In the wake of all the ranting and tweeting we UGA fans did yesterday about the NCAA hammering A.J. Green, probably the wisest thing we can do is focus on what Mark Richt told his team: The Bulldogs football program is bigger than any one player.
Sure, the loss of Green for the South Carolina game (and two more if the school’s appeal fails) will hurt. OK, it’s not as bad as losing your quarterback or both your tailbacks. As someone noted, Green probably only would have touched the ball five to 10 times in the game. But let’s face it, those could have been among the most important five to 10 touches, making the difference between a first down and punting, or between scoring a touchdown and having to settle for three points — or no points.
Green is a big-play guy and while I’m not selling Tavares King and Kris Durham short, it’s unfair to expect them to just “step up” and take his place. They’re good; he’s great.
Still, it’s a team sport, and a decidedly more troubled Georgia squad showed last year that it can do pretty well without A.J., managing to hang on and beat Auburn after he went out with injury, and beat Georgia Tech without him. And it wasn’t the loss of Green that cost the Dogs the Kentucky game. The Gamecocks write off the Georgia receiving corps minus Green at their own peril.
So, yes, the Dogs’ task in Columbia got a bit more difficult, and it was going to be tough enough as it was. But if they somehow prevail, the win will be a bit sweeter, won’t it?
As for Green, my feelings are decidedly mixed. It was a dumb move to sell that jersey, especially to an “agent,” because he knew it was wrong. When you break the rules knowingly, it’s certainly a little more than “a mistake in judgment.” He let his team down.
Back in the summer when Green was saying that all Aaron Murray had to do “just throw it. It don’t have to be a great ball; it can be whatever, and I can make a play on it,” we saw that as a confident player just stating the facts. Maybe we should have seen it as a player who’d become a bit too full of himself. Who maybe thought he was bigger than the team.
Life has a way of equalizing things, though, and so Green may miss a third of his junior (and probably last) college season.
And yet as culpable as he is, the situation definitely isn’t fair to Green. As others have pointed out, colleges make millions off their players and UGA sells replicas of Green’s jersey, but he can’t sell his own jersey. Yes, it’s the rule, and he knew it was the rule, but it’s just one more example of the hypocrisy that riddles college sports and the NCAA.
What’s even more unfair is the four-game suspension handed down by the NCAA, which UGA is rightly appealing. Bama player Marcell Dareus got suspended two games for flying to a party in Miami at an agent’s expense while Green got four games for selling his jersey. Both broke the rules, but somehow that doesn’t look like equal treatment.
The NCAA said it reduced Dareus’ punishment because of “mitigating circumstances.” Hopefully those amounted to more than just playing for the defending national champion.
Bottom line: If A.J. had gotten into a fight in a bar or driven drunk, he’d have missed fewer games, and that’s just ridiculous.
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