Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: Richt's decision took guts

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Zach Mettenberger might have become the kind of quarterback whose picture graced billboards, media guides and magazine covers.

Mettenberger  Associated Press
Associated Press
Mettenberger

Instead, Mettenberger's mug should be plastered on posters in every collegiate and high school locker room in the region.

A would-be leader has become another sad example. Mettenberger has morphed into a verb -- to foolishly throw everything away.

University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt made the drastic decision to kick his promising redshirt freshman quarterback off the team Sunday, just eight days after Mettenberger put up the best statistical performance in the team's annual G-Day spring football scrimmage.

The source of Mettenberger's dismissal happened six weeks earlier outside a bar in the south Georgia town of Remerton. More than the questionable judgment of spending a portion of one's spring break on the outskirts of Valdosta, the 18-year-old Mettenberger got himself arrested and charged with possession/consumption of alcohol, disorderly conduct, obstruction and two counts of possessing false identification.

These are all pretty significant misdemeanor offenses for a teenager, but nothing that harkens complete dismissal.

It's pretty clear that there is more underneath the surface of this incident that is still being investigated. You don't give up on the local kid who played Little League with your son and whose mother is the first face you see every day when you walk into UGA's football office simply because he got a little rowdy drinking beer on a fake I.D.

Whatever Mettenberger did, Richt needs to be applauded for the authority he's shown in dealing with it. There have been times when Richt -- like too many other big-time football coaches -- has been willing to be overly forgiving when star players commit egregious breaches of ethical conduct. When your career relies on the performance of young men, it can cloud reasonable judgment when doling out second, third and fourth chances.

But Richt made an aggressive call on Mettenberger despite the ramifications it could have on his own future. Make no mistake, this is a critical year for Richt and the Georgia football program, and this situation doesn't make it any easier.

Mettenberger had been moving to the forefront of a muddled quarterback situation. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds he had the best physical gifts of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job in 2010. After a spring showing in which Mettenberger completed 6 of 10 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns playing with the second-team unit, there was talk that he might emerge over last year's back-up Logan Gray or fellow red-shirt freshman Aaron Murray as the best choice.

Now Georgia's season hopes look dimmer with such a shallow quarterback pool that will have to look to incoming freshman Hutson Mason and walk-ons to fill in the depth chart. It doesn't bode well for a rebound from last year's disappointing 8-5 campaign that fostered grumbling about Richt's once secure place at the program's helm.

All of which makes Richt's disciplinary decision more impressive. Getting a college scholarship and competing at the Southeastern Conference level is a privilege, not a right. And kids who believe their athletic skill entitles them to act outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior should forfeit that privilege.

Richt -- like so many others -- has made the mistake of granting too much leash to bad seeds before (see Odell Thurman). But he's been less tolerant in recent years and more demanding of accountability. Defensive end Michael Lemon was dismissed from the team in 2008 after assaulting a fellow student. Linebacker Montez Robinson was kicked off the team two weeks ago after his third arrest in six months.

Now Mettenberger gets the boot before he ever got to play a down for the Bulldogs. And it's this dismissal that should send a clear message to kids everywhere that being young and stupid isn't going to be tolerated even if you have special athletic gifts. Not many programs have the guts to cut loose a potential starting quarterback. South Carolina stuck with Stephen Garcia after a series of troubling misbehaviors, and he seems to have made the most of the second chance. Virginia Tech was grudgingly forced to finally dismiss Marcus Vick after a succession of deplorable criminal misconducts that never warranted even a first look.

We all understand that kids make mistakes. We all probably did some foolish things in our lives that we look back on with regret and wonder what we were thinking.

But there's no excuse for crossing some lines. Mettenberger much have crossed one of those lines if Richt was willing to sever ties with the son of his longtime administrative associate.

Let's hope other kids can learn from Mettenberger's mistakes. And let's hope other coaches are willing to deliver the same hard lessons to those who don't get the message about being accountable for your actions.

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Local Interests
40
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Local Interests 04/20/10 - 04:29 pm
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I wonder if Richt knew he was

I wonder if Richt knew he was going to dismiss the kid and gave him some play time on G-Day so he could make his skills known to other potential schools.

I agree that the published infractions don't seem to justify dismissal. Given that the dismissal was public it would be nice to know if the incident was worse than it sounded. After all, it sounds like a first-offense.

715
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Barry Paschal 04/20/10 - 04:39 pm
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I agree, Local Interests.

I agree, Local Interests. There has to be MUCH more to the incident, or to Mettenberger's attitude in handling it. If there isn't, Richt has reacted far too harshly to a teenager's stupid, juvenile indiscretion. Making an example of someone is fine, but only if that person actually deserves the punishment. What we know of the infraction at this point seems deserving of game or team suspension, not the equivalent of a scholarship death penalty.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 04/20/10 - 05:27 pm
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I agree with the two previous

I agree with the two previous posters and Michaux writes like he knows something else. I hope the story comes out, for curiosity's sake. Richt is the head Dictator at the football level at Georgia and what he says goes. He's making a very clear point. As a Gamecock fan, I'd like to know more.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 04/20/10 - 07:00 pm
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Without knowing what

Without knowing what happened, I don't know if Richt's decision took guts or a lack of gray matter.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/20/10 - 07:20 pm
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Supposedly, the dismissal is

Supposedly, the dismissal is the result of what happened at that one incident. This kid is only 18. I believe it is a misguided attempt to appear to be fair to ALL players. Yeah, read something into that.

But my question is this. Since he never played a down for UGA, he should have 4 years of eligibility left and, as I said, he is only 18. Would he have to sit out 2 years to play for an SEC team?

Worst case for him is that he could sit out one year and be playing for GA Tech or Clemson in a year. Remember Clemson and UGA have a two game series beginning in 2013. I have a feeling UGA is going to hear from Mettenberger again in the most direct way.

Richt can give him a release letter. How would that affect his having to wait the one or two years in the SEC? It's hard to believe he won't at least give the kid the release with his mother working there.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 04/20/10 - 07:35 pm
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River is right...there is

River is right...there is more than meets the eye here. What if Richt had decided to go with Aaron Murry and being close friend with Mettenberger's family decided to let him play for another team? Especially with another freshman joining the team this summer. Just guessing here.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/20/10 - 07:42 pm
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Georgia associate athletics

Georgia associate athletics director Claude Felton told the AJC "there was not a new incident involving Zach."

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/20/10 - 07:59 pm
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One more point. UGA had said

One more point. UGA had said before the G-day game that depth charts would be available, but they weren't. That leads me to believe they already knew what was going to happen to Mett, but let him play anyway...possibly because his mother is Richt's office assistant.

teapot
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teapot 04/20/10 - 08:39 pm
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Let us all hope that the

Let us all hope that the young man learned from the entire affair. If Clemson wants him, that would be great, just don't send him toward SC. We have enough problems to deal with already!

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 04/21/10 - 04:52 am
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First off, there is more to

First off, there is more to this story than what has been told to us. Secondly, even though we are very interested in what really happened, it's not our business. Some things just don't need to be told just to satisfy everyone's curiousity. The "gory" details are personal ones for this young man and for the person he was involved with in the incident. Richt knows this and chooses not to be the one who will make those details public. And for that, I applaud him. As far as what did happen..without going into detail..Richt gave Mettenberger an oppurtunity to come clean with what had happened, and he flat out lied to Richt...another foolish and immature act. When Richt got more of the official information, he decided it wasn't worth keeping Mettenberger. Yes, I'm sure it was a very tough decision. As far as letting him play in the Spring Game, I have no idea, unless it was a last ditch effort by Richt to allow Mettenberger to display his talent to any potential team that he might be playing for in the future.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/21/10 - 07:24 am
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Richt was asked questions

Richt was asked questions last night at the Eatonton Booster Club party. He said two interesting things. One, that Mike Bobo had talked to the other QB's BEFORE the decision to release Mett was made. Two, Richt said he will announce soon if Mett is free to transfer to any school. That's what I want to hear.

Where he ends up is going to be important. Afterall, he is only 18 years old with all this talent. Somebody is going to have a great QB. Hopefully, he will grow up from the mistake he made at such a young age.

augustadog
88
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augustadog 04/21/10 - 07:26 am
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Yes there is more to the

Yes there is more to the story than has been told and I applaud Richt for waiting until he learned more. It probobly will come out but not from Richt. Forget the G day game. I'm just glad we did not get halfway into the season and lose a starting QB. What a shame for a kid with great talent to throw it all away. Hopefully he can man up and come back somewhere else. Go Dawgs.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/21/10 - 07:37 am
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The reason behind kicking him

The reason behind kicking him off the team is news. Richt gave lots of players second chances for offenses worse than what has been told to the public.

Heck, Urban Meyer only made his player sit out a quarter for trying to blind a player by poking him repeatedly in the eyes as he was helpless.

justthefacts
21408
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justthefacts 04/21/10 - 07:57 am
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This opens the door for UGA

This opens the door for UGA to sign Christian Lemay from Charlotte. So, maybe long term it will work out for the Dawgs. I hope Mettenberger bounced back somewhere. He is paying too steep a penalty IMHO.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/21/10 - 08:09 am
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Yeah, Lemay did make some

Yeah, Lemay did make some statements saying this puts the UGA situation in a different light and he will reconsider their offer. But that only goes to show you how good Mett is. If the number two rated high school QB was concerned he would end up playing behind Mett, that speaks volumes for Mett's ability.

genwheeler
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genwheeler 04/21/10 - 10:10 am
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Of course there's more to the

Of course there's more to the story. Richt is not the type of person to sacrifice a kid to "make an example." I suspect it's a combination of more coming out of what happened and the way Mettenberger has handled it.

Jim Howard
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Jim Howard 04/21/10 - 11:16 am
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The following article

The following article appeared in the Leather Helmet Blog on 4-21-10.
We can take it for what it is worth.

Anonymous said...
He went down to Valdosta to visit a couple buddies from high school, one of whom I am good friends with. They went out and had some drinks and Mett got drunk and started touching a couple girls inappropriately, he got warned 3 different times by 2 of the bouncers to calm down or he was gonna get kicked out. He then went up underneath a girl’s skirt, a girl that worked there and has a BF, and not only did he just go up her skirt but her underwear as well. He then got kicked out and as he was arguing with the bouncers the cops came up and then asked what was going on. The bouncers just said he was acting stupid and they wanted him out of the bar, the cops asked to see his ID and he gave them his fake, they brought him over to the car and talked to him and told him to give them the fake ID's and get one of his friends who hasn’t been drinking to take him wherever he was staying. He wanted to argue with them so he got arrested. While he was with the cops the girls came out and told them what went on, the girls were given the option to press charges but declined and said they hope he gets everything he deserves from Richt and the university. He then begged the cops to let him go and said he is a QB at UGA and said he has a lot to lose. After he got bailed out he came back to Athens and lied to Richt and Bobo and told them he was drunk, but only grabbed one girl’s hips to move her out of the way so he could go the restroom. Our staff heard from multiple people there was a lot more to it than what Mett said and found out about it, but couldn’t actually do anything until either Mett confessed to it or the police department told them. I don’t know how they found out for sure but they did and that’s why the punishment is so harsh.

9:24 AM
http://leatherhelmetblog.com/

whyme
1652
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whyme 04/21/10 - 12:38 pm
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Why does there have to be

Why does there have to be more to the story? Why can't we finally start correcting our young people and/or stop encouraging or ignoring socially unacceptable behavior? There's where we have problems these days. I had a mom tell me that she had no problem allowing her two teenage boys drink in the backyard with their other private school friends because she knew their parents, they came from "good" homes, and since it's what young folks do, it was better that they do it under her supervision. I have no problem working with offenders and giving them another chance when earned but breaking the law requires punishment. Period.

tit4tat
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tit4tat 04/21/10 - 05:58 pm
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Nat the Cat said: "Without

Nat the Cat said: "Without knowing what happened, I don't know if Richt's decision took guts or a lack of gray matter."

I don't believe you can be the 4th winningest active college football coach (especially coaching in the SEC) by "lacking gray matter". If 'guts' is the only other choice, I'll go with that... though 'character' and 'honor' seem to be fitting alternatives.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/21/10 - 06:40 pm
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The more I read about it, the

The more I read about it, the more convinced I am that Richt knew before the G-Day game that he was going to kick Mett off the team.

Letting him play and showcase his considerable talents may have been done as a favor to his mother. Richt, at the Eatonton booster club party, also, refused to say whether Mett could rejoin the Dawgs later. So who knows how all this will turn out.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/21/10 - 06:47 pm
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Tit4tat, I agree that Richt

Tit4tat, I agree that Richt is a great coach. I admire his leadership and the calm, helpful approach he displays with the players. He lives the life adopting children with problems.

Frankly, I can't think of another coach who is as sincere and concerned about his players as much as Richt is. If one of the players tried to put someone's eyes out he wouldn't be playing for a long time...not just 15 minutes.

Nat the Cat
1
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Nat the Cat 04/21/10 - 07:22 pm
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tit4tat-I wasn't clear, and I

tit4tat-I wasn't clear, and I apoligize for suggesting that Coach Richt lacked intelligence. He is a smart man--I was questioning his decision. And I still do not know what happened in this case, but I would have to question kicking the Freshman off the team for what has been described here as his offense. It is way too harsh a punishment for what he "allegedly" did. I also don't know why Richt kept his Defensive Coach for so long, either. But I guess we will see how his decisions play out.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 04/21/10 - 07:29 pm
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Nat, I wonder if Richt

Nat, I wonder if Richt consulted with Mett's mom about all this? Could he be doing exactly what she suggested in an attempt to help the kid? It kind of fits with something he would do. Think it's likely?

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