While coverage of the reported taxi cab incident in Athens allegedly involving four UGA football players has been pretty restrained in-state, the smear on Mark Richt’s program already is under way elsewhere.
Just check out this teaser headline early Friday on the Sporting News Today site: “UGA players attack fellow cab passengers.”
So much for due process and sticking to the facts.
And the most salient fact in all of this so far is this: Even assuming the incident actually took place as described in the police report, we don’t know for sure that the offending individuals actually were UGA football players. One of the victims says they were football players but he didn’t know their names, and in the police report, which wasn’t filed until several days after the alleged incident, he doesn’t say how he knew they were football players. Let’s hope he was basing that assumption on more than them just being four big black guys.
Bottom line: Police are still investigating and no charges have been filed.
So far, Richt has handled this exactly right. He said he’s aware of the report and “I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen from here, really. I don’t want to over- or underreact at this point.”
OK, so what if, after the case is investigated and adjudicated, it turns out that the incident happened just as described, the four individuals in question all were guilty, and all were Georgia football players. What then?
Early fan response in the blogosophere has leaned heavily toward “kick them off the team.” That would be a pretty severe punishment for some slaps in the back of the head and terroristic threats, but the basic thinking seems to be that players represent the university and such behavior just isn’t acceptable. A line has to be drawn somewhere.
However, all such discussion is still jumping the gun. Until we know for sure that the unknown suspects are indeed Georgia Bulldogs, everyone would do well to emulate Richt’s response.
As are most fans, I’m pleased to hear that in the post-Jon Fabris era kicker Blair Walsh will be allowed to kick it deep and go for a touchback more often. But as I noted last week, the main problem with the Dogs’ kickoffs the past couple of years wasn’t so much Fabris’ insistence on those high, short directional kicks as it was the lousy coverage that followed.
So it’s good to hear that’s being rethought as well, with Walsh saying, “I know we’re going down there and trying to bust helmets up. We’re literally just trying to beat the guy in front of us and go get the guy. It’s not a lot of schemes. It’s a lot of old-school football involved in our kickoff coverage. … You’re going to see a lot of guys hustle, a lot of fast stuff.”
If the Dogs get off those early blocks, make more of those first hits stick and close those open lanes in the coverage, it won’t matter so much where the ball comes down. …
It was also encouraging to see that Richt made the Dogs roll 200 yards — up the field and back — in an exhausting punishment drill at the end of Thursday’s practice because of too many penalties. That was one of the 2009 team’s biggest problems and should be near the top of the coach’s list of things to fix this season.