Blame Mark Richt? He’s not the one who’s embarrassing UGA

Even a tougher brand of love goes only so far.

Even tougher love goes only so far. (Special to the AJC)

Mark Richt is a nice guy. Mark Richt believes in forgiveness. Mark Richt looks for the best in people. Mark Richt coddled Odell Thurman.

All of this is true. None of it explains, at least not fully, why Georgia players keep getting arrested.

Let’s stipulate that Richt was too lenient for too long. But he has toughened since the egregious offseason of 2008, when eight Bulldogs got arrested and stole a goodly part of the luster that should have descended on a team ranked No. 1 in preseason for the first time in school history. He has kicked more guys off the team. He has instituted an automatic one-game suspension for anyone arrested (for the first time) on an alcohol-related charge. Yet here Georgia sits, two summers later, having cut its offseason arrest total by …

One.

Seven Bulldogs have been arrested this calendar year. Three have been dismissed from the squad, including Montez Robinson, who figured to play at linebacker, and Zach Mettenberger, who might have challenged Aaron Murray as Georgia’s starting quarterback. Backup tailback Dontavius Jackson, arrested Saturday on DUI and five other charges, has been suspended for half the 2010 season.

This is no longer the Richt of repeated second chances, but it hasn’t much mattered. Bulldogs are still messing up — even as we note that an arrest isn’t a conviction, we must also face the reality that getting arrested generally isn’t a signal of meritorious behavior — even though they should know their actions can and will have consequences.

No, Georgia isn’t alone in having football players make the wrong kind of headlines. But it has happened so often with these Bulldogs that each incident bears a subtext: It isn’t that a Georgia player has been arrested but that another Georgia player has been arrested. And Richt, as head coach, must bear some responsibility. But responsibility isn’t the same thing as blame.

This man is a football coach, not a prison warden. In the name of discipline, he cannot put his men under dormitory lockdown. If he did, it wouldn’t be discipline. Discipline is about having the freedom to make choices and then choosing wisely. Too many Georgia players continue to be, for want of a better word, unwise. And that’s not on the head coach. That’s on them.

Maybe Richt needs to be more careful about the players he pursues — recruiting risks tend to bite the hand that signs them — but that can be said of every program everywhere. Richt is in business to win games, not to oversee the glee club. He’s going to be in  a lot more trouble if Georgia goes 8-5 again than if another 19-year-old gets caught with a beer. But the 19-year-olds have to smarten up.

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If they can’t grasp that there’s increased scrutiny on this program — especially after the arrest and resignation of Damon Evans — they’re not bright enough to attend an institution of higher learning. If they can’t understand that being a Bulldog is both an honor and a responsibility, they shouldn’t be allowed to wear the red jersey.

Too many college athletes (and not just Georgia athletes) have been so pampered they believe they’re untouchable. Reality check: They’re not. Just because a bunch of folks followed their recruiting and got excited when these blue-chippers put on a certain school’s cap doesn’t mean a player can’t be arrested, can’t be disciplined, can’t be forgotten in the time it takes to say, “You’re off the team.”

Say what you will about Mark Richt, but for more than a decade he has carried himself in a way that has conferred honor on UGA. He is, alas, only one man. He cannot make choices for 85 others. He can try to lead them, teach them, punish them when necessary, but in the end everything comes down to free will.

Too many Bulldogs act as if they’ve been handed a free pass through life. (Reality check: Nobody gets one of those.) Too many Bulldogs need to grow up or go home.

831 comments Add your comment

Sting 'Em

July 12th, 2010
1:49 pm

If Richt had a stronger policy in place, arrest == dismissal, instead of this weak probation that he has now, it wouldn’t be an issue. Players know they can screw up and only get a hand slap.

wiley

July 12th, 2010
1:52 pm

The players…duh. First?

Mark Bradley

July 12th, 2010
1:53 pm

Second, actually, wiley. So close.

Eisendawg

July 12th, 2010
1:54 pm

Great article Mark. Let me the 1st to congratulate you

gabeaux

July 12th, 2010
1:54 pm

Pick quality players with good character. Impossible? No, just tougher.

TL

July 12th, 2010
1:56 pm

Alabama has not had an arrest going on 3 years. It’s called discipline. UGA has NONE. UGA’s program is a disaster.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley. Mark Bradley said: Blame Mark Richt? He's not the one who's getting arrested and embarrassing #UGA. http://bit.ly/brZdji [...]

wiley

July 12th, 2010
2:00 pm

Let me elaborate now that I have claimed first. The coaches cannot be expected to hold the hands of players no matter what program we are talking about. College campuses are easy places to get in trouble with alcohol and fights…this is a valid point. The coaches can only do so much and during this time of year..l dont even think the coaches are allowed to have a great deal of contact with players from NCAA rules. I will acknowledge the counter-argument to this…being the coaches are the ones recruiting these kids….but that argument is hardly valid because the recruiting process does not have anything to do with character. Its all about athletic abilities and grades….its impossible to judge people in that respect with out being involved in their personal lives…something most football coaches dont/shouldn’t be expected to do. I think the best thing UGA can do is adopt stricter penalties….1 game for some of these offenses is a joke. A season should be the mandatory punishment…I bet you wont see many of these fights and DUIs if that kind of punishment is ever adopted.

Beast from the East

July 12th, 2010
2:00 pm

While I agree that this is certainly not Richt’s fault, he does need to be tougher on the offenders. Sooner or later they have to get the message, don’t they? Man, one would hope so. I like the concept of punishing the “team” for an individual’s actions. Peer pressure is long-lasting and VERY effective.

wiley

July 12th, 2010
2:00 pm

Dang it showed first on my end until I reloaded the page. Oh well….maybe next time.

Mark Bradley

July 12th, 2010
2:00 pm

Thanks, Eisendawg. You should know the competition to be “first” to offer congratulations is not half as heated as the rush to be “first” overall.

Mark Bradley

July 12th, 2010
2:01 pm

Those reloads are tricky, wiley.

blue

July 12th, 2010
2:04 pm

TL…really? The number of times that Bama’s program has been sanctioned/penalized/busted for recruiting violations…and you are going to accuse someone else’s program of being a disaster?

fair and Balanced

July 12th, 2010
2:05 pm

“Thug U”. We deserve the title. Not necessarily Richt’s fault, but he is the coach of a bunch of thugs and that can’t be denied.

Engy

July 12th, 2010
2:05 pm

Mark Bradley: Third paragraph, towards the bottom. Replace “charged” with “charge”.

This moment of pedantry was brought to you by a helluva engineer and the letters G, T and J.

Mark Bradley

July 12th, 2010
2:06 pm

Thanks, Engy.

Jeremiah Masoli

July 12th, 2010
2:06 pm

I plan on matriculating at Auburn this fall since they don’t mind having laptop thieves qb their football team.

Dawglasville

July 12th, 2010
2:06 pm

What I would like to see happen will never happen. Make the kids qualify for school on the same standards the rest of the student body has to have. Try out for the team. Then get a scholarship.

Then you can set up some minor league football league just like in baseball.

Otto

July 12th, 2010
2:08 pm

TL has a point. Bama may have a dirty past but Saban has the program clean and LSU was clean under Saban. The coach sets the tone.

Ron D

July 12th, 2010
2:08 pm

EJ

July 12th, 2010
2:08 pm

fla_dawg

July 12th, 2010
2:09 pm

Bama, and other schools, University cops are just corrupt. They know it would hurt the program. UGA cops tend not to care.

Mike

July 12th, 2010
2:09 pm

@TL, I’d argue that Alabama would rather keep their players out of the news as opposed to having a count going on how many arrests can get in the AJC like we do here. Out of 100 players on a football team, you mean to tell me 3 or 4 haven’t gotten in some kind of trouble in 3 years? Please.

I know for certain that the players in BAMA can get away with anything other than crimes committing bodily harm on other people. DUIs are a ride home for BAMA players. Trust me.

WarEagle

July 12th, 2010
2:09 pm

Hey, TL, at least UGA is not on probation, like your slimy program has been what 4 – 5 times in the past 20 years.

And no, it’s not called discipline. It’s called Saban owning the Tuscaloosa PD. Everybody knows this . . .

blue

July 12th, 2010
2:09 pm

Otto; true…Saban does appear to have things much cleaner…or at least, they are better at not getting caught!

Mike

July 12th, 2010
2:10 pm

For TL…Apparently you don’t read the Tuscaloosa News very often….8 Alabama players were charged with a crime from the Summer of 07 till Feb of ‘08. In August of last year Courtney Upshaw was arrested for domestic violence against his girlfriend.

Saban runs a great program but most of these athletes are still kids and make immature decisions.

Old Tech

July 12th, 2010
2:11 pm

….. “Maybe Richt needs to be more careful about the players he pursues…” ???? I understand that some arrests are minor offenses, (like underage alcohol), but drunk driving? leaving scene of accident (hit and run)? Also, this is Athens. How expensive, especially in comparison to other amounts spent, would some kind of taxi pick-up for players be? If not allowed by NCAA – why the hell not? Drunk driving is far worse than a kid getting a free ride home, especially if it will save the kid’s (or someone else’s) life? Richt has to take blame, he is their “loco parentis” and must advise and provide alternatives for “his” kids. He can not be shocked to find out that kids drink alcohol in college towns and say that it is the players’ fault.

GTSteve

July 12th, 2010
2:11 pm

This kids don’t appreciate the opportunity that they are given in a full ride scholarship…..what a waste to just throw it away

longtimedawgfan

July 12th, 2010
2:13 pm

with the forced resignation of Damon Evans a new message needs to be sent to those others, i.e., players, coaches, and administrators, who have been privileged to be selected to be a part of the UGA program… to whom much is given, much is expected….henceforth, zero tolerance…if you can’t understand that you must live your life in a glass house, move on….no option…deal with it or go somewhere else….you can’t tell me that you should expect a running back who drinks and drives to hold on to the football better…you can’t tell me that catching a pass becomes easier when you drink alcohol…get it right or move them out…

leland

July 12th, 2010
2:15 pm

Richt should also tell them not to laugh at other teams when its players fall down-down so that they won’t laugh at UGA when its players fall down-down.

Hurry, Marky.

TILTman

July 12th, 2010
2:15 pm

More arrests at UGA correlate with the fact that Athens is THE ULTIMATE party town — a bacchanalian mecca for those ages 18-25. Hell, even the tailgating middle-aged adults get their fix when they roll into town. And if they’re caught, it’s not headline news. If these guys play football somewhere else, in a small town at a more low-profile football school, their “criminal” actions would most likely go unnoticed and and unscathed. Mark Richt can only do so much: you can’t take Charlie to the Chocolate Factory w/o Veruca, Violet, Mikey and Augustus indulging . . .

ac

July 12th, 2010
2:15 pm

Comparing the number of football players who’ve been arrested at UGA vs. Alabama is like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they’re both college football towns, but they’re different in several ways.

The real story maybe the number of unreported incidents that go on in many of these college towns including Athens.

I know one thing. I’ve lived in Alabama for a few years. Those people are nuts for the Alabama football team. They are more zealous over their football program than UGA.

With that said, I would HATE to be the local cop who gets a star player suspended in Alabama. He probably would have to be placed in protection for a few months until the football season was over.

Like I said, you can’t compare. Kids are kids whether they are in Alabama or Georgia and they ALL make stupid decisions. There are a TON of these incidents that go unreported. Trust me.

allan in texas

July 12th, 2010
2:16 pm

Great column Mr. Bradley. Nothing more to be said!

Common Sense

July 12th, 2010
2:16 pm

You are a college football player who has been arrested. You now have two choices: You can walk into Coach Richt’s office to face the music or you can walk into Nick Saban’s office to face the music. Which song would you rather hear? That is THE difference between the two.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

July 12th, 2010
2:17 pm

Speaking of discipline problems, I think Richt should go ahead and pull the scholarship offer to a certain quarterback from North Carolina. The kid seems to have a father who makes excuses for bad behavior. That will only continue in Athens.

Eisendawg

July 12th, 2010
2:17 pm

I suppose we can blame a bunch of people, including their parents, their coaches, their AD (from the example he set), their age, our society. Still, I don’t know how Mark Richt can do much more, than what he’s doing.

TL

July 12th, 2010
2:17 pm

To say UGA’s football program is a trainwreck right now is a fair statement. I am an SEC fan, just giving my honest opinion. Richt lost control of those boys about 2 years ago. UGA’s problem is not bad luck, misfortune, or coincidence. It’s lack of discipline & probably lack of respect for coach Richt. Yeah he’s a nice guy.. and a good man, but obviously it’s not rubbing off. It’s not going to get better for UGA. I hope it does, but unless richt pulls a miracle out of his sleeve.. then UGA is headed for a disaster season. And then you’ll all be calling for his head so fast, your head will spin. But that will come about 2 years too late.

Mark Bradley

July 12th, 2010
2:17 pm

Thanks, allan in texas.

JB

July 12th, 2010
2:18 pm

Bama and florida……..Better system of covering it up……college boys, drinking, women, partying are the SAME on every campus. I bet Meyer and Saban have cut deals with the “chief” to handle it in house. Both those schools are very very successful and keeping Da Boys out of trouble publicly is very important to them. Richt’s MO is not to cut any deals. Now, their fans on here will holler BS, but I’m saying it’s happening, especially at Bama. Those guys wouldn’t arrest Osama if he was a starter over there.

Topp Dogg

July 12th, 2010
2:18 pm

First it must start at home,this is the big time not daycare.NCAA needs to come down on the thug hair,tattoos and attitudes of the college athlete.Maybe get tougher in highschool ,raise the standards and expectations before these kids can recieve a full ride.

TONE

July 12th, 2010
2:18 pm

let call it the lebron syndrome all these pampered “stars” feel above the law and the rules don’t apply to them . to be fair not all of them but you never hear about the players on the team that volunteer with local kids clubs .you hear about the smaller percentage that makes the news in the police reports , I am sure its like that at every major college , and the second tier colleges you just don’t hear about their trouble because no one cares.
harsher punishment across the board is the only answer

Old Dawg

July 12th, 2010
2:19 pm

Great column, Mark. I know CMR and the rest of the coaches go over these issues time after time, so there’s obviously a disconnect between reality and the whatever problems college athletes create for themselves. Even with the strictest guidelines these incidents can happen any where at any time.

I’m just tire and embarrassed that they continue to happen at UGA. I disagree with TL and others that Georgia’s program is a disaster. It’s a rocky road, but nothing that can’t be fixed. As for Alabama’s good stretch without an arrest: just remember these incidents can happen any where at any time.

After all, we are talking about college knuckleheads.

Calibre Lake Dawg

July 12th, 2010
2:19 pm

TL what are you talking about…Alabama no arrest in 3 years. Google Alabama arrest and you’ll find plenty in the last three years. You’re a fool to think that even the most celebrated programs don’t have their issues. Maybe you should branch out from the AJC as your only sport source.

TL

July 12th, 2010
2:20 pm

I said going on 3 years bama has not had an arrest, that would be 2 going on 3.

DSGB

July 12th, 2010
2:21 pm

“I like the concept of punishing the “team” for an individual’s actions. Peer pressure is long-lasting and VERY effective.”

^^ THIS, although I’m not sure what exactly you would do, outside of making them run extra wind sprints

I have seen some people suggest that the athletes get their on shuttles, or escorts to make sure they don’t get into trouble. I, for one, am against this. They (the athletes), like every other student at the university should hold THEMSELVES responsible for their actions. Non-athletes do not get special treatment in situations like this, so why should they? How can you learn and grow as a person if you have to have someone else making decisions for you?

TL

July 12th, 2010
2:22 pm

in other words, it’s been way over 2 years. going on 3. understand?

Hayden Thomas

July 12th, 2010
2:23 pm

Athens need less cops

NEXT #14

July 12th, 2010
2:23 pm

@ woe egglet @ 2:09…HE ALSO OWN’S CHEEZEDIP!!!

cadawg

July 12th, 2010
2:23 pm

thank you, mark, for a good and sensible piece. all i would add to it is that the penalties handed out for the most recent infractions are provisional; they can change as more information becomes available. so people who are lambasting richt should calm down until final penalties are announced. CMR has stiffened up this off-season, and i hope and trust it’s the beginning of stronger institutional accountability and a change in the disciplinary culture in the football program.

dawg fans: don’t worry about TL and the tide until december. if they haven’t had an arrest in 3 years, then so much the better for them. let’s get our own house clean. another poster suggested that the whole team be punished when a guy gets arrested. i think that’s a fantastic idea. maybe the AD should have to run steps with them…

Mikey in SAV

July 12th, 2010
2:24 pm

Thanks Mark Richt for being the person you are, but you have to be even tougher going forward. Otherwise we run the risk of being labeled Tallahassee North.