This is going to be a combination of two posts, one I wanted to do last week. But I was on the road traveling a lot, and never got a chance to sit down and hammer it out.
Last week at G-Day, it was an awesome day. A beautiful day to tailgate, eat fried chicken, drink some beer, play some tailgate games. It was fun to connect with the tailgate crowd and, for a few hours, get a taste for the Fall before we descend into the long, hot days of summer.
I took my three year old daughter to the game. We’ve been to a few basketball games and a gymnastics meet, but this was her first trip Between the Hedges. We lasted until halftime.
Change, so far, has been a good thing for UGA. Not only can you feel it, you can see it.
It was time for a change at the head coaching position, and if anyone still had any doubts, then Saturday, April 16 should have been all the confirmation you needed. At least 93,000-probably several thousand more-joined me Between the Hedges. There were more people there than for the kickoff for the Kentucky game.
And what you saw was Kirby Smart coaching. I never bought into the “Mark Richt didn’t care about winning” mantra that was so prevalent, but it’s hard not to think that when you see Kirby out on the field, running around and actively coaching. Combined with this story on that was up on ESPN this weekend, and it is easy to see that the winds of change have provided a breath of fresh air to the program.
Being around him last year, he wasn’t a very happy person,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “He didn’t have a lot of fun. He was still himself, but he didn’t seem like the same old coach. Being down in South Florida and being back at his alma mater and having the chance to call plays again and coach the quarterbacks gave him new life. He’s taken 20 years off his life. He shows more energy, more passion. He’s re-energized.
There is excitement, enthusiasm, and unity in the program and the fan base. This is all positive.
But it won’t matter unless other things change.
Over the weekend, we all heard the news that cornerback Juwuan Briscoe was arrested for misdemeanor traffic charges for-gasp-not wearing a seat belt and not having a driver license.
Nick Saban wants to ask why Georgia has been good but not great, and why the program hasn’t won big?
The biggest reason is the lack of attention to detail in recruiting and game preparation. All that fell squarely on Mark Richt.
Another reason probably was, as the ESPN article alluded to, was Mark Richt took the hands-off CEO approach he learned from Bobby Bowden. He said in his farewell press conference that was something he regretted. When you do that, you are only as good as your assistants. When you have Willie Martinez and Brain Schottenhiemer, things can turn south. Not being able to realize that, and not doing anything to fix it, also falls squarely on Mark Richt.
Mark Richt was held accountable for his role in the team not winning at a high enough level.
But there are deeper, institutional issues that affect the team’s success, both ways you can see and ways you can’t. Challenges at UGA that Mark Richt couldn’t overcome, and I wonder if Kirby can too.
We know all about Butts-Mehre being tight with dollar. Hopefully that is changing.
A drug policy that is burdensome and stricter than all others in the SEC.
Having football players constantly arrested for petty offenses hurts your reputation, and it also keeps the players off the field.
Especially for ticky-tack driver license issues. Look, I don’t think football players (or any other athlete) should be held to a different standard in terms of law enforcement. You break the law, you should be punished. A lot of college kids get arrested. I never was. I was lucky. I probably should have been at some point. I had several good friends that got arrested for typical “boys will be boys” situations. It happens on college campuses.
I got pulled over once for not wearing my seat belt. I was not taken to jail.
I left my wallet at home yesterday. I didn’t realize it until I went to put some cash in the collection plate at church. If I had gotten pulled over, would I have been taken to jail for not having my license?
I have three questions. Three, hard questions that Kirby Smart needs to be asking Greg McGarity, and ones that Jere Morehead need to be asking also.
- How come the Athens-Clarke County Police Department is never the arresting agency on all these driver license issues?
- How come football players at other institutions are not arrested for driver license issues at the same rate they are in Athens?
- Do football players at other schools not have driver license issues and are somehow simply just better than what we have at Georgia?
I would like to answer the three questions I posed above.
- The ACCPD arrests their fair share of football players, and students as a whole. But you only hear of UGA Pd making the driver license arrests. I worked for Campus Tranist while in college at UGA. I drove the buses. We were told to be extra careful on River Road. For some reason, I was always told, the UGA PD could only set up for speed traps on River Road. River Road is where the East Campus Village Dorms are. The East Campus Village Dorms are where the athletes live. You don’t hear of driver licenses arrests occurring on Prince Avenue, Barnett Shoals, Lexington Road, Lumpkin Street, Milledge Avenue, etc. You hear of it occurring where the UGA PD can set up check points. That is also where a high concentration of football players live. I would bet you the arrest took place somewhere around River Road.
- This has been a problem that has plagued Georgia for quite sometime. Check out this article from 2010: On the other hand, four of the arrests in the last calendar year and six of them over the three-year time frame have involved license violations of some kind.
That was in 2010. There have been more. I am not a real journalist. I am only speaking anecdotally. I’m not paid to dig deep in the issue. I do this as a hobby. But I have a feeling that if a real journalist dug deeper in the research, they would find my suspicions to be true.
Just scratching the surface, I think it bears out. Last year, seven University of Alabama football players were arrested. None for issues relating to driver licenses. Since 2007, LSU has not had a single football player arrested for a driver license related issue. Urban Meyer, who infamously had a lot of players get arrested when he was at Florida, only had two get arrested for diver licenses issues.
- Let’s talk real for a second. I came across this article from the L.A. Times:Black drivers were found to be arrested at higher rates than whites for driving with licenses suspended because of unpaid tickets, the report said. The highest suspension rates in 2014 were found in poor neighborhoods with large percentages of black and Latino residents.
The majority of football players here and at our peer institutions are African-American. If you read this article by L.A. Times, which takes it from a different slant, this is not just a problem here in Athens. I would assume many African-American players across college football are in a similar situation. Again, unscientific, but I would wager that our issues with driver licenses are not unique to Athens. But the arrests for these violations make it appear so.
I don’t think any 19 year old-football player or not-should be arrested for a ticky-tack offense such as this. Having that stain on your record can follow you around forever.
If you think that the law is the law and that is it, fine. You can feel that way.
But you can’t honestly admit that this issue isn’t made more an issue here than at other places.
Someone needs to ask the hard questions.