(Updated with SEC statement on coaches.)
Georgia’s attempt to achieve a rare exacta — 1) beat Florida; 2) win the SEC East — just got a little more difficult.
The SEC, in an expected move, has suspended two Bulldogs defensive starters — safety Shawn Williams and nose tackle Kwame Geathers — for their actions in last week’s victory over Vanderbilt. Each must sit out the first half of the Florida game. Also suspended for a half was Vandy center Logan Stewart.
Meanwhile, the conference chose not to act on the actions of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham or Vandy head coach James Franklin. That’s odd. It sends mixed messages.
This is not to suggest either Grantham or Franklin should have suspended, and a conference spokesman wasn’t even aware if there is precedent for a coach being fined for an on-field action. But the minimum of a public reprimand certainly seemed in order.
I sent an email to SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom asking why there was no publish discipline of any kind for Grantham and Franklin. This was his emailed response: “Matter handled internally between league office and schools.”
Coaches should be held to at least as high a standard as players. Actually, higher. They are the adults in this scenario, at least theoretically.
As for the impact of the suspensions: The Dogs’ defense has improved this season — notwithstanding a poor second half against Vanderbilt — so the loss of Williams and Geathers, even just for a half, hurts. Williams has been one of the defense’s best players, but was flagged for a flagrant personal foul in the third quarter. Geathers drew two personal fouls, one stemming from a punch at Stewart, who clipped him from behind.
Williams reportedly also was one of the initial sparks to the post-game scrum involving the two teams. Various videos from news sites have popped up, the most recent indicating that Williams was popping off after the game to Franklin, who then returned verbal fire, which brought Grantham into it. Then things exploded.
WSMV television in Nashville released raw video footage on Tuesday that showed a post-game conversation between Franklin and Georgia coach Mark Richt, who apologizes to the Vandy coach for the actions of Williams and Grantham (while also calling each a name).
Suffice to say, Richt did not intend for those comments to become public, even if he probably was right.
Here’s the transcript from the news video:
Franklin: “36 comes up, after a tough game, talking **** to me!
Franklin: “Rubbing our face in it right after the game!”
Richt: “He’s a dumb***.”
Franklin: “And then your coach when I tell him about it, then he goes after me and the fight starts.”
Richt: “That’s what I thought happened, I apologize. It’s horse **** horse ****.”
Then coach Franklin finds another coach to express his feelings to.
Franklin: ” Hey, 36 after a tough game, come over and going to talk **** in my face after the game. That’s NOT how my guys do it!”
This is two strikes for Grantham, including last year’s episode when he gave multiple choke signs to a Florida place kicker. But there has been no official statement from the school, and athletic director Greg McGarity has only referred to Richt’s post-game comments, in which the coach expressed regret for the way his team acted after the win.
On the field, the Dogs definitely will take a hit in the first half against Florida next week. But they take a hit off the field as well.
By Jeff Schultz