Is UGA’s push for a uniform SEC drug policy finally gaining some traction?

Aaron Hernandez didn't have to deal with a tough drug policy at Florida. (Associated Press)

Aaron Hernandez didn't have to deal with a tough drug policy at Florida. (Associated Press)

It might have seemed UGA’s push to get the SEC to adopt a conference-wide policy on punishing athletes for drug infractions had gone nowhere after it failed to even get a vote recently.

As Greg McGarity put it in an online chat this week, “At the SEC meeting in Destin, we proposed consistent penalties across the board, but our proposal gained no traction. Therefore, the issue is moot unless it is brought up in the future.”

He did add, though: “We will continue to propose this procedure.”

And in the media, at least, the idea seems to be finding some of that missing traction as the arrest on murder charges of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has brought up again the fact that while he was a Florida Gator Hernandez apparently failed quite a few drug tests but only ever missed one game on suspension — a far cry from the way things are handled in Athens, where one infraction gets you suspended for a game.

Over in Alabama, AL.com columnist Kevin Scarbinsky wrote that Hernandez “could be the poster boy for a league-wide SEC drug policy.”

Looking back at how Hernandez, an All American and the top tight end available, slipped all the way to the fourth round in the 2010 NFL draft, Scarbinsky noted that The Boston Globe reported sources with three NFL teams said the player fell that far because of multiple failed drug tests while at Florida.

Hernandez in handcuffs this week. (Associated Press)

Hernandez in handcuffs this week. (Associated Press)

The Globe quoted one “longtime NFL executive” who suggested that Hernandez had failed as many as six drug tests at Florida.

Florida disputed that report, with Steve McClain, senior associate athletics director, sending what seemed like a carefully worded text to AL.com: “I would go on record saying he didn’t fail six drug tests (at Florida).”

So, what, he failed five? Seven?

Regardless, he missed only one game for failing a drug test, suggesting some folks in Gainesville were looking the other way much of Hernandez’s career.

Florida’s certainly not alone in its vulnerable position on this issue. There’s LSU and its handling of the infamous Honey Badger, Tyran Mathieu, who reportedly said he “quit counting at 10″ when it came to how many drug tests he failed at the school. Finally, he was dismissed from the team, but prior to that he’d been suspended for only one game.

Meanwhile, last season Georgia had Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree miss four games each for their second substance abuse infractions.

UGA’s policy calls for a suspension of 10 percent of the season (one game in football) for the first offense and a suspension of 30 percent of the season (four games in football) for a second positive. Kentucky and Mississippi State also suspend a player one game for his first drug infraction.

At all other schools in the SEC, a player who tests positive the first time does not miss a game. At Alabama and LSU, a second positive test forces a suspension of, at most, two games. At Florida, a second positive for marijuana results in merely a one-game suspension.

Georgia and nine other SEC schools dismiss a player after a third positive test, while Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and LSU’s policies call for a player not to be dismissed until after the fourth failed test.

Obviously, the schools with the less stringent policies gain a competitive advantage over those who are stricter. Thus, the lack of enthusiasm when Georgia proposed a consistent punishment policy.

Reader Jim P. pointed out in a recent letter to the Blawg that “It is a sad and disappointing fact that other SEC schools do not want to raise their standards to at least those of UGA and Kentucky. I am in favor of a uniform conference policy to the level of Georgia’s at the very minimum. And my opinion is not based solely on competitive advantage/disadvantage. UGA has proven a school can compete with stronger policies. Have people forgotten we are defending SEC East champs two years running? The truth of the matter is schools that do not raise their standards are ENABLING their student athletes when they are supposed to be helping them grow.”

No one is saying that use of marijuana in college leads to murder charges or that Hernandez’s problems are a result of Florida’s lax policies, but the school has certainly been embarrassed by fresh reminders of the reports he failed drug tests and yet only ever was suspended for one game.

As MrSEC.com noted this week, “a young man like Hernandez might have been better off if his school or his coach or — with a league-wide plan — the conference office had actually held him more accountable for his actions and delivered a bit more discipline. If he’d actually learned that his bad actions would carry serious consequences, maybe he would be in a better spot today. Ask yourself this: Did Urban Meyer’s decision to look the other way time and again with Hernandez help the coach or the player?”

Which brings us back to whether the SEC is likely to adopt a uniform policy. Unfortunately, that still seems unlikely unless Commissioner Mike Slive decides it’s in the conference’s best interests to get out in front of this issue (as he ought to). Then he might step in and start twisting some arms. Even then, Slive might have a tough time convincing some schools that everyone ought to be on the same page as UGA.

MrSEC suggested perhaps Slive ought to frame it as a “welfare of the student-athlete” issue.

That might work — assuming, of course, that the folks at Florida, LSU and the other conference schools balking on this really do care about their student athletes, and not just winning.

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50 comments Add your comment

Dan in AR

June 27th, 2013
9:54 am

Dan in AR

June 27th, 2013
9:56 am

Most definitely need a standard for the conference that has some teeth in it. But until the media starts bringing pressure on the other programs to make that change, nothing will happen.

Kim

June 27th, 2013
9:57 am

Ah, Saint Mark Richt…

ViningsDawg

June 27th, 2013
10:05 am

UGA policy may be a bit strict but it’s not a completely unfair model if everyone plays by the same rules. There’s definitely a happy medium and a set standard that may be slightly more stringent than the national average would be good for the conference image.

JDATL

June 27th, 2013
10:14 am

The NCAA is worthless. If they can’t set a standard on drugs, why exist.

TheBuckeye

June 27th, 2013
10:20 am

Seems to me there are a lot of SEC! SEC! dope smokers, past and present.

TheBuckeye

June 27th, 2013
10:21 am

Hey Junkyard,

Update your old school blog.

ATLDawg

June 27th, 2013
10:27 am

DRUGS = THUGS in every conference !

Bama Fan#2

June 27th, 2013
10:44 am

Hey Buckeye your school has a lot to be proud of!!!
Urban Fraud Meyer and one dumb EX-President
of the university Gordon I can’t shout by mouth GEE!!
So buckeye go back to your little 10 blog because
your a IDIOT!! RTR

Malinda

June 27th, 2013
11:09 am

Former Uga quarterback, Quincy Carter, was rumored to have issues with drugs. He threw 5 interceptions against S.C. And rumors were rampant. Jim Donnan, former Uga football coach apparently ” looked the other way”. What year did Uga begin their drug policy? I agree that student athletes are. Not helped when this behavior is tolerated.

J in Atl

June 27th, 2013
11:12 am

It seems to me that the NCAA should put drug testing standards to ALL schools regardless of conference. That would even the field for everyone and show the student/athletes that it cant be part of their lifestyle while at college or if they happen to turn pro.

TheBuckeye

June 27th, 2013
11:21 am

bama fan #2

Gee raised $billions for Ohio State.

I usually am a Bama fan on these blogs but thanks to you, not today.

Saldiven

June 27th, 2013
11:22 am

I find it funny that the NCAA can have stringent, codified policies in regards to performance enhancing drugs but says that they don’t have the capacity to enforce policies against illegal, recreational drugs.

Jaybird

June 27th, 2013
11:30 am

This is an interesting article that makes me say huh! Was not Aaron and Timmy roommates? What did Timmy know about Aaron drug problem? Could Timmy had done more to help Aaron? Is Timmy going to replace Aaron in New England? How ironic. How could Suburban Myers be so ignorant to the situation. I guess final scores are more important than educationing our young minds that actions has consequences. Good Luck Ohio State and anybody that commits to that school.

AltamahaDawg

June 27th, 2013
11:47 am

I think the caption for that picture should read:

Aaron Hernandez WAS the drug policy at Florida.

Charter member of Meyer’s Circle of Trust.

AltamahaDawg

June 27th, 2013
12:01 pm

On topic, Let me point out again. There are some SEC school that can go a long way towards stricter policies on this and still not be where we are on it. Also, the “penalty” is only one aspect. You have to test first to know. I doubt there would ever be any uniform testing policy adopted, and even if so, it darn sure would not included a marching them all down to the lab as they return from spring break.

It might be fair point for the penalty at least to be across the board the same. Not having ANY continuity whatsoever makes the SEC look like they are ignoring it on purpose.

But even they had a policthat is not going to be what we do. The truth is that what WE do, is on us. I personally don’t feel that it’s the other schools place to follow our lead.

AltamahaDawg

June 27th, 2013
12:10 pm

What I do not understand about failing it six times and no penalty is this: Or 3, or whatever.

I understand that they are simply not going to suspend somebody for a failed drug test. IF that is how the program operates. But why test him 6 times to GET a failed result, in the first place?

beanster

June 27th, 2013
12:14 pm

I am all for uniform policy throughout the league. Sooner or later the topic will be discussed. It will be interesting to watch which schools are opposed to adopting a policy as strict as UGA’s and how they try to justify their position.

I am not sure though that a tougher drug policy at UF would have changed anything for Aaron Hernandez. He “paid” his price by being taken so low in the draft but he earned his way to megastar pay through his on-field efforts. He just wasn’t smart enough to not throw it all away. I don’t think it’s coincidence that oftentimes incredible performers on the field are usually those that get involved in the most inexplicable off field behavior.

ARdawg

June 27th, 2013
12:21 pm

The sooner a strict league wide policy was in place the better all of college football will be. We shouldn’t even need to discuss it. There is no place for illegal drugs in College football

BigDawg

June 27th, 2013
12:26 pm

IMHO there has to be a uniform policy across not only the SEC but NCAA- first time offense should be a minimum of 1 game suspension, second offense you lose scholarship that is the only way to send a message to these young men that illegal drug use will not be tolerated. Also any school that ignores a player with a problem will lose scholarships and the coaches who know or should know will be fined and/or fired and not allowed to coach (call it the Urban Meyers rule).

Bulldawg35

June 27th, 2013
12:26 pm

Who really cares, this is Richts only worry….drug testing and making his players into good men! When is he going to start worrying about winning ball games??? He should be more worried making the most bone headed call of his career by not spiking the ball!!!!!!!!! Just think y’all we could of been the mnc champions of the 2012 CFB season…we would of pounded ND!!! But oh no…now we have to start all over again with a much harder schedule!!

NCDawg

June 27th, 2013
12:34 pm

How many rounds of this are we going to have to go through before the holier than thou types realize that this is widespread and THEIR school have just as many players that do it? They just don’t get punished. Meyer was only copying the policies that he saw at other schools because he knew that was what he had to do to be competitive.

Skokie Dog

June 27th, 2013
12:35 pm

Surprising as it may sound, I agree with Altamaha today. Other programs are not obliged to follow U.Ga.’s lead on drug testing and penalties. And I appreciate that Coach Richt enforces the penalty even in games when the talented but suspended players are needed to help the team compete, rather than choosing to bench them against weaker opponents.
If the U.Ga. policy affects decisions of potential recruits, then the team is probably better off without those who’d rather play where drug use isn’t taken as seriously.

AltamahaDawg

June 27th, 2013
12:45 pm

Oh now. not really such a surprise. You agree with most things I say, don’t you? Or at least when I am not yanking your chain for the sport of it.

NCDawg

June 27th, 2013
12:45 pm

Bulldawg35 – if he had spiked the ball it would have given Bama a chance to substitute and get their guys in position. The only reason he is is criticized is because the ball was tipped AND happened to land right in a guys hands that had no way to do anything with it. If it had fallen incomplete there was plenty of time for another play. If the ball had not been tipped and the pass was completed he would have been hailed as courageous gambler. It WAS the right call… we had Bama discombobulated. That is what the hurry up offense is about. We ripped their defense to shreds by flying up to the line and snapping the ball as quickly as we could. Why would you give a defensive genius like Saban even a moment to marshall his guys? ONE play was all it took. It just happened to get tipped and land in Conley’s hands.
Chill… Richt didn’t set the policy. He is probably not very happy with it. But he just DEALS with it and moves on. You think there might be a lesson in that?

PurplehazeDawg

June 27th, 2013
2:27 pm

Not sure what all worry is about… Kids gonna smoke em’ if they got em’. Besides, the Bulldogs are gonna be ready to take the field vs Clemson of the soft A-She-She Conference whether high or not!

Dogs over Cats Prediction: UGA 34 Clemson 14

PurplehazeDawg

June 27th, 2013
2:41 pm

@ TheBuckeye

Hey little 10 stepchild to the SEC! SEC! … It’s not as if weed is performance enhancing unless munching on doritos is the human growth hormone of the future.

Watch out for glass houses too: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1152611-25-elite-athletes-who-also-smoke-pot/page/4 and don’t get me started on your fav RB Maurice

JB

June 27th, 2013
2:46 pm

Make sure it’s random, and conducted by a third party from out of state. Can you imagine Saban controlling when where and how. That’s no good. Pop in unannounced from say Maryland somewhere.
HELLO…….

old dog

June 27th, 2013
3:13 pm

Good thing they didn’t have it way back in the day. In the ’70s the legal age was eighteen, and ex- grid stars hosted keg parties for the team (remember seagraves?) Heavy drugs were not too big a problem, but the weed was more popular than a smuggled bag of M and M’s at fat camp! Now, kids are castigated for underage drinking, while in the ’70’s (once again) see the Pandora (the UGA yearbook), where one page said “The #1 sport at UGA is NOT football….and it proceeded to show how to make all the drinks as well as directing the kids to the best drinking holes. As an extra, the mint julep was topped off with a pot-plant leaf. No kidding, do not take my word for it….see the dad-gum yearbook for yourself! I know that stuff changes, but don’t pretend the weed tokin’ wasn’t going on back then…..

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

June 27th, 2013
3:28 pm

Altamaha

Give me a break it took 2 seconds to just type media picks UGA to win SEC East 2012.

And from my post you searched, guess what I was right wasnt I about losing 2 games and one being that to SC

And guess what we will lose 2 or more games again this year. It really doesnt take a genius to see the obvious year after year

As for insulting; you started that years ago “Smart Guy”; I post what I have to say which happens to be realistic thinking but when those who want to live in la la land dont like what I have to say Im called not a fan to whatever else

GTBob

June 27th, 2013
4:26 pm

You guys do realize that this would hurt the SEC and not help it, right? Im all for it but im surprised any SEC fans would be.

NCDawg

June 27th, 2013
6:21 pm

GTBob – LOL! It’ll hurt the ACC as well and… well they don’t need to be undercut any more. ACC Basketball will be hurt if standardized drug testing is inmplemented as well.
It’s all a wash. Don’t pretend that schools elsewhere don’t cover up their weed heads as well. It is ubiquitous and if everybody is tested then it will all even out quite quickly.
The greatest pool of talent for football is in the south, if everybody is tested then there is no where to flee to and we still end up with the players AND we have a more level playing field.

TheMonger

June 27th, 2013
6:42 pm

UGA’s religious zealots are starting to get on my nerves with their draconian drug policies, and then expecting other institutions to change to their insane disciplinary actions. It is 2013 and the fear-induced reefer madness episode is over. Most college kids today understand marijuana is a relaxing, calming plant that is harmless, beneficial, and now socially acceptable. Drug policies will only get more lax (not harsher as UGA claims) as we get more advanced as a society. In 2013, doctors, lawyers, politicians, atheletes, all the way down to blue-collar workers all use marijuana. 70 percent of college students will use marijuana. And we are ruining kids futures and future salaries in the NFL over this (at least UGA is). Not to mention 99 percent of these failed drug tests are for the recreational use of benign, harmless marijuana. What does UGA not get? Why do they think this will EVER pass a vote in the SEC? Are they trying to be laughing stocks or something? Reminds me of the failed prohibition days in the 1920s. Conservatives refusing to open their minds to something outside their narrow stream of understanding. I have a relative who smokes medicinal marijuana to relieve debilitating arthritis and pain, is UGA going to hunt him down and suspend him from attending UGA games? Sadly, most likely they will…

TheMonger

June 27th, 2013
6:51 pm

Josh Harvey-Clemon’s suspension was for -MARIJUANA

Alec Ogletree’s suspension was for – MARIJUANA

Baccari Rambo’s suspension was for -MARIJUANA

Branden Smith’s suspension was for -MARIJUANA

When will this END? UGA is tearing it’s program apart over a plant! A harmless, benign plant! Something the majority of college students do, especially at a notorious party school like UGA. This is college and these kids are suppossed to be having fun and enjoying themselves before they have to enter the real world. Only in Mark Richt’s extreme conservative views and those of his religious fan-base of bible beaters is this not insane. Time to get with the times UGA, and stop destroying your football program and the futures of NFL talents like Alec Ogletree and Baccari Rambo over smoking a little bit of pot in the privacy of their apartments. Remember Mark Richt drug tested college kids the week after spring break! Seems like Mark Richt is either out-of-touch with reality or he is the one that needs to be drug tested.

NCDawg

June 27th, 2013
9:14 pm

Monger – the major problem here is that the substance is still illegal. The real rub here is that we as a country did not learn from prohibition. Marijuana should never have been made illegal in the first place. Just as banning alcohol did nothing to stop consumption and actually turned it into a booming business, the ban on pot has done the same. We wouldn’t be talking about this if we had learned from prohibition. It is a colossal waste of resources to try to stop it.
Just flat out legalizing pot won’t undo the damage that has been done.
Just so all you idiots out there don’t waste your time flaming me… I don’t smoke ANYTHING. I have no need for it and I don’t think inhaling poisonous hot gases is very smart. I just happen to know my history and I can see past the enormous piles of BS that have been piled up around this issue.

NCDawg

June 27th, 2013
9:15 pm

Monger – BTW Coach Richt doesn’t set these policies. This comes from the top.

NCDawg

June 27th, 2013
9:29 pm

Uh Flat Tire can I ask a question?

What part of anything on this blog did you just reply too? It was addressed to Altamaha and it made no sense whatsoever.
Just wondering…

Flo- Ri - Duh

June 27th, 2013
9:36 pm

Those that do drugs want a lax policy…. those that don’t do drugs want a policy with teeth.

You can tell by the comments on here who is toking the weed.

With the Prez of the U.S. admitting he has “experimented” (done) illegal drugs like pot and cocaine we do not have the role models and leaders for our young people(and our future) to look up to.

It’s only a matter of time before Obama and his handlers get pot legalized. Then we will see the real damage these illegal drugs do to our genetics over time and there will be a new wave of unknown diseases destroying our children – much like autism does today.

Dawg-Gawn

June 27th, 2013
9:40 pm

Just because everybody is doing it does not make it right….. come on… take just one bite surely you won’t die! Come on gratify the human flesh… you can easly become His equal… said the serpent

For me it’s an easy choice to follow the light of the Spirit…

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

spell the word flesh backwords dropping the h and you get SELF….

“I BELIEVE in the “G”

NCDawg

June 28th, 2013
8:25 am

I think what is lost on some people in the legalization debate is the simple fact that making the substance “illegal” created the market. The most sure fire way of creating demand is to tell people they should not do something. Making it illegal does nothing but create buzz. Hardly anyone knew what the stuff was except beatniks in 40’s and 50’s until it was made illegal.
As stated before I have no need for the stuff… we screwed up and it is too late to fix it because the market and demand are as strong as ever and decriminalizing it will do no good now. It should have been left alone.
If that had happened then we would not be talking about this at all. And farmers in the US could grow hemp… not cannabis sativa but real hemp and making good clean dollars for a very helpful product. Instead our DEA and FDA make no distinction between the two… which is totally idiotic.

Doing drugs is stupid… you don’t need them. If you think you do then you bought a total load of horse manure. Every human being is perfectly capable of dealing with life without crutches. Everything in our culture tells us that isn’t so and it is a lie. Running from a difficulty does not solve the problem and never will.

Flo- Ri - Duh

June 28th, 2013
8:47 am

The average stay on DEATH ROW is 15 years. Carl Isaacs who took part in murdering 5 members of the Alday family in south Georgia back in the 70’s finally got his justice in 2003 when he went under the needle. Two of his fellow murderers were commuted to life after originally getting the death penalty even though one of them admitted murdering three of the victims. What we need is more accountability not more enabling. One year to sentence, one year to appeal and one year to JUSTICE aka the DEATH PENALTY for taking a life. This will be a policy even the Aaron Hernandez’s of the world will understand.

NCDawg

June 28th, 2013
9:26 am

Flo-ri-duh – and no more insanity plea. The act of taking another human life is by definition an irrational act. Just because you planned it doesn’t mean you are rational. The insanity plea is total BS and always was and always will be.
And if you plead guilty then you should be executed immediately. No piddling around wasting taxpayer money. The death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent. No one likes that it is necessary to make an ultimate penalty like that but until humanity grows up, it is what has to be done.

AltamahaDawg

June 28th, 2013
9:42 am

Anybody who constantly feels the need to claim that they are the one who is “realistic”, has a problem with………….. reality, beyond the topic, IMO. Just the fact that you feel you need to keep saying that, means that you recognize that other’s probably don’t see it that way. So your insistence is pointless. I think pretty much all of us can recognize what is realistic and what is purely one man’s perception. Just say your thoughts and let people decide how they read it.

vince

June 28th, 2013
10:27 am

I think it is a plot by UGA to get the Cooner Noman’s in the lineup

UGA Insider

June 28th, 2013
1:36 pm

UF is a disgrace to the NCAA and to the SEC! Always have been and always will be. Meyer was trash and they way things look now it appears that Muschamp is following his lead.

UGA Insider

June 28th, 2013
1:39 pm

UGA 42
Clemson 17

Now go smoke on that!

AltamahaDawg

June 28th, 2013
3:20 pm

Buzz-off

June 28th, 2013
8:48 pm

Kim @9:57am
He’s not a saint, but he is saintly. Why do you hate that characteristic? Jealous or are you just plain old fashion wicked?

RED DOG 77

June 28th, 2013
9:11 pm

Now that was a first class article!…………..Best one you’ve ever written Bill………..Football aside, if young men and women are taught basic right/wrong skill while in college, think of the future they might have……………Bravo, Bill……………..RED DOG

MIGHTY DAWGS!

June 29th, 2013
5:13 pm

Come on NCAA start leading and stop following!