Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: Reaction to UGA suspensions predictable

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 12:27 PM
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 1:25 AM
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ATHENS, Ga. - The news report may have been a mild surprise. The reaction was entirely predictable.

Isaiah Crowell was one of three Georgia running backs suspended on Tuesday for reportedly failing a drug test.  File/Associated Press
File/Associated Press
Isaiah Crowell was one of three Georgia running backs suspended on Tuesday for reportedly failing a drug test.

When Georgia announced the suspension of its top three healthy running backs for Saturday’s game against New Mexico State (a.k.a. nonconference “patsy”) the outcry in the social media universe was Pavlovian.

“How convenient that this gets adjudicated between the Florida and Auburn games” was the general theme of the public responses, mostly lodged from north and east of the Savannah River. I’m paraphrasing, of course, because the actual comments were more hostile, vulgar or self-righteously judgmental and could not possibly have included a five-syllable word like “adjudicated.”

The anthem of Southeastern Conference football should be Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds. There is nothing that any one coach or program in college football’s most cut-throat conference can do without the actions and motives being dissected with the highest degree of skepticism. Rival fans would have condemned Mother Teresa if she had coaxed a five-star player into joining her program instead of theirs.

And the timing of the one-game (as far as we know) sentences of Bulldog tailbacks Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome certainly encouraged arched eyebrows. That it came three days after two of them provided essential service in a desperately needed victory over Georgia’s greatest nemesis certainly projects the appearance of a fortuitous coincidence.

But Georgia’s athletics director Greg McGarity has been adamant that favoritism was “absolutely not” granted the football program so it could keep its star athletes eligible for the big game.

“This had nothing to do with the Florida game or anything,” McGarity said. “It was all timing.”

Claude Felton, the senior associate athletics director, said the university’s policy is inflexible.

“Our Athletic Association regulations are strict that competition suspensions, as a result of a violation of team or Athletic Association policies, are immediate and occur at the next scheduled competition,” Felton said.

ESPN.com reported that the three players failed a drug test that was reportedly administered before the Florida game. That’s what has everyone buzzing that the punishment might have been deferred.

But Buck Belue – the UGA quarterback on the 1980 national championship team and current radio personality strongly connected with the Bulldogs – stated on his Twitter account that the timing was on the up-and-up.

“No conspiracy in Athens ... pee test on Thursday, results in Tuesday afternoon,” Belue wrote.

That won’t silence the critics, particularly any Gamecocks hurling stones from their glass house after tolerating for five years the non-punitive “suspensions” of troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia. All fans will argue anything that helps their team’s quest to win the SEC East.

Of course the primary target of social media contempt has been Georgia coach Mark Richt. What is so troubling about it is that Richt has become a coaching leader in how player discipline should be handled. Fewer coaches are quicker to pull the trigger on star players for violating team rules.

“We have certain standards in all that we do and their actions do not reflect the Georgia way,” Richt said. “They will serve their suspensions, learn a lesson and I’m sure be better men for it.”

That Richt retains faith that the young men playing for him will “learn” from these experiences is quaint. College hasn’t proven to be the best learning environment for some football players.

Washaun Ealey and Caleb King – the top two leading rushers from the previous two seasons – never learned from their repeated mistakes before Richt showed them the exit door. You’d think Crowell, whose path to instant stardom was greased by those departures, would have understood before already getting suspended twice in his first two months (Thomas is a double 2011 offender of the unspecified “team rules” as well).

But this is nothing new and it is not exclusive of Georgia. Just look at recent South Carolina history, where superstar rusher Derek Watson got kicked off in 2002 after two stellar seasons for a marijuana possession arrest. He was followed by projected superstar Demetris Summers, who lasted two tumultuous years before being kicked off the team himself in 2005 after the last of “several” failed drug tests.

Both Watson’s and Summers’ troubles continue to follow them after leaving the Gamecocks (Watson got arrested again this year in Greenville, S.C., and charged with drug possession and trafficking).

While we’ve yet to know the true extent of what keeps getting the ultra-talented Crowell in the doghouse, he’d be wise to heed the words Watson told the Anderson, S.C., newspaper in the spring of 2010 even he couldn’t control himself.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t willing to make sacrifices,” Watson said. “You want to do what you want to do and you don’t worry about the consequences. But what you have to realize, and what I really want to stress to younger people, is the choices you make now affect your whole future. Because I did things I shouldn’t have done, it basically sidelined all the goals I wanted to reach. I just threw it all away.”

While it’s probably too much to hope that fans will ever see rationally beyond their own self-interests, it’s not too late for these Georgia players to be accountable and become the “better men” Richt envisions.

Next time they – and Georgia – might not be so lucky.

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justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/02/11 - 12:39 pm
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I'll be shocked if Crowell

I'll be shocked if Crowell plays 3 yrs. I understand that many college kids are going to smoke dope. Sports is just a slice of society. But, when you have so much to lose, as do all these "student" athletes, you would think they would have better common sense. But, apparently, you would be wrong.

PManuel
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PManuel 11/02/11 - 01:42 pm
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Come on Scott, using the term

Come on Scott, using the term "recent" when referring to South Carolina player incidents that occurred as far back as 2002 is a bit much; your research staff need look only at the UGA program to find enough supporting fodder for your story!

PhiloPublius
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PhiloPublius 11/02/11 - 02:12 pm
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Isn't it funny that the

Isn't it funny that the people who are questioning the handling of this case are the ones being crucified and not the fact that these thugs are ONLY suspended for one cupcake game?

PhiloPublius
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PhiloPublius 11/02/11 - 02:14 pm
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Sure, it was timing, it was

Sure, it was timing, it was great timing! "Lets see if there is a chance that my guys will fail the pee test then.. lets see... ah yes, we will test them the week of the cupcake game!"

Formerly Shivas
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Formerly Shivas 11/02/11 - 03:20 pm
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That's the issue with Richt

That's the issue with Richt and UGA; they recruit kids with talent, but questionable character. The coaching staff has not been able to coach these kids to their full potential as evidenced by their lack of sucess the past several years. Face it, Richt is a mediocre coach who can recruit. I think I would rather have kids with class, and a coaching staff that got them to thier highest potential.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/02/11 - 03:26 pm
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Mark Richt during Wednesday's

Mark Richt during Wednesday's SEC coaches conference call on the timing of the suspensions: "“My response is that we’ve always had the utmost integrity in everything we do. We have policies in place in our athletic association that we follow to the T. That’s the case here and it’s been the case since I’ve been at Georgia. We all know that we do our business the way it should be done and we do it with integrity. So people who make comments who don’t know probably shouldn’t, quite frankly, because they don’t know and I’d be able to prove 100 percent they’re wrong. But I’m not going to spend the time doing that. The bottom line is we have rules and we follow them to the T and we have the utmost integrity in how we go about our business. That’s how we’ve built this program since the day I got here and we’re not going to change for any reason.”

StevieWonder
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StevieWonder 11/02/11 - 03:29 pm
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Well at most schools it would

Well at most schools it would be a slap on the wrist the 1st offense.

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/15947307/mcmurphys-law-in...

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/02/11 - 03:31 pm
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Richt on being surprised that

Richt on being surprised that three RBs required simultaneous supensions and Crowell's character: "Yeah, but I’m not surprised that young men make mistakes. We all know no one is perfect. We know that young guys tend to use bad judgment sometimes. When they do, that’s when we come in and help them out. ... I think Isaiah is going to do great, I really do. Because I saw how he has handled this mistake to this point and I really feel confident he’s going to be stronger for it. I really do."

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/02/11 - 03:41 pm
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I would love to know what in

I would love to know what in Crowell past suggested he had "questionable character". Some facts would be nice other than just ridiculous statements. Crowell was the top rated running back in the country. He could have gone to any school.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/02/11 - 03:45 pm
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Thanks for the link Stevie.

Thanks for the link Stevie. Even you can SEE how silly the UGA hater's comments are.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/02/11 - 04:21 pm
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Excellent link Stevie. It

Excellent link Stevie. It shows that if this was indeed a drug test failure as reported, it was a first offense and a much harsher punishment for it than most school's would administer. A second test failure would earn at last a six-game suspension, so the players have been dutifully warned.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/02/11 - 04:27 pm
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For those who haven't looked

For those who haven't looked at the link StevieWonder posted above, only Georgia and Kentucky (Vanderbilt is private and its are regulations unpublished) in the SEC are obligated by school rules to suspend athletes for a first-time drug test failure. So the high horses of other program followers should be dismounted.

Ugahater715
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Ugahater715 11/02/11 - 05:03 pm
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How are my comments silly? I

How are my comments silly? I just said there needs to be a universal drug suspension policy in the NCAA and I feel it should me similar to the NFL who gives 4 game suspensions for the 1st failed drug test. That is all I said.

shrimp for breakfast
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shrimp for breakfast 11/02/11 - 05:16 pm
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Rules for Georgia Bulldogs

Rules for Georgia Bulldogs Football Team Parties
No Partying. If you find that Partying is unavoidable then team rules dictate.

Linebackers party with Running Backs
Quarterbacks party with Defensive Backs
Tight Ends party with Centers
Recievers party with Defensive Line
Punters party with Offensive Line
Place Kickers party with Soccer Players

No Exceptions!

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/02/11 - 05:24 pm
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Sorry UGAhater, I wasn't

Sorry UGAhater, I wasn't referring to you. You have not even posted on this article, that I can see. I was referring to UGA haters in general.

LemonJello
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LemonJello 11/02/11 - 09:08 pm
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"Formerly Shivas" looks

"Formerly Shivas" looks pretty foolish now. UGAs policies are among the absolute toughest...and there is the proof. "Several years?" The only season I see that UGA should really look back on with any disdain is last season. Sure, two seasons before we were pre-season #1....but we didn't exactly have a failure of a season. How many pre-season #1s even go the distance? When is the last time your team was a pre-season top-10? We've been a winning team every year under Richt except last year.....and he got rid of the thugs that caused a lot of the problems in the locker room. We've got a young team that is winning games, and its scary to think just how good they will be when they mature. Perhaps thats what people are truly afraid of. They're afraid Richt may last long enough to develop this talent and handily administer annual beatdowns like he has done for many years. Mark Richt has more class than the entirety of alumni bodies at many other schools. His representation of UGA is second to none.

IsAnyoneAlwaysRight
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IsAnyoneAlwaysRight 11/03/11 - 07:10 am
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Richt, I thought stood for

Richt, I thought stood for class :) Guess it depends on who his fans are.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 11/04/11 - 04:59 am
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IsAnyone...did you even read

IsAnyone...did you even read the article? I mean ALL of it?

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