We are just a few weeks away from the first game week of 2012, and unfortunately the majority of the talk for Georgia fans this preseason hasn’t been about how Georgia is going to replace its two senior specialists, if Malcolm Mitchell’s hamstrings will remain intact by South Carolina, or how the offensive line will fare.
No, the ongoing talk this offseason has been about Georgia’s off the field troubles.
Some blowhards on the radio like Chuck Oliver and Bill Shanks say that Mark Richt doesn’t do a good job as a disciplinarian. Although I am an ardent Richt supporter, I can recognize the man has faults and shortcomings as a head football coach: choking in big games recently, hanging on to assistants too long, misses in recruiting, etc… However, one fault I strongly believe he doesn’t possess is a lack of discipline.
Speaking to a friend the other night, he said that he didn’t know if Richt was a strict disciplinarian or if he was just following the rules of UGA, and if he coached elsewhere if he would impose the same penalties if he didn’t have to.
That is the point that I don’t think fools like Oliver and Shanks get when talking about the discipline problem at UGA. Georgia’s standards are much higher than the competition.
Take for example, the case of Bacarri Rambo. Last year, he was suspended against Boise State for the mysterious but not really “violation of team rules” (which usually always means failed drug test). Rambo failed another drug test after Spring Break, and is subject to a 6 game suspension. Now, Rambo is claiming ignorance about pot-laced brownies, but it doesn’t matter.
Now, if Rambo played at Ole Miss before they changed their policies, a 2nd failed drug test would mean he wouldn’t get free tickets to games. Oh, the humanity! If he played at Florida or Arkansas, then Rambo would be facing 10% of the season suspension for the 2nd infraction.
According to a report in dalllasnews.com, it shows that six SEC schools have a “3 strike and out” rule. At Florida, you can get a 5th strike! Before last week, Ole Miss didn’t have a definite number.
The old saying is that perception is reality. Georgia is perceived to have a problem with players getting in trouble. But the reality is how well would other players at different SEC schools avoid trouble if they played for UGA?
Last fall, if Crowell played at 9/12 SEC schools, he wouldn’t have faced any suspensions for smoking reefer last season, and it wouldn’t have been in the papers that he failed a drug test, and the scrutiny wouldn’t have been there. Olgetree wouldn’t be facing suspension for his failed test. The fact that Richt let Branden Smith off the hook would be a non issue if he played anywhere else in the conference outside of Kentucky.
Last year, LSU had to suspend Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware for failing a drug test for synthetic marijuana. They had to miss the Auburn game. Not that it mattered, LSU won convincingly. But look at LSU’s policy for drug tests. For the first offense at LSU, no suspension is required. For the second offense, it is 15% of the season. Common sense tells me then that this was not the first time Ware or Mathieu had failed tests. If they played at Georgia, then this second failed test would have cost them the rest of the season.
I know, I know. The kids know the rules, and regardless of how strict they are, they should still not break the rules that are put forth. It is no surprise these are in place. But come on. I bet you if you drug tested all the football players, then randomly drug tested 85-100 guys in 3 different fraternities, the results would be very similar.
Fans always talk about how we want to be like Florida, LSU, and Alabama in the conference. Those schools are the gold standard when it comes to football, at least. Florida is the gold standard when it comes to overall athletic programs.
UGA went out and got an AD from Florida and have adopted the Florida scheduling philosophy. We copied Alabama and moved to a 3-4 defense. There is a facility arms race, to see who can build the biggest stadiums, have the newest facilities, who can get the nicest indoor practice field, and who can put up the most statues. Defensive coordinators at LSU, Alabama and Georgia are among the highest paid assistants in the entire country.
All of these things are done to give a competitive advantage to a school. Why then, should UGA put itself at a competitive disadvantage with one of the strictest policies in the SEC?
Not only is suspending top producing players placing UGA at a competitive disadvantage, it gives the perception that Georgia is the only team that has these problems. It gets put in the papers, discussed on ESPN and talk radio that Georgia has a discipline problem. All of these reports never mention that Georgia has the strictest policy in the SEC and that other schools can conceal similar infractions. While Georgia gets its name tarnished in the media, other schools escape the scorn because they don’t hold their student athletes to the same high standard that Georgia does.
I think Georgia has a good policy. Mike Slive should grow a set of balls and force the entire SEC to have the same policy. But if he won’t man up, then Georgia needs to align its policies up to the rest of our competitors in the Conference. It would be a PR nightmare, and honestly it will never happen.
But if we all clamor to be like LSU and Alabama, we have got to start acting like them. It may seem dirty, immoral, and wrong, but hey, it is college athletics we are talking about here.