread quickly via the Internet.

"It was such a nice and giving gesture, I almost felt embarrassed," said Kathy Miller, Tad's mother, who lives in Boise, Idaho. "We appreciate it so much. But we want people to know that the company Dan contracts for pays for his R&R every six months, and this will be his first time home since January. So his travel is taken care of."

"Perhaps they can collect money to send some underprivileged kids to the game or something," she added.

Kathy Miller said the family received other overtures from Georgia fans. One offered to host a party for the family when it arrives in Athens. Miller said she is running everything by Boise State's compliance office.

Said Crowe: "Us Georgia fans love our football but, as a collective group, we're pretty hospitable people."