Is it fair to hold UGA athletes to a higher standard than other students?

Aron White has stood up for a former teammate. (Associated Press)

Aron White has stood up for a former teammate. (Associated Press)

The blogosphere can be pretty brutal, but there’s nothing like the columns and letters to the editor in a college newspaper when it comes to finger-pointing, moral absolutes and general snarkiness. The readers and writers are mostly students who’ve yet to experience the real world but have no doubt at all about the way things should be.

Believe me, I know. During my time at UGA I put in a stint editing and writing for The Red and Black’s opinions page.

Wading into a debate in such an environment can be a bruising experience, as Georgia tight end Aron White has found out.

White wrote a letter to The Red and Black recently taking issue with a column the student paper had run about Zach Mettenberger being kicked off the football team as a result of his drunken excursion to South Georgia on spring break.

The columnist, Bailey Keiger, a senior from Atlanta majoring in magazines, blasted Mettenberger for his “childish activities,” but also took a general shot at the school’s athletes, saying “this just shows the level of disrespect some student athletes — especially football players — have for their position at the university.”

She conceded that practice takes up a lot of the student athletes’ time but noted “they are given extra perks like a state-of-the-art training facility separate from the ‘regular’ student gym, and an exclusive studying center where they are given access to tutors and other academic resources.”

She declared herself a “huge sports fan” who has “attended almost every football game” in her four years at UGA and said her closet “has a disproportionate amount of red and black clothing.” And, she said, she understands what the athletics program does for UGA and “why these athletes are given special treatment; they hold a vital position in our university, one that is not easy to fill. They represent years of tradition and are often the face of our school. The special treatment is often justified and necessary to allow these players to fulfill both their academic and athletic duties.”

But, Keiger said, “I simply cannot understand why — after being given privilege after privilege after privilege — these athletes still continue to break rules and get themselves in trouble. Behavior like Mettenberger’s is unforgiveable … [and] shows a terrible ungratefulness of the benefits that have been bestowed upon athletes, and makes me almost want to burn the red and black in my closet.” She asked the athletes to “stop bringing shame to the Bulldog Nation.”

White responded with a letter to the editor in which he said that while he does not condone athletes breaking the rules, “I do not believe that a student athlete should be held to any higher standard than a normal student when being reprimanded for their actions.”

Athletes, he said, “are definitely in the spotlight and must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We have more stipulations put on our actions than non-athlete students and often have heavier loads as well. I agree that being a student athlete is a privilege. … I am more than grateful for the resources provided to me and my teammates. But the fact remains Zach Mettenberger is only a freshman. He should have used better judgment, but he would not be the first university student to get in trouble. He had a clean slate throughout high school and the rest of his freshman year of college.”

White’s main point: “If the staff of the Red & Black or any other student organization were watched as closely as our student athletes are then perhaps they would have more arrests and incidents too. So my advice to all UGA fans is to put this into perspective — UGA student athletes do not show a ‘terrible ungratefulness of the benefits that have been bestowed upon’ them. One mistake should not destroy Mettenberger or the rest of the student athletes’ characters.”

Keiger, White said, was “out of line” in her comments. He added a zinger that “A true fan would never think to ‘burn the red and black in her closet’ as she suggested in her column.”

White’s contention that athletes should be viewed like any other students drew a rebuke from R&B sportswriter Zach Dillard, who asked, “Come on, No. 81, are you really going to play that card?”

Said Dillard: “While Georgia fans should be proud to have such players as yourself who are making the most out of their college experience, other students are not going to feel sorry for a program who can not stay out of trouble — regardless of whether players are in a highly-scrutinized situation or not.”

On White’s point about athletes being viewed in the same light as other students, Dillard brought out the big hammer: “Feel free to keep petitioning on how the football program should be looked upon no differently than ‘any other student organization’ — then try to explain why football players’ average SAT scores were allowed to be 334 points lower than the average male student when your class was admitted back in 2007. So by all means, Mr. White, keep making insubstantial excuses as to why four Georgia players have been arrested in the past two months, and how the subsequent media attention is unjustified.”

Valid points on both sides. As Mark Richt noted when I chatted with him recently about his program’s spring troubles, athletes do receive public scrutiny that other students don’t and some are more comfortable with that than others. But it’s hard to argue with the point that since athletes are admitted to UGA under a different standard from regular students and are the public face of the university, they should be held more accountable.

What do you think? Should the members of the football team be viewed in the same light as any other group of students at UGA when it comes to getting drunk and arrested? Or is that higher standard a legitimate part of the deal when they get that scholarship? Was White unwise making a public defense of Mettenberger?

And, finally, would any true Dogs fan really consider burning their red and black clothing?

193 comments Add your comment

Deliah

April 28th, 2010
11:23 am

A huge three-game sweep in baseball last night at Turner Field. What a great time to be a Yellow Jacket and own those Athens b*tches. Three wins in baseball more than trumps football and basketball.

Well, that’s the big news out of the way, so now we can go back on UGA arrest watch. It’s a tough job, but someone has to keep track of all the arrests in Athens.

And really, who cares about UGA QBs? They’ll most likely be arrested and thrown out of school long before game day. Mettenberger? Holding on to his mama’s apron strings whining like the baby he is, after getting a good spanking.

Deliah

April 28th, 2010
11:29 am

Bailey Keiger makes good sense, especially for someone at a party school like UGA.

The really stupid thing here is that UGA, the coaches, the players, break all the rules, and they still can’t be competitive in the SEC. Sorry, that just doesn’t compute.

yeah whatever!

April 28th, 2010
11:35 am

yeah whatever!

April 28th, 2010
11:36 am

deliah …good job staying on point …. baseball?

yeah whatever!

April 28th, 2010
11:39 am

under Richt

He is 24-7 against the SEC West.

He is 28-16 against the SEC East.

He is 38-4 against nonconference opponents.

He is 8-1 against Georgia Tech.

He won four of his first five games against Tennessee, but has lost three of the last four against the Vols since then.

He was born the same year as Chuck D of Public Enemy.

Ranks third in winning percentage among active college coaches that have coached for at least five years, now that Pete Carroll left USC for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

He is 90-27, trailing only Urban Meyer (96-18) and Bob Stoops (117-29).

Mark Richt is one of only six coaches to win two SEC football championships in their first five years coaching. He is also one of only five head coaches in SEC history to record four straight 10-win seasons

Coach Richt’s Red and Black outfits have never posted a losing record in conference play and six of his last eight squads have finished 6-2 or better in regular-season SEC contests

Mark Richt’s overall success in Southeastern Conference action—including two SEC titles, three conference championship game appearances, and four finishes of no worse than tied for first place in the East, with no losing records in the process—is without parallel in Georgia football history.

yeah whatever!

April 28th, 2010
11:40 am

There are those in Bulldog Nation who would like to see Mark Richt run out of town on a rail. Such people should be turned over to the custody of Mike Leach, in the hope that he will treat their obvious head trauma the way he treated Adam James’s

Denver Dawg

April 28th, 2010
11:43 am

I think it’s hard to respond to the topic (as requested) WHEN EVERYTHING I WRITE IS BLOCKED, Mr. King!

Bradley G

April 28th, 2010
11:45 am

While I agree Aron would do well to keep his mouth shut, one could also agree that Bailey was clearly sensationalizing her article to bring home a point. Burning her red and black? Lumping “most” football student athletes in a box together? I think that was Aron’s point as much as anything.
As much as I think Mett made a huge error, I also agree he should not be defined by it either.

How2fish

April 28th, 2010
11:46 am

Good article Bill…I wonder if Ms Keiger spent some time in a weight room or running wind sprints before and after her classroom work it might help her understand the difference between a student athlete and a student..the added pressure of the spotlight and the added workload is huge..should the athlete’s strive to be figures of pride for the Bull Dog Nation of course but mistakes by 19 year olds will happen..I fully back CMR’s actions in response to these mistakes but if you think this is a UGA matter only well your fooling yourself . Also I applaud Aron White’s standing up for his team mate and as far as Zach Dillard’s comments …what is his 40 time?

Jay

April 28th, 2010
11:47 am

Never ever would a real DAWG fan burn the red and black!

[...] team was “probably worse at not getting turnovers than we were at giving them up.”7.  Is it fair to hold Georgia’s athletes to a higher standard than the regular student body? 8.  Kentucky native Jarrod Polson has chosen to walk-on for John [...]

Thirty Points To Your Twenty-Four Points

April 28th, 2010
11:53 am

do you have Key Words that get your whole post blocked Bill??

As a journalist on a freedom of speach blog, you should know better. I am about to stop following you.

Thirty Points To Your Twenty-Four Points

April 28th, 2010
11:54 am

This is a real pet peeve with me..

April 28th, 2010
11:58 am

…and Chip Towers is the worst offender of trying to make UGA athletes look bad when they are really no worse than the everyday student. The NCAA writes a 5000 page “guide” as to how not to treat athletes as “special”, yet when they screw up they ARE treated “special” by the media, which is totally unfair.

As to Mr. Dillards tirade about athletes being admitted with lower test scores than regular students, that argument is not valid in this context since both sets of students are just that, students, and I believe these United States of America were founded on the proposition that everyone deserves to be treated equally – the athletes may have “state of the art” facilities, but the students do, too, if only they would choose to participate instead of demoguoging (sp) those who are REQUIRED to use the athletic facilities.

dawginmemphis

April 28th, 2010
12:10 pm

I’m not sure you can make a causal connection that the benefit of a lowered SAT requirement compels the burden of more public scrutiny. We (alumni, fans, boosters) are the ones that create the great demand for athletic success at UGA. The lowered SAT requirement is something we have created through a byproduct of our own demands. The student-athletes themselves are only seeking to play football and get a good education at a place they enjoy.

When I was a freshmen, I probably could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been arrested for public intoxication 365 times. In fact, on one occasion, I came extremely close to having a laundry list of charges outside Sons of Italy. I did actually get two M-I-P’s in my teenage years. I am also now a member of the Tennessee Bar and practicing attorney. All of these charges were disclosed to the Board of Law Examiners before I was issued a license and, during a fitness interview, these charges were brought up in discussion. The Tennessee Bar officials concluded that these were not uncommon lapses in judgment that occurred during my adolescent years.

But apparently a college football team has higher moral standards than most state bar associations ? Unless Mettenberger lied to Richt, his dismissal is total B.S. This is all created by a politically correct climate at the university that fears the flames of media and blogosphere scrutiny that somehow lead outsiders to believe some jock kid getting arrested is going to make the academics at the university appear less worthy.

Also, wasn’t Richt a little bit of a deviant in his college days at Miami (before he came to Jesus)? I wonder if he ever did anything—caught or uncaught—that would’ve warranted dismissal from the team ? My guess is probably yes.

The D

April 28th, 2010
12:11 pm

I would never burn my red and black, but I must say the athletes need to drink in their apartment, ride the bus instead of mopeds, and stay away from cleat chasing girls who want to ride the wave of fame with them, and avoid Downtown, do this and you can stay out of trouble like I did from 2001-06. BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS

Delusional Dawg

April 28th, 2010
12:13 pm

On a serious note, student athletes are a very public face of any university and are given very specific priviledges. They are very well informed and continually educated by these schools to stay away from specific bad behaviors. It may seem unfair at times but the reality is that they ARE held to a higher standard because they have been given a scholarship (a significant investment by the school) and these priviledges under these provisions.

Bryan

April 28th, 2010
12:15 pm

Being an athlete is a privilege and if you don’t act responsibly you will lose it. I like the stance Mark Richt took, situations can be subjective at times, so I don’t think a zero-tolerance policy would be fair, but I would like to see more players dismissed when they act up. We have had WAY too many off season arrests that have been the result of poor judgement. If you can’t take care of yourself off the field, then you most likely aren’t going to work hard enough on the field. We should win the right way, and our players should understand that.

Saint Simons is my Caddy

April 28th, 2010
12:17 pm

Yes they should be held at a higher standard. Either they are on scholarship or have chosen to represent the schools athletics. That’s like saying is an elected official held to higher standards that an ordinary citizen. Hell yes they are. Especially the scholarship athletes. Free Ride Freddie better whistle the damn alma mater between classes! Now…..boys will be boys and expecting they won’t drink and get into trouble is just not realistic. Taking a tough stance is the proper way of handling it. I think we are starting to do this now. If the athlete is drinking, drunk…..slap them with a punishment. If they commit a crime/felony other than drinking while intoxicated, put them out of the program.

dawggrl

April 28th, 2010
12:20 pm

I think we should be accountable for our actions, but I also made mistakes while I was in college. Isn’t the whole point to learn from them?

The D

April 28th, 2010
12:25 pm

sure if you are a regular student, but when you are given a tutor from the start, free housing, food, and school, you can’t keep making the mistakes our players have, they need to learn how to not get caught if they want to make mistakes!!!!

Traditional Dawg

April 28th, 2010
12:26 pm

If we wear Black Helmets again, I may consider burning my donation check.

CSU

April 28th, 2010
12:39 pm

No, they should hold the same standards and rules, like every other student. However many time this is not the case because most of the time, Athletes really get to do whatever they want, knowing that they will not suffer consequences. In many cases, they also cheat their way through school by having other people write their papers and other work in order to keep their scholarships. In addition, it is usually the black athletes who are watched more closely and who also have higher standards, which leads to a whole different problem

CSU

April 28th, 2010
12:41 pm

I also know a particular UGA football player who cheated their way through and know plays pro football!

foolishness

April 28th, 2010
12:41 pm

Unfortunately, many UGA football players feel invincible because of their sudden fame. I remember when I was at Bourbon Street (the bar in Athens, not Nawlins) a few years ago when a 19 year old named Matt Stafford walked in, went behind the bar, and started making drinks for himself. He drank a few, yucked it up with the bar staff, then left with a mixed drink in hand.

Obviously, Matt didn’t get caught, but my point here is that athletes need to be more discrete when it comes to partying. Drinking is what it is, but there is no need to not take the necessary precautions. Hell, sneaking around is more than half the fun of underage drinking.

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

April 28th, 2010
12:45 pm

Its obvious that scholarship athletes are held to a lower standard than non-scholarship athletes at UGA. Kinda weird how those athletes are immediately kicked off the team….

chazzo

April 28th, 2010
12:49 pm

Clear and concise…. Get your answer here.

Athletes are not held to a higher standard!!!!!

Athletes are held to Athletic Department standards.

A regular student will not be kicked ff the team for drinking and fighting because they are not on a team. But, they will get kicked out of school. I am living proof of that. Happened back in 85 when that sort of thing was acceptable.

People are getting busted drinking downtown. Don’t go drinking there. If you are underage. Don’t go drinking on a fake ID. If you can’t stop; get help.

ET

April 28th, 2010
12:51 pm

Yes you can hold football players to a higher standard simply because they are given a scholorship to play ball. They are representing the university on a team that is watched nationwide. What they do affects the school’s image. A regular UGA student getting jailed for DWI doesn’t make the front page of the sports page accross the nation. When the heir apparent to the QB job is jailed everyone in the country knows it. Hey just saying…

uuughh...

April 28th, 2010
12:53 pm

The grass is always greener I guess. Regular students would rather be football players with their free tuition, apartment, food, tutors, chicks, and the higher progile. Atheletes would rather have the less scrutinized regular student’s life.

The lower SAT score is absolutely a benefit. If they had to score what regular students did, they would not have been admitted. If somebody would’ve spotted me almost 400 points, I would have gone to Harvard.

DAWG258

April 28th, 2010
12:53 pm

I like to see 81 standing up for a teammate and I agree with him on most points. My question would be are we really bashing a 19 year old for doing the same thing 99% of us have done? I agree he should be punished to the same degree that we ALL were for doing the same thing and they definitely shouldnt be getting off scott free just for being a football player.
Obviously a football player getting into trouble will have to deal with everyone knowing the details of their crime and punishment, I think thats where they are held to a hire standard, but at least they are held to it.
I’m still waiting to see what happens to the UT Safety that just got the same arrest. Also I wonder when UF will start suspending players for ALL the apparent failed drug test that are being covered up while in season, which I think deems a much harsher punishment. Not to mention this act by Zack is no where in the area code of a player using a dead girl’s credit card.
under 21 drinking is what it is and most of us have done it! I would only suggest only carrying 1 of the id’s at a time. Lets be real folks!

I look forward to your response!

uuughh...

April 28th, 2010
1:00 pm

I think we should set the football players up with some sort of Scarlet Letter that would make them stand out from everyone else even moreso that they do already. This way the players, the police, the coaches, and the fans all know that when you step out of line you are going to get caught without exception.

Why stop there though? Maybe we should brand them…or make them wear special collars and chain them up outside Butts Mehre at night.

gcs

April 28th, 2010
1:06 pm

Yes, it is fair to hold UGA athletes to a higher standard than other students. They are public representatives of the University. They are seen on national television by millions of people.
In return, they get the joy of playing their favorite game for free room & board, athletic gear, tuition and training for a job that could possibly make them millions of dollars.

.

uuughh...

April 28th, 2010
1:07 pm

I would think a football player stands out in Tuscaloosa like a sore thumb…just as they do in Athens. Are the cops in Tuscaloosa just looking the other way or paid off or something? Do we just have a bunch of Dudley Do Right’s in Athens?

All schools recruit from the same misbehaving pool of kids…you would think a certain number of arrests per offseason would occur across all schools. Why do we have an inordinate number?

DAwg

April 28th, 2010
1:09 pm

This is one of the top universities and athletic programs in the nation and these kids need to keep that in mind! Inexperience is not an excuse for foolish behavior.

chazzo

April 28th, 2010
1:13 pm

The drinking age is 21. If you drink under age, you are wllfully and knowingly breaking the law. Yeah, everbody does it, but you know it is illegal. Why is anybody surprised when they have to pay consequences. If I speed I don’t whine that it’s unfair that I got a ticket. Still, everybody speeds.

Figure it out, folks, d^^n. It is not a deep philosphical debate, here. Throw disorderly, assault, resisting, and posession of multiple fake IDs on top of it. Then the question really becomes why do athletes think they deserve special treatment.

I feel for Mett. I wish him all the best. but, he screwed the pooch. Who’s next? Do you want play football, or do you want to drink and party? Get your priorities straight.

collegeballfan

April 28th, 2010
1:16 pm

Yes they should be held to a higher standard than “regular” students.

Students on Academic scholarships are also held to a higher standard.
Getting a free ride equals higher standards. If Mr. White does not like the higher standard, then he can turn in his scholarship.

kwitchawinin

April 28th, 2010
1:28 pm

What a bunch of hypocrites!

Had Logan Gray gotten caught doing this stuff and was kicked off the team, no one would question the “fairness” of the rules. All the Georgia fans would go…tough luck, kid….we got Mettenberger and Murray.

But when the object of everyone’s man crush gets booted, it’s a different story……

Lowcountry Bulldawg

April 28th, 2010
1:37 pm

What Bradley G. said!

1eyedJack

April 28th, 2010
1:48 pm

uuughh…
Harvard ain’t what it used to be, and never was. Unless you need to be liberalized with the Obama koolaid.

DoubleDownDawgFan

April 28th, 2010
1:52 pm

I just hope we don’t get swept in Football and Basketball like we did in Baseball. Dad’gumit them GT boys can hit that ball! We’re starting out 0-3 this year to them GT boys….I hope we right this ship soon!

How2fish

April 28th, 2010
2:00 pm

DoubleDownDawgFan relax November is coming and the one given in College football is that UGA will stomp a mudhole in the Bugs once again this year.We may only field a team of 11 midgets but we will again beat the Bugs.

ChuckWDawg

April 28th, 2010
2:15 pm

It doesn’t matter what writers and the Red and Black think the standards of behavrior for atheletes should be. Or what fans think. Or what players like Aron White think. What matters is what the coaches standards are. Mark Richt has kicked four of his players off the team this year. The Red and Black is just a newpaper with opinions that only carry as much weight as you allow them to in your own mind. If I’m Aron White or any other Bulldog football player I would just make sure I stay in the Coaches’ good graces.

Old Dawg

April 28th, 2010
2:22 pm

Plain and simple, scholarship athletes should be held to a higher standard than the rest of the student body. Arguably, they are the face of the university on TV, on blogs and in print. Arguably, their actions reflect those of the university when recruits are making decisions on where to play and go to school. Arguably, their actions after they leave school are a reflection on the school they played for.

If these issues aren’t burned into their brains in the years before attending college, parents, families, coaches and administrators are also to blame.

To borrow a line from a well-known movie, with great talent comes great responsibility. As complicated as we make this, it really is that simple.

SOGADOG

April 28th, 2010
2:33 pm

I agree with Mr. White, but he will soon learn you cant win a debate with people that buy paper by the ton and ink by the barrel.

Dbalcer

April 28th, 2010
2:37 pm

I think Mark Richt should decide on the appropriate punishment for his students. I disapprove of underage drinking but I do think that athletes are held to higher standards than regular students. Hope scholarship is a free tuition given to students for performance much like an athletic scholarship is to an athlete and no student would loss that scholarship for what happened to Mettenberger. I do believe that there is more to story we did not hear about. I believe zero tolerance can have a double edge that hurts people who make a mistake as well as those who continually make bad choices. I believe that second chances are necessary in life. I also believe that all journalist now days go for sensationalism and that is what the Red and Black writer was doing. I applaud Aron for sticking up for his friend. I hope Mettenberger gets a chance some where else it would be a shame for one bad decision to ruin his chances at a career he loves. I am sure most of us would not want that standard applied to our children.

ARdawg

April 28th, 2010
2:37 pm

YEAH! What Bradley G said

ARdawg

April 28th, 2010
2:41 pm

I feel bad for Mett. He had and still has one heck of a future to look forward to but, hey, if you are going to dance there does come a time to pay the fiddler. I know of Remerton well and the Keystone cop situation. There must have been more to the story than what we have been told. I really cannot see CMR kicking him off the team for this incident alone.

ARdawg

April 28th, 2010
2:44 pm

Yes Georgia athletes should be held to a higher standard. They are being allowed to represent the school which is providing them a free education. Thats the difference Aron. There are rules to follow, break the rules and deal with the consequences or do not break the rules. It’s not rocket science

St. Richt

April 28th, 2010
2:46 pm

Good to know that per the change made by Michael Adams yesterday to the alcohol and drug policy, that student athletes are now going to be held to lower standards than they were before. That should help!

RxDawg

April 28th, 2010
3:15 pm

What White did wasn’t “unwise”. I thought it was a well thought out letter actually and I was glad that he somewhat defended his position as a UGA football player over scruitinized. Doesn’t mean he is completely right, but it’s nice to see him speak out a little bit. It might make that next article written by the R&B a little less self rightous.

Really this all comes to Zach Mettenberger. We still don’t know exactly why he was kicked off. Getting drunk and restless in a bar doesn’t warrent getting kicked off the team. At least as a first offense and only incident. Something else had to of happened and fans, media, and apparently the football team still don’t know exactly why Metts got the boot. Speculation will continue to fly around until this is cleared up. Honestly I’m kind of saddened that Richt feels the need to keep this thing on the hush hush. I’d like to think he’s doing this to protect Zach.