ATHENS, Ga. - The rumors circulating around the Georgia football team have reached a level that compelled outgoing coach Jim Donnan to defend his team Thursday.
"I would like to address some other things that have surfaced over the last few days about some innuendo and about some certain policies that we have here. You know how the Internet is, how rumors surface. We do not have any problems with drugs on our team," Donnan said at an afternoon news conference, his first official session with the media since his firing Monday.
"I want everybody to understand that we've gone completely within the letter of the law and tried to protect our student-athletes who have been involved with (that), which is very few. We really haven't had many off-the-field problems here," Donnan said. "Anybody that said that would be lying. In the last five years, we've done pretty well there."
Georgia President Michael Adams said Monday that "off-the-field" problems contributed to Donnan's dismissal. He refused to elaborate on those concerns, which fueled rumors which already swirled around the program.
"I've not had any conversations with Dr. Adams, so I don't know what he was alluding to there," Donnan said. "That's a pretty open-ended statement there when you say things like that. I don't know what he was talking about there. Based on my relationship prior to that, he had never said anything about that."
Neither Adams nor presidential assistant Tom Landrum could be reached for comment at their offices or homes Thursday. A secretary in the president's office said Adams and Landrum were out of the office Thursday.
University spokesman Tom Jackson is out of his office until Monday, an office employee said.
Donnan's statement Thursday was the first time any Georgia official had acknowledged the rumors about drug use on the team that have circulated on Internet chat rooms and radio talk shows.
While denying a problem, Donnan alluded to some drug-related disciplinary issues this season. He declined to name any players, but said he felt comfortable he handled all of those occasions properly.
"We have a certain policy in place that is under the scrutiny of our trainer, our athletic director and myself," Donnan said. "Any decisions that have ever been made as far as discipline along those lines have been under the auspices of myself and (Georgia athletics director Vince) Dooley.
"Any situations that have occurred on discipline have always been, as coach Dooley alluded to on Tuesday, with his knowledge. I have never been told that I was supposed to give those decisions or what our discipline situations were to anyone except coach Dooley."
Dooley was out of town Thursday afternoon and unavailable for comment. However, on Tuesday, he indicated he was comfortable with Donnan's disciplinary actions this season.
"I think coach Donnan has always been up front with me about everything," Dooley said on Tuesday. "Most decisions he's made, he's run it by me, which I've appreciated. Any concerns I've ever had, coach Donnan and I have sat down and discussed those prospects."
Asked if players who were being disciplined for drug use had been held out of games under the auspices of non-existent injuries, Donnan replied, "We never had any injuries that didn't exist. We had some situations where guys had injuries and might have had a situation with other things that were not brought out. But we have a drug policy that is university-accepted.
"It would be very poor on my part to stand up here and publicly talk about some kids. You wouldn't want anybody to talk about your kids. Everything I did on the drug policy was completely under the authority of myself and coach Dooley.
"That's the way it's been at every place I've ever been. Around college football, have you ever seen anybody say they were suspended for drugs for a game?"
Donnan was hoping Thursday that his comments on the subject would put an end to the rumors.
"We've done a good job of keeping our kids aware of drug problems throughout the campus. I think we can lay that to rest," he said. "Anything else on that will have to come from coach Dooley but he feels ... very good about it based on my talks with him."