So what do we do about athletes behaving badly?

If I’m a Georgia fan, here is what would drive me absolutely nuts:

We just watched our 40-year-old athletics director commit career suicide for making foolish decisions about alcohol and his personal life. It cost him a salary of $550,000 per year and untold other benefits in the future. It also embarrassed the hell out of him and his family. There are no adjectives to fully describe how bad it was and there is no way to truly quantify how much it will ultimately cost Damon Evans both professionally and financially.

In short, it was really, really bad. It was kind of thing you probably wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

So if you’re an athlete at the University of Georgia and you’ve seen one of the most high-profile employees of the school lose almost everything in the space of a few days, wouldn’t it occur to you to be a LITTLE more careful in your behavior–at least for a couple of weeks?

Wouldn’t you say to yourself: “Self, if that can happen to Damon Evans, it sure could happen to me! One day he was running the whole athletic department, making good money, living in a great house, and driving a BMW. Man, he had it all and now he’s GONE! Guess I’d better watch it for a while until things calm down.”

If you were an athlete at the University of Georgia, wouldn’t you at least THINK about that?

Apparently not. Two players were arrested Sunday on alcohol-related charges. They have been suspended from the team. As Mark Bradley points out, that makes seven arrests this year for Georgia football players.

Here is what would drive me crazy if I was a Tennessee football fan:  In 2007 we were two bad passes away from winning the SEC championship. Now we’re working under our third head coach in three years. The whole world is telling us that we’ll be lucky to win five games in 2010 but we do have some hope.

Derek Dooley is now our  head coach which means that an adult is back in charge. Dooley has made it clear that a change in culture is coming. If you are a Tennessee player and you liked the culture of the previous guy, you’ll find him out on the West Coast serving two years of NCAA probation. Feel free to join him. But if you stay here you better understand that there is a new sheriff in town.

If you’re a Tennessee player wouldn’t you think that maybe–just maybe–it would be a good idea to be careful because a lot of people are watching and this Dooley guy is not kidding around?

Apparently not. The other day Tennessee fans had to look at the searing images of two players covering their faces from photographers as they left a detention facility in Knoxville. An off duty police officer was sent to the hospital while trying to break up a fight in a bar. Media reports say Tennessee players were involved. To what extent will be determined in the future by local law enforcement. One guy has already been kicked off the team.

Needless to say it was a setback for Dooley’s attempt to change the culture of Tennessee football.

Here is where I think we are on this issue.

The vast, vast majority of college student athletes behave themselves and accomplish great things on the field and in the classroom. There are some amazing kids who participate in college sports. We should never forget that.

But within this large universe of good kids, there is a subset of people who participate in college athletics who cannot or will not draw a straight line between actions and consequences. They believe, for whatever reason, that their talent makes them bullet proof and unaccountable. And in some cases they are right. And when they are right, that’s when the adults have to take an integrity check.

It’s easy for me to write this. My professional future is not resting on the behavior of an 18-year-old kid whose ego was so pumped up during the recruiting process that he thinks the rules don’t apply to him. It’s easy for me to say that you send the kid packing and let him figure out his future far, far away from your campus.

But I don’t think you ever get a handle on that subset of problem children unless you have a conversation with them that goes something like this:

Young man, you are blessed with enormous talent. But you have a decision to make. Which do you want to do more: Play football and go to school OR engage in anti-social and potentially criminal activity? You can’t do both. If you want to play football we have a great opportunity here and we would love to have you with us because, as I said, you are very talented and we believe you could be very successful as an athlete and as a student.

But if you embarrass our football program and our university, your athletic career can be ended right here and right now. You know that NFL dream you’ve had since you were little? It won’t happen because the pros have decided they are fed up with the Michael Vicks and the Ben Roethlisbergers, and the Pac-Man Joneses of the world. These guys do more background research on a potential NFL Draft pick than the U.S. Senate does on a future Supreme Court justice. They will come to us and ask us what we think of you. And we will tell them the truth.

So on draft day, when you go in the fifth round after your agent said you were a lock to go in the first, you’ll know why.

Now is this kind of harsh? Yeah, I guess it is. Would this potentially hurt a school in recruiting? With a certain kind of kid, probably so.

But Mark Bradley also pointed out in a recent column that one of the reasons Evans had to go was because he was in a leadership position and had seriously damaged the “brand” of the University of Georgia. And that is a really big deal. Do we not hold high-profile student athletes to the same standard? And if we don’t, is it because we think it’s easier to replace an athletics director than a great wide receiver? Again, it’s the adults who are paid to make the tough decisions.

And don’t tell me that this happens everywhere. I know it does. And don’t tell me that some schools are better at covering it up than others. That may be true. Is that the rationale you want to hang your hat on:  That everybody does it and some are just better at getting away with it?

 But on this issue, fans and media are often guilty of wanting to have their cake and eat it too. When the left tackle gets into trouble and embarrasses your university, you want him gone–right now. But when the backup left tackle gives up four sacks in the next game and your team loses, the coaches suddenly become stupid people and should be replaced.

We can’t have it both ways. Like we just told the athlete who behaves badly, we have a choice. We either want discipline or we don’t. If we do, then we have to be adults and live with the consequences. And if we don’t, we also have to be prepared to live with the consequences as well.

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206 comments Add your comment

npgator

July 13th, 2010
8:13 am

First! Yeah!

Bulldog59

July 13th, 2010
8:13 am

Well said Tony!

npgator

July 13th, 2010
8:15 am

Some of these gifted athletes are just plain too stupid to understand the consequences of their nafarious activities.

dip

July 13th, 2010
8:20 am

Tony,

Why doesn’t UGA do a better job of recruiting the STUDENT/athlete? It doesn’t matter how great you are in High School if you get kicked off the college team. The fault lies with UGA recruiting – look at the complete person not just the athletic ability.

Joel

July 13th, 2010
8:23 am

Tony or anybody with an opinion,

Where do you think Damon Evans ends up after this? Small college AD or new line of work? Also who is UGA looking at for a replacement?

Carl, from Fed-Ex

July 13th, 2010
8:23 am

That would be “nefarious”. But I digress.

Beast from the East

July 13th, 2010
8:25 am

Tony,
Love the “adult” comment concerning Dooley now at UT! That’s classic!

From what I’ve read the past week, about 40-50% of UGA fans are using the logic you mentioned in the 3rd paragraph from the bottom. “It goes on everywhere and the other guys in Gainesville and Tuscaloosa get a pass”. “The Athens PD is just picking on our boys”. I don’t get it.
As a Gator, I have enjoyed our run the last 20 years. But I would never want our “brand” to be compromised just for the sake of winning a few ballgames. I’m not saying that the administrators or coaches at UGA do either, but a large portion of their fans could care less it seems. They continue to want to deflect blame, finger-point and downgrade the severity of the infractions. That’s the whole problem….no accountability.

KEGreene

July 13th, 2010
8:30 am

The STUDENT/athlete are all highly recruited. But as Tony said, the coaches multi-million dollar jobs are on the line. If UGA put a product like Vandy’s on the field, but said “Look, we graduate 95% of our team and we have this Dr., Lawyer, Rhodes Scholar…” The UGA fans would say, “I don’t see any SEC or BCS Championship rings”. Every school is trying to balance this. They hope that the borderline kids they take will rise in the situation instead of help poison a lockerroom and take other borderline kids or good kids with them.

dawgsux

July 13th, 2010
8:30 am

I know Ga. fans don’t want to hear this but their problems started when the players charged the field against the Gators. It is called discipline folks and Georgia doesn’t have any.

Coach Cool

July 13th, 2010
8:31 am

IF you’re a Georgia fan?!?!?!

Say what?!?!?!

AlwaysAVol

July 13th, 2010
8:36 am

Good write Tony. And I agree, walk the line, represent your university well, or get out. The scholarship you ride is a privilege, not a right. Go hoping for a professional career, but don’t count on it being in sports. Don’t waste the opportunity. Be a role model. I think of all the Vicks, Rothlisbergers, such as that, but then you see the Eric Berrys, the Mark Ingrams, The Mannings. There are a lot more good than there are bad out there, but I think we do a great disservice to both sides by not doling out punishment, correction that has teeth, that is serious, and that works. Now, I’m ready for some SEC football!

Max Sizemore

July 13th, 2010
8:37 am

Hey, Tony. Don’t you or anyone else remember what it was like to be 19 or 20? I was an idiot, that’s for sure.

Balderdash

July 13th, 2010
8:38 am

Amen, brother. No, I don’t think the message you laid out is harsh in the least. Blunt is not a sin.

Captbob

July 13th, 2010
8:38 am

Tony, Very good analysis of problem. The rubber meets the road with the fans as you so ably stated in the last two paragraphs. Until we care as much about our school and its teams respected as class organizations as we do about the won-loss record nothing will change. Problem is we have a subset of fans who mimic the actions of the immature, ‘all about me’ athlete who is constantly in trouble with the law…they only care about the won-loss record…

Freckly Face Albino Tech Nerd

July 13th, 2010
8:39 am

You can drink, just dont drive. How hard is that to figure out?

bo

July 13th, 2010
8:40 am

In the long run Evans didn’t damage UGA, but keeping him would have done so.

VDawg

July 13th, 2010
8:41 am

No doubt scholarship athletes should be held to a higher standard. Obviously alcohol is almost always a contributing factor. The reality of it is this. College kids party. They do crazy wild stuff because they are experienceing freedom and parental independance for the first time. Put thousands of them together and it’s a crazy feeding frenzy. They are also starting to experience accountability for the first time. Often the two clash which brings us to this subject where these athletes are concerned.

Now at Georgia, Adams is really cracking down on Alcohol as compared to years past. I notice when the Athletes in Athens are usually caught with thier pants down it’s by UGA police. I ask this: Is there a corelation between athletes busted and the practices of campus securities, particularly where athletes are concerned.

Now at TN it seems to be a bit different. Those kids are not just doing a little partying. There are some violent crimes within that group.
Once again, alcohol related where the party gets out of hand.

I’m not sure why it happens more at some colleges than others. Is it discipline? Maybe so. I will say if it is a scholarship athlete, they should be treated as an employee of the administration. Drinking should not be allowed. If you have that rule at your school alone however, your recruiting just got gut shot.

It all boils down to this…..Boys will be boys. Maybe we should recruit those that are ready to be responsible men, and leave the boys to thier booze.

Shreveport Waffle House Cook

July 13th, 2010
8:41 am

When y’all going to come back down here?

Big Dave

July 13th, 2010
8:41 am

The hipocracy displayed by UGA and all the other BCS schools is amazing. It’s ok for 18 year olds to beat the stuffing out each other in front of a hundred thousand fans-a large percentage of which are intoxicated. Meanwhile players,many who come from nothing and who are coached by very highly compensated men aren’t allowed to even drink a beer after laying it on the line for their school. DUI is never right but the disparity between the players and the people who profit from their efforts is astounding. This is not necessarily a problem specific to UGA. It happens everywhere and getting caught is like losing at roulette.

Dawg Nation

July 13th, 2010
8:43 am

We’ll see you for the holidays, Shreveport. Remember, I like mind scattered, smothered and peppered.

David Howton

July 13th, 2010
8:45 am

Great comments Tony. Student athletes must be held accountable for their actions and there needs to be a clear understanding of expectations by coaching staffs at the universities when these 17-18 year olds enter the programs. Each will be held accountable for their behavior and actions as a representative of the university.

If you followed Andy Staples from Sports Illustrated last week in his column as he did his bus trip with one of the South Florida teams, there were problems with a few of those athletes as well. Stealing on several campuses and being caught on tape. While all items were ultimately returned to the schools involved, the chances of those young individuals to receive scholarships to a major university became questionable. Even though the names were not reported according to the article, the point was made that coaches talk and those who identified the athletes involved will ultimately talk as well.

If you are a student athlete and have the opportunity to enjoy a free education and great things beyond, learn to be accountable for your actions at an early age. Thanks for a very good article and your strong words. We can only hope that these young athletes will understand your comments, and that the coaches and administrators in charge will do the right thing when it comes to disciplinary actions for bad behavior.

TommyP

July 13th, 2010
8:46 am

“Self…..” That’s what I always begin my sentences with when I speak to myself. LOL

And to see a Florida fan come on here and talk about the discipline they have in Florida? The things some of THEIR players have done and still be allowed to stay on the team is unfathomable. What was it that DT did a few years ago and wasn’t booted?

Bottom line on the players being recruited by Georgia….Florida is recruiting them as well. Bama is listed on their offers sheet, too.

Tony….they’re drinking in Athens. I’d say minimum 75% of the suspensions have been a result of drinking. Short of having athletic dorms again, that will be tough to police.

Think about it…King was suspended for having a beer. A college kid having a beer….

Per the NFL and a few former Gators, Florida has a major drug problem on their team now and the past several years. UT is the new Miami….every one of their arrests involve guns, drugs, resisting arrest and assault.

Think about that….you just compared college kids drinking beer to criminal behavior.

JB

July 13th, 2010
8:49 am

Boy, I miss X’s and O’s, depth charts, an Interview with Grantham, Berlin. Latkos…..News about summer voluntary workouts, is the OL any bigger or stronger, How is Marlon Brown coming around, How much will Richt be involved in the Offense this year, who has matured to a point that they can contribute this year………………I hate this other stuff………….

RxDawg

July 13th, 2010
8:53 am

Ha! Well said Tony. That’s pretty much what went through the mind of every Dawg fan out there. That said, I think the crimes weren’t as bad as the timing of the players.

I really don’t know how to explain it, or what to do about it. I don’t believe that we pick the wrong kinds of kids, at least compared to every other program. I’ve seen a lot of great people and men come out of Mark Richt’s program.

I’m not much of a conspiracist, but part of me wants to believe some of the people on here chiming in about how other schools are better about covering stuff up, or working with the law enforcement to prevent actual arrests. Notice how all of our players are getting arrested for MIP’s, driving with a suspended liscense, and DUI’s (yes, I know DUI’s are pretty bad). Those are mostly minor offenses that would never make the papers for any regular Joe. At least none of those are violent crimes. Well, of course then you have Montez and Mettenberger which crossed into violent offenses. But hey, those two aren’t on the team anymore now are they?

It is sad, and embarassing to alumni. But I refuse to believe that we are some problem program just because a few of the guys like to go downtown and have some drinks. I’ve been there, I’ve been one of those guys. As long as our players appear to be decent, nonviolent people (exluding the grid iron of course) then I’m ok with some extra laps after practice. I won’t jump on my high and mighty “I’m better than you” chair and go to preachin.

Honky Talkin'

July 13th, 2010
8:53 am

It may happen everywhere, but the SEC has a lock on the “thug” athlete. As Mike Bell said yesterday, the big SEC schools are football factories and the only concern is winning, no matter what the cost.

JB

July 13th, 2010
8:54 am

Newspapers in those other SEC cities and towns don’t have the Staff the AJC has…they have a beat writer (one) and he’s doing feel good stories….AJC has a host of “personalities” trying to fill these blogs and get hits…..That is nowhere to be found in other SEC markets….The “beat writer” is over at the Head coach’s mother’s house doing a story on her Homemade Jelly during the off season !

Mikey in SAV

July 13th, 2010
8:54 am

It is not a football problem.
It is a social problem.
It begins at home and for some they had no “home life” to speak of.
No Father, no family dinner conversations, no discipline, etc, etc.
This is simple, but remember…simplicity is complex to arrive at.

JB

July 13th, 2010
8:58 am

Do a story on the OTHER 75 players on the Georgia team following the rules, working hard and behaving ! Don’t forget about them.

Some Sense

July 13th, 2010
8:59 am

Many (most?) college athletic prospects have grown up in homes w/ little structure and character guidance. They learn a lot from their h/s coaches (god, those guys are good in our state), but they didn’t grow up w/ a strong “do right” requirement. Thus, it’s like old people using computers. They don’t know ’cause they didn’t grow up w/ ‘em.

Unfortunately, then, “doin’ bad” is in there, just waiting to come out given the proper set of circumstances. This isn’t gonna change because it can’t change. This is the product of cultures in our society just imbued w/ “doin’ bad”.

Plus I still wanna know what a nice little girl from a prominent Atlanta family was doing with King, Jackson, etc.

observer

July 13th, 2010
9:00 am

Say what you want about “other schools” and how everyone has problems, but if you don’t see that UGA has a bigger problem than anyone else you need to take off your blinders for a few minutes. Georgia has a culture of “thugism”, drinking, law-breaking, and this culture is sustained by very lax discipline meted out by Richt. It also seems pretty clear that they will recruit any kind of character if they think he might help them win.

JWalker

July 13th, 2010
9:02 am

The Derek Dooley lovefest is getting disgusting. I’ve got nothing against the guy, but the media hacks are falling all over themselves to pay homage.

Tony makes it sound like it was all Kiffin’s fault. Dooley was the one that signed D’ Rick Rogers. He had that kid from the beginning. That kid is one strike against Dooley.

Cornholio

July 13th, 2010
9:04 am

Unfortunately, I don’t beleive you can stop college kids from partying. Most of us have been there and done that and understand it is part of the college culture going back before these players today. The only solution is to make them aware of the consequences in writing when the sign the scholarship. College football is a business as much as a game and the players should have to agree to the terms of their scholarship up front. I would go as far as to say pay the atheletes some amount and treat the situation as if they are now an “employee” of the school. Damon Evans apparently drove drunk and got fired. If players are paid and treated as “employees” of the school then they will also be “fired” if they violate the terms that they agreed to when they signed with the university.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

July 13th, 2010
9:04 am

Ok, one thing you can eliminate it the “type of kid” UGA recruits. As was mentioned earlier, every SEC power is recruiting the same kids. UGA has along with every program more than there fair share of knuckle heads. The question is once you realize the SAME ISSUE is repeating itself then the coaching staff has to crack down hard.

One issue is how we rationalize Alcohol related offenses. Yes everyone essentially drinks underage at Athens, but only 85 individuals represent the largest money maker for the university 12 times a year in the Fall. It is apparent that 10% of the season long suspensions is not enough of a deterent or other “In House” punishment.

Steps to take:

1) 1st offense 4 games

2) 2nd offense Season long

3) 3rd Goodbye

4) Include in the 20 hours a week practice time 1/2 every other week devoted to a Session simply called, “Do the Right Thing”.

a) Handling your role w/in UGA as a student athlete

b) Choices today effect your future

These are just a couple of ideas, but it is growing tiresome to see what is going on, not only in Georgia, but across Collegiate sports in general.

JB

July 13th, 2010
9:06 am

observer, you need to take the blinders off. That’s like saying squirrels in Florida and Alabama don’t gather acorns for the winter LOL…… All the players are cut from the same cloth, bars, parties, girls,etc at all of them……i take my hat off to the Athens police…….you’re naive if you think it’s not happening on other campuses……….

athensdawg

July 13th, 2010
9:07 am

the truth of the matter is that as long as UGA keeps winning, all this is just fine.
when this starts happening and we keep going to shreveport….well, that’s a different story.

Interesting how a lot of offensive players have gone astray this year……not so much defense….
Where did we see the changes in the coaching staff????
Might that be a clue????

JB

July 13th, 2010
9:09 am

Bama and Florida have a character clause….. Do tell………Wonder how Spikes passed it….poking eyes and failing the NFL drug test…….oh yea, greatness and character….LOL

Go Home - Do Not Pass the Admissions Office

July 13th, 2010
9:12 am

If you’re in college on a sports scholarship and you are SUSPENDED from playing because of your own bad choices, you LOSE YOUR SCHOLARSHIP immediately. Oh, you mean you can’t pay for college yourself without the scholarship? Well, sorry – you need to leave the campus and go back home. Work at a burger joint, dig ditches, cut lawns, whatever. You do not belong in college with someone else paying your way when you can’t abide by the rules.

unbiased volfan

July 13th, 2010
9:17 am

tony, you ARE a geargia fan.

Dawg Days

July 13th, 2010
9:19 am

Tony,
Good perspective on the problem with a subset of student athletes, and I like the way you identified the problem, offered a solution, and didn’t place blame simply by attacking a coach and throwing them under the bus. Maybe Schultzy should read your column to see what professional journalism is like…

Disciplined, Process-Oriented Dawg

July 13th, 2010
9:19 am

athensdawg,

You bring up an interesting point about the new defensive coaches possibly instilling a new attitude.

I have a theory that the only offensive coach we have that’s worth a d*mn is Searels. Richt, Bobo, Lilly, Ball, and McClendon are all mediocre at best. Just a theory of mine based on my observations over the years.

St. Richt

July 13th, 2010
9:20 am

Tony, “If I were a Georgia fan..???” You lose all credibility in the first sentence before you even get started. Newsflash Tony, you ARE a Georgia fan. There is no need to make this article hypothetical…

Mook

July 13th, 2010
9:22 am

Blah blah blah.

Today’s college athletes can catch or run just a little better than their peers in prison.

71TechEE

July 13th, 2010
9:23 am

@ Tommy P:

You didn’t read the story about King. He had a few beers, then he let an intoxicated person drive his car (in which he was a passenger) and when that intoxicated person hit another car he let him drive away.

There is a whole lot more there than “having a beer”.

Your attitude is part of the problem. Until fans demand better behavior and support coaches and administrators who also demand better behavior at THEIR respective school, nothing will change. And it is only a matter of time until there is a DUI homicide which is a whole new ballgame, idiomatically speaking.

The change starts with the adults and as already stated very well, not everyone who are season ticket holders and supporters are adults.

I’m all for second chances: from where I sit the driver should be gone from the university for a year and King should become a walk-on scout team player for a year, after that we could reconsider. If and when this happens at Tech, I hope Coach Johnson and DRad would agree.

Dan

July 13th, 2010
9:23 am

The athletes need to understand the school and NCAA is bigger than them. Face it, college fans would turn out to watch a turtle race if they were wearing the school colors. Set athletes academics at the same standards of the general population and you will have much less of this

Just thinking

July 13th, 2010
9:26 am

If I’m not mistaken, the legal drinking age in Georgia is 21. Is there not a no-alcohol-ever policy for UGA athletes? If not, why not? Why can’t CMR require his players to sign a pre-nuptial agreement (since this is going to be a marriage between player and school) that while I’m a UGA athlete I pledge that I will not drink or do drugs of any kind at any time? Have the kid sign it, have it legally notarized, and have every coach re-inforce it. The intense expectation a higher integrity might just change the atmosphere and mind-set of every athlete that puts on a UGA uniform. Couldn’t hurt!

Bulldog59

July 13th, 2010
9:27 am

Joel, good question, wondered that myself. Long road ahead for Evans.

IMHO, it is doubtful any large school will touch him for a while, even in a subordinate role. He’ll have to take a major step down in responsibility and title, to a small school most likely.

Charlie Bama

July 13th, 2010
9:27 am

A belated welcome back, Tony. I think the SEC and/or NCAA . . . ok, maybe skip the NCAA for this. Anyway, the SEC needs to establish a more uniform approach to the punishment that’s administered for the most frequent or common behavioral infractions, and probably for a lot really rare infractions as well (like hiding from cops under nearby parked cars? Hello? Are these guys even smarter than a fifth grader?). BTW, the Orange Hillbillies continue to reap what they’ve sown over the past five years, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving program. Dooley can do nothing but tolerate what he’s been handed. And why on earth does that doofus Orange Hillbilly AD still have his job?!? He should have been fired within nanoseconds of Kiffin’s departure!

Lou

July 13th, 2010
9:29 am

You really don’t here of these problems at schools like Rutgers and Princeton and Boston College (which are all highly rated in their conferences in football) or Brigam Young, etc., because they recruit scholars and then athletes. In the SEC it is opposite, we recruit athletes and then scholars. Get the point?

Jeff

July 13th, 2010
9:30 am

Well said Tony. To the other poster, IMHO Damon will land on his feet. He’ll end up at some sports management firm, potentially a media firm, or something else “behind the scenes”. After a period of penance he may emerge back in college/conference sports but I think it’s a minimum of 5 years and more like a decade given the damage.

59bulldawg

July 13th, 2010
9:31 am

Hey I wanna win as much as the next guy. But these seemingly almost weekly behavior problems by football players at Georgia tells me a lot about their lack of self-discipline and commitment to the program. They should either buy into what Richt expects or they should pack their stuff and go home. I’m tired of the distractions year after year after year. I like Richt but if he doesn’t get control of this, it will be his undoing. He needs to act with a stronger hand . . . perhaps even enact Draconian measures to get their attention. It’s evident to me that a suspension of a mere 1-3 games just has not done the job up to now. Perhaps it’s time to start revoking a few scholarships.