Monday, December 12, 2011

Did UAB Coach Garrick McGee Lie About His Criminal History in Radio Interview?

Garrick McGee

Garrick McGee, UAB's new football coach, gave a radio interview last Friday in an apparent effort to clear the air about his criminal record. McGee's answers, however, appeared to range from disingenuous to downright dishonest. The interview probably left many listeners scratching their heads and asking, "Why in the world did UAB hire this guy?"

McGee appeared for an in-studio interview with Paul Finebaum, host of perhaps the most influential sports talk show in the South. UAB officials had ignored the issue of McGee's criminal record when they introduced him as the Blazers' head coach last Monday. We reported here at Legal Schnauzer about McGee's brushes with the law that morning and did a followup post on Wednesday.

Mainstream news outlets ignored the issue until The Birmingham News wrote about it in both a feature story and a Kevin Scarbinsky column on Friday morning. McGee appeared on the radio Friday afternoon for an interview that, by Finebaum's standards, was remarkably gentle. Even with the host trying to cut him slack, McGee stumbled over this story. He came off as evasive (at best) and shady (at worst), failing miserably in an attempt at damage control.

In fact, McGee raised more questions than he answered. And perhaps the biggest question is this: How could UAB President Carol Garrison and Athletics Director Brian Mackin hire a head coach with a criminal record and then have him so poorly prepared to answer questions about a subject they should have known was going to come up eventually?

As we reported a week ago, McGee was arrested in 1991 for his role in three burglaries while a freshman at Arizona State University. He wound up pleading guilty to theft and transferring to another school. In late 2006, while an assistant coach at Northwestern University, McGee was arrested for drunk driving while in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He wound up pleading guilty to reckless driving.

During the radio interview, Finebaum pretty much gave McGee a pass on the charges from the early '90s. But Finebaum tried to nail him down on the relatively recent DUI charges--and that's when McGee's story went off the tracks, in three key areas.

* McGee said the original charge against him was reckless driving, not DUI. Published reports show that is not true;

* McGee said the traffic stop came after he pulled up on a curb while trying to get out of a tight parking spot. Published reports indicate that is not true;

* McGee said the arrest came the night before he was to conduct a football camp in Tulsa. Based on published reports, that statement is curious, to be sure.

Let's look at each of these issues:

The Traffic Stop

How did McGee's problems in Tulsa begin? Here is the exchange between Paul Finebaum (PF) and Garrick McGee (GM) on that subject:

PF: What did you actually do to get yourself in legal issues?

GM: Well, I was parked in a really bad spot. I was leaving dinner from having a meeting about the organization of this football camp we were putting on the next day. And I was parked in a bad spot and ran off of a curb. There was a policeman there who was parked really close to the parking lot.

PF: Had you been drinking?

GM: Once he pulled me over, he asked me if I'd had a drink with my dinner, and I said I did have a beer with my dinner. He said, 'Well listen, I don't think at all that you are intoxicated, but my job is to take you down here--I've got to do my job.' And I understood that.

McGee's version of events indicates it all took place at or near a parking lot, that it had to do with his actions while trying to get out of a parking space. But The Daily Northwestern, in a January 22, 2007, story titled "McGee Faces DUI, Speeding Charges in Oklahoma," reported:

Northwestern offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was charged last Thursday with driving under the influence and speeding.

Court documents said McGee was stopped on Dec. 24 in Oklahoma.

He is accused of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and speeding 16 to 20 miles per hour over the limit. McGee posted a $1,100 bond.

If McGee was charged with driving 16 to 20 mph over the speed limit, he was doing something more than trying to get out of a parking space. In fact, there is no indication that the traffic stop had anything to do with parking. If McGee was stopped partially for speeding, that means he was driving in traffic when an officer stopped him--and wound up having cause to believe McGee was intoxicated.

The Original DUI Charge

Here is the exchange between Finebaum and McGee on this subject:

PF: You were charged with what?

GM: Well, you know, I was thinking about that because I knew it was going to come up. I'm not sure. I'm sure it's written up somewhere. . . .

PF: You don't remember what you were charged with?

GM: No, I don't actually . . . I think it was, um, reckless driving. I think that's what it was.

PF: So it wasn't DUI?

GM: No, no. . . . It was reckless driving--I think. I'm sure it's written somewhere.

Finebaum seemed flabbergasted that McGee did not know the cause for his own arrest. McGee then denied it was a DUI, saying it was reckless driving and adding the qualifier "I think."

McGee did have one thing right: It is written down somewhere. And here, again, is what The Daily Northwestern reported:

He is accused of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and speeding 16 to 20 miles per hour over the limit. McGee posted a $1,100 bond.

On the Finebaum show, McGee said he was not arrested for DUI. News reports show that statement was false.

The Football Camp Story

Let's return to the reason McGee was in Tulsa in the first place. From the Finebaum interview:

GM: I was leaving dinner from having a meeting about the organization of this football camp we were putting on the next day.
According to press reports, the traffic stop took place on the evening of December 24, 2006. That's Christmas Eve. McGee was going to conduct a football camp the next day, on Christmas?

That seems like a strange day to be holding a football camp. It's certainly possible, and we know of no law that prohibits football camps on Christmas day. But it raises many questions. What was the name of the camp? Who worked with McGee on it? Where in Tulsa was it conducted? Was it held outdoors? It's been known to be pretty darned cold on Christmas day in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

McGee wrestled with other questions from Finebaum:

PF: Did you consider at any point disclosing this at the press conference Monday?

GM: I don't remember exactly what I said because I speak from the heart . . . .

PF: But you didn't say this.

GM: Well, I probably said something like . . . 20 years ago all of my priorities were not lined up, and the decisions that I had made at that point in my life were not in line with the direction I wanted to go. . . . I think I probably said something like that because that's the truth.

PF: With hindsight being whatever it is, would it have been better to just go ahead and get it out of the way Monday, as opposed to what you're doing today?

GM: That moment is to celebrate what's good about the university . . . the direction the program is headed and my vision for the program. . . . 

Finebaum got to the core issue when he addressed McGee's honesty:

PF: Do you feel you are being completely open and forthright about your past?

GM: Ummm . . .

PF: I ask because, even now, you seem to be struggling with certain aspects of this.

GM: I'm a person who understands how life works. . . . so not at all do I feel like I'm struggling.

McGee was struggling to answer straightforward questions about his criminal history--and a reasonable person should ask, "Why? Is there something he's not telling us?"


Anonymous said...

Where it comes to the State of Alabama, we'd be willing to overlook murder, molestation, or whatever to go forward with football. Just sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away! When you think of it. WHAT DOES THIS STATE HAVE TO OFFER BUT FOOTBALL? Not a damn thing. It is most of the people that live here, their GOD... It is sad. We are so ignorant sounding, the kids in school are behind other schools in other states but we sure can play some football and that is the most important thing. Sad but true.

jeffrey spruill said...

How could UAB President Carol Garrison and Athletics Director Brian Mackin hire a head coach with a criminal record?

Simple, they're criminals too!

HangTenHog said...

Gawd you guys need to get a life! You'd think he was stuffing $$ into a recruits fathers church or something. He was a fine coach at Arkansas and never a problem. Me thinks some racism is spilling in....

hogtrough said...

You guys do NOT deserve Garrick McGee if all you can do is bring up things that happened in his past. He was hired for a reason. Shutup and be happy.

legalschnauzer said...

How is it "racism" to report on someone's criminal record, which is a matter of public record? McGee was hired to the single most high-profile position at UAB--probably tied with head basketball coach--and that kind of job comes with scrutiny. No one has reported about the criminal record of Mike Davis, the current UAB basketball coach, who is black. That's because Davis apparently doesn't have a criminal record. No one reported on Mike Anderson's criminal record when he was basketball coach. (He's now at Arkansas.) That's because he apparently didn't have one. UAB's previous football coach, Neil Callaway, had a DUI before he was hired--and that was widely reported in the press. Callaway was/is white. The reporting now is based on Garrick McGee's public record, not his skin color.

Hogtrough said...

I just listened to the full interview and disagree with your entire rant. He never says he didn't get pulled over for speeding (15 over is reckless driving)....... You need to stop trying to hate on your coach.

Andy said...

Quite the witch hunt you have here. Of the two topics you brought up, the first was 20 years ago when the guy was 18-19 years old. The second one was over charges which were DROPPED. What is your motivation in writing this?

legalschnauzer said...

Let me make this clear for the record:

I'm a journalist, not a UAB fan. I suspect many UAB fans are happy with the UAB hire.

As for me, it's not a matter of whether I'm happy with the hire or not. I'm reporting facts that the public should know about it. Readers can make up their own minds about Coach McGee from there.

legalschnauzer said...


He doesn't say anything in the interview about speeding. He says he was pulled over for driving off of a curb.

He never was "charged" with reckless driving. The original charge was DUI and speeding. He was offered a plea bargain on reckless driving, which is very common in DUI cases, and he accepted.

legalschnauzer said...


The charges were not dropped. McGee agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving. That's not the same as having the charges dropped.

Whether the other charges are two years old or 20 years old, they still exist. He was not a minor, and it's a public record.

George W. Bush had a DUI from deep in his past come up during the 2000 presidential election. That was relevant then; this is relevant now. People can make up their own minds how much weight they want to give it.

McGee signed a contract (for a lot of money) on a high-profile job at a public university. That comes with scrutiny.