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AJC Columnist Hits Nail on the Head
Wednesday, 23 July 2014

July 22--  AJC columnist Jeff Schultz has some "right-on" comments about the lack of a value system in college sports recruiting and how it's a recurring problem at the University of Georgia.

"Let’s start by dismissing this notion that college football players get arrested only in Athens. There are bad kids, dumb kids and entitled kids everywhere. There are kids who’ve broken laws since the age of 12 because they never were forced to realize the consequences of their actions. There are kids who believe sprinkling (medical) marijuana on their morning Cocoa Puffs is harmless — and the only possible remedy for their anger-management issues.

Dumb kids are not a Georgia football problem. Dumb kids are everybody’s problem. Without much effort, I found over a dozen arrests at major college football programs in just the past two weeks, including a Bowling Green running back for attempted rape, a Baylor lineman for aggravated assault, a Texas A&M running back for shoplifting, a West Virginia running back for intimidating a witness in a murder trial, two Miami linebackers for sexual battery and a Florida State running back for grand theft of a vehicle (OK, a scooter).

Here’s Georgia’s problem: They still have too many dumb or entitled kids. It doesn’t mean they dominate the roster, but it doesn’t take many to dominate the headlines. That’s a reflection of the program — and, therefore, the coach who runs it, Mark Richt.

Jonathan Taylor, a defensive lineman, was arrested early Tuesday morning for aggravated assault and domestic violence. According to an incident report, he strangled his girlfriend. Taylor also was one of four Georgia scholarship players who were caught double-dipping on their stipend checks. Richt was going to let that slide. Felonies, he doesn’t let slide. In all likelihood, say goodbye to Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor was one of those signing-day recruits that the recruiting-obsessed segment of the world bowed to. So was Josh Harvey-Clemons, who was dismissed for multiple violations of team rules. So was Tray Matthews, who was kicked out following an altercation with a professor (as well as his involvement in the check-cashing scam). If you needed another indictment on the “star” system in recruiting, there it is.

UGA police are investigating a dormitory burglary, during which an out-of-state recruit at Georgia’s “Dawg Night” last weekend is believed to have entered the room of two female students and stolen a wallet, credit cards and cellphone.

It just doesn’t stop.

Two years ago, following the dismissal of Isaiah Crowell, I wrote about Richt ignoring red flags and recruiting too many kids on the edge. At the time, seven members of the vaunted “Dream Team” recruiting class of 2011 already had been either kicked out, flunked out or never academically qualified. I stopped counting.

Richt has come a long way in disciplining players. When there are problems, he responds quickly and with justified punishment. That wasn’t always the case. But the fact this is still happening at Georgia can mean only one of two things:

  • Too many bad/dumb/entitled kids are still being recruited.
  • There’s too little oversight when they get on campus.

It’s difficult to know about the second possibility. But good kids don’t get arrested for assault because of a lack of oversight. Good kids don’t get arrested. They don’t get accused of choking their girlfriend and or cursing at a professor.

And here it comes from the yahoos in the cheap seats: How the hell are we going to win a championship with a bunch of angels!

News flash: There is no mandate that champions come with an arrest record.

It’s short-sighted and even juvenile to think otherwise. Unfortunately, short-sighted and juvenile often dominate sports talk radio and Twitter.

We can’t know what happens at other schools. We can’t know if Athens police are just more aggressive than in other towns or if police chiefs in other cities have season tickets and are more apt to whitewash offenses. That shouldn’t matter. Blaming police for players getting arrested is like running a stop sign and telling the judge, “That’s a dumb place for a stop sign.”

There are rules. There are laws. Follow them. Is that really so hard?

Criticism of Georgia’s tough drug policy also is misplaced. The school should be commended for setting a standard in drug testing, not denounced by those who lower the bar because they’re more concerned about winning games than enabling drug use. Sorry if everybody in your tailgate party feels otherwise.

It’s possible the backdrop makes Georgia a tougher place to coach than other places in the SEC. But whining about standards and guidelines isn’t going to change the situation. Bringing in better people might.

That’s on the head coach and the assistants who recruit for him. In the end, they’re the ones who are held responsible. They’re the ones whose jobs are on the line. Georgia has a problem, and therefore Mark Richt has a problem. And it has been this way for far too long.

 

 
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