Crowell gets the boot, and we ask: Why is it always Georgia?

A farewell salute to Isaiah Crowell, Bulldog for a year. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

A farewell salute to Isaiah Crowell, Bulldog for a year. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

No program holds the patent on decency. Didn’t Penn State tout itself as an example of Success With Honor? The fan who chortles over the moral missteps of a rival is sure to be weeping tears of shame tomorrow, for that’s the way it works in big-time football. Every coach at every school is only waiting for the other shoe to drop — on him.

So no, Georgia players aren’t alone in messing up. Pick another campus — Florida, Auburn, LSU — and you’ll find similar examples of excess. In sum, it’s not only Georgia. That said …

Why is it always Georgia?

We’ve heard the excuses made by loyalists: That Athens is too heavily policed, that UGA’s drug policies are stricter than other SEC schools’, that the local media is too vigilant, that nobody in power ever cuts a Bulldog any slack. But when guys from the same program at the same school keep getting arrested year upon year, there has to be more to it that some nefarious conspiracy or plain old rotten luck.

A basketball coach I know likes to say: “You can’t get framed if you don’t put yourself in the picture.” So why, oh why, do Georgia Bulldogs insist on putting themselves in the wrong picture?

In July 2008, Georgia was ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll for the first time in school history, and yet 16 of the first 20 questions asked of Mark Richt on Media Day involved discipline, or the lack of same. (Eight Bulldogs had been arrested that offseason.) The 2012 Bulldogs are, or at least were, expected to be ranked in the preseason top five, but four starting defenders have been suspended for early-season games, and Friday the SEC’s reigning freshman of the year was booted from the squad.

Don’t blame Richt for recruiting Isaiah Crowell. Alabama wanted him, too. (And let’s note that Zach Mettenberger, also dismissed by Richt, is slated to start at quarterback for LSU.) Indeed, it was fashionable to cast Crowell as the signee who would save Richt’s job, and with him at tailback the Bulldogs won the SEC East for the first time since 2005.

But now Crowell, who was arrested in Athens at 3:37 a.m. Friday on felony gun charges and was an ex-Bulldog not 14 hours later, has gone the way of Mettenberger and Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, and at some point our working hypothesis — when it happens this much, it can’t be coincidence — has to attach itself to Richt.

I haven’t always defended the man’s won-lost record, but I’ve been a consistent defender on behavioral matters. No one coach can, I’ve stipulated, watch over 85 scholarship players 24 hours a day, and locking the players in the dorm after practice is both impractical and not discipline at all. (Discipline is doing what’s right when nobody else is looking.)

We can’t say Richt has ignored the issue. He has gotten tougher over time. How many second chances was Odell Thurman granted a decade ago? How often did a younger Richt appear to shrug off misbehavior as a boys-will-be-boys thing?

Crowell was suspended twice as a freshman, once after a failed drug test and earlier  for an unspecified violation. The week before the Bulldogs played Tech, Richt issued a clear challenge to Crowell, using the media to tell recruits: “There’s a tremendous opportunity for running backs in [the 2012] class to come to Georgia and make an impact.”

Credit Richt for sensing that Crowell mightn’t be long for UGA, and for landing touted prospects Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley as cover. But Richt had been lauding Crowell as a changed young man this spring, which goes to show … what? That the coach was fooling himself? That Crowell fooled his coach? That Crowell really had dedicated himself to football but was undone by one traffic stop in the wee hours?

There’s free will involved in every wrong choice, and part of the college experience is learning to choose wisely. Richt’s greatest failing may be that he spreads his trust too broadly, that he takes a few too many recruiting risks. (Not that other schools don’t take risks themselves.) The more players of questionable character you sign, the greater the chance that they’ll influence those around him.

In some ways, the worrisome part about Crowell’s arrest wasn’t the gun under the seat. It was that he had four other players in the car with him, three of them incoming freshmen. If Georgia is to break this cycle of embarrassment, better examples must be cultivated. Richt can preach until he’s blue in the face, but he needs more disciples.

By Mark Bradley

401 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:29 pm

why always Georgia Mark??

William

June 29th, 2012
8:29 pm

Bradley, Go pound sand. It’s everybody and Richt obviously disciplines. Why do you think he kicked him off the team.

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:29 pm

the leadership

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:30 pm

Was this a rush to judgment? Do you think if this had been Crowell’s first offense he would have been dismissed? Sounds like he was already at strike 2.

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:31 pm

Go read the Rivals survey of 5 Star players

No one is afraid Richt wich equals respect.

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:32 pm

the more disturbing part is the frosh that were with Crowell. Bad start at UGA.

Thug Nation

June 29th, 2012
8:33 pm

You can put a dress on a pig, but it will always be a pig. Rich needs to quit recruting thugs, cause regardless what the players say, the coaches say, the media says…… they are still thugs.

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:33 pm

I was in school with Herschel and he ALWAYS had a designated driver.

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:33 pm

Chris M.

June 29th, 2012
8:34 pm

Nothing good ever happens after 2am

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:34 pm

TN, you’re right. problem is the rest of the sec save vanderbilt recruits thugs. and if you dont keep up, you dont stay long.

Mel from SW Atlanta

June 29th, 2012
8:35 pm

Man, we got a bunch a LOSERS here. We need some Winners! Coach Richt don’t care nothing about no kid’s history as long as he can stand in the shallow end of the swimming pool to watch him do a high dive at 50 years old! I say dress up that professor who was in drag! At least he KNOWS what he wants to be in life. Bunch of LOSERS, man, LOSERS!

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:35 pm

what exactly does “go pound sand” mean?

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:36 pm

Are you there to get an education and play football or to party,

buckshot

June 29th, 2012
8:36 pm

I hate it for Crowell. Hoped he would prove everyone and himself wrong. However, since watching hin play his HS senior yeat at Calhoun, I knew he didn’t have the characteristics that one expects for a Georgia Football player. I wish the coaching staff would recruit more players with self-respect and respect for others. Give me a team of Richard Samuels, David Pollacks, and like-wise players. I want high motor players, not HIGH players.

todd grantham

June 29th, 2012
8:37 pm

Mark, was the basketball coach you quoted Jim Harrick?

Lugnut

June 29th, 2012
8:37 pm

I think the kid has always had an attitude, but that don’t make him guilty of what he is charged with. He says he didn’t know it was there. It wasn’t his car. People arrive at the airport all the time having forgotten their gun in their bag. If his prints aren’t on it, doesn’t that support his contention?

Would a 19 year old file off a serial number on a gun? Would he even have a file? And by the way, was the number filed off or just scratched up by being suspended in the springs under the seat. The cops love ot blow up everything about an arrest to win their case initially in the court of public opinion. Lets see a picture. And lets remember a bunch of these 24 to 30 year old cops making $30K a year just love to prove how much control they can exercise over a 19 year olds that would likely make more in his first year in the NFL than they will make in their lives.

Seems to me there a lot of jealous jock sniffers around that just love to be a part of the destuction of a kid’s future, based soley on what the police willingly dump out to a willingly and intentiaonally drama inducing media.

Jesse

June 29th, 2012
8:37 pm

Dorms are not impractical. If these kids are going to school on scholarship, then if the school sees fit to put student athletes in dorms, that is the schools prerogative. I personally believe that all freshman and sophomores should have the oversight that athletic dorms could and should provide.

1970 Dawg

June 29th, 2012
8:38 pm

Glad to see CMR render swift justice to Crowell. I agree with you, Mark, about Crowell’s total lack of leadership.
It’s a darn shame that he will likely surface at another SEC school which will look the other way and declare that “he deserves another chance.” (i.e. Z Mettenberger and Cam Newton) I think it’s time the SEC institutes some strict drug testing and a policy about transfers after certain offenses.

docsbro

June 29th, 2012
8:38 pm

Well said Mark!!

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:38 pm

We know what IC spent part of his Pell Grant money on.

Ben the CPA

June 29th, 2012
8:38 pm

Who’s the bigger fool, Crowell or Bradley? I don’t know. At least Crowell screws up in different ways, whereas Bradley recycles material more than Waste Management.

Why

June 29th, 2012
8:38 pm

do they always give consent to search the car? Roll the window down a little to hand out the license, then roll it back up. Take your ticket and leave. Gaaah.

JB

June 29th, 2012
8:39 pm

You will never convince me that ” boy’s will be boys” problems are handled different at other SEC schools. It’s the same gene pool with the same temptations of a college atmosphere. It interesting the failed drugs screens for the draft once out of the control of certain coach’s…..and that’s a fact

Recon

June 29th, 2012
8:41 pm

One thing I know is not done enough is group punishment. When the someone in your unit gets in trouble, the entire unit should pay a hefty price. 5a gassers and stadiums, etc. I’m not sure what’s done at other schools. I do know what’s done at UGA and within lethally effective units in the US Military, where there is no concept of individual discipline. You eff up and your whole unit is paying the price.

I’d have the player in trouble AND his position coach in a lawn chair on the 50 watching his entire unit run gassers up the stadium steps at 5a. There won’t be a discipline problem for long if you do that.

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:41 pm

Bigger story …..Erin is leaving ESPN,,,,

just sayin

June 29th, 2012
8:41 pm

sow’s ear to silk purse? Doesn’t happen.
What a joke!

DAWG1

June 29th, 2012
8:42 pm

I thought he was the next WALKER? the next DGD (Damn Good DUMMY)

sheepdawg

June 29th, 2012
8:42 pm

until cmr stops recruiting 5 star thugs, the trend will continue. what’s the definition of insanity?

Mike Vick Was Framed

June 29th, 2012
8:42 pm

Who cares if there was a gun in the car. It wasn’t being used, the Second Amendment guarantees it, and Georgia loves guns like parties love Tea.

Much ado about nothing.

tr

June 29th, 2012
8:43 pm

Coaching Leadership. Team Leadership, sense of entitlement

take it from me.

June 29th, 2012
8:45 pm

What JB said!

JB

June 29th, 2012
8:46 pm

these 3 true freshman out at 3 am with the black sheep of the team is troubling. where are the senior leaders ?

scole

June 29th, 2012
8:47 pm

When you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas. I wonder haw much background investigation was done before recruiting Crowell? Oh yeah, its all about football and big money, not about upstanding young men. Recruit the at risk kids and pray they don’t do something stupid.

St. Simons

June 29th, 2012
8:48 pm

((((((((( 45 – 42 ))))))))) hahahahahahhahaha

Carolina Canine

June 29th, 2012
8:49 pm

The problem is that the coach has to instill discipline from the time a player first sets foot on campus. The coach has to earn respect and not be namby pamby and then drop the hammer after the misconduct has taken place. After what IC has been through, to have put himself in that situation, shows complete lack of concern or respect for the coach and after enough players do that, I have to conclude the Coach simply is not earning their respect.

The bottom line is that Coach Richt is simply too nice to succeed.

Mike Vick Was Framed

June 29th, 2012
8:49 pm

All this crap talk about morals and ethics; you chastise the coach and players when they lose and you chastise the coach and players when the players get in trouble.

You’re all a bunch of judgmental fools who hold everyone to a higher standard than you, or most anyone else, could ever uphold. You want saints playing winning football and 18 year old kids to act like they’re wise and experienced. Good luck with that.

Patrick

June 29th, 2012
8:51 pm

Get lost, get out of here, go pound sand……all mean about the same. I’m thinking CMR told Crowell to pound sand…but maybe with some different terms,

Devil's Advocate

June 29th, 2012
8:51 pm

Yep, it’s always UGA. Cam Newton committed several traffic violations and tried to steal laptops because it was UGA’s fault. Darren McFadden got into a bar fight and broke his toe because of UGA. Several LSU players beat a man silly because of UGA.

It’s ALWAYS UGA (who actually punishes bad apples).

There, I finished the statement for you.

JB

June 29th, 2012
8:51 pm

simons. that you. parole ?

1970 Dawg

June 29th, 2012
8:51 pm

Recon, you can bet that there will be punishment for the other 4. They won’t announce it to the press, but will handle it internally. I think Crowell was already on thin ice for his earlier screwups,(some public and some which didn’t hit the news.) Fact is, he was a prima dona from Day1. SOME of these kids get the attitude that they are so special that they don’t have to conform to rules.
Unfortunately, these few bad eggs give the entire program a black eye, even though MOST of the guys are quality young men.

Ed

June 29th, 2012
8:52 pm

Why Georgia? Because while we definitely recruit hoods, we don’t tolerate them continuing to be that way once they hit campus. At UF, this might not even qualify as a suspension worthy offense. Think I’m kidding? Google “Tony Joiner arrested” and read all about the “misunderstanding” that luckily was resolved just in time for him to suit up against Georgia in ‘07.

SatchelBuzz

June 29th, 2012
8:52 pm

Ugag not worried about losing Crowell,….they’ll just reload.

THWG!

RioBravo

June 29th, 2012
8:54 pm

Other SEC schools have law enforcement in their pocket. Football is the only thing that brings revenue to their towns and police look the other way in these matters. Athens (and its proximity to Atlanta) is relatively cosmopolitan compared to Tuscaloosa or Auburn or Gainesville. Or especially Columbia.

Stay Classy Athens

June 29th, 2012
8:54 pm

You don’t see this kind of stuff at the North Avenue Trade School.

Devil's Advocate

June 29th, 2012
8:56 pm

Stay Classy Athens,

That’s because the Tech players are too scared to go out in ATL. They drive over to Athens to get into trouble instead. College towns rule!

Fan

June 29th, 2012
8:56 pm

Bradley, do you have a staff and employee’s,(Players), numbering the same as Richt? Doubtful, and if you did, I doubt you would not like being held responsible for your “employee’s” actions year after year. Nor could you come close to being the Head Coach that Richt is. It’s easy to sit there in your AJC cubicle/office and judge others. How many reporters and staff there at AJC have been caught doing something wrong and dismissed? i don’t read about it in the AJC, DO I? Try looking in the mirror before you write something.

St. Bernard

June 29th, 2012
8:57 pm

I don’t remember the last time we had a story about a baseball player, basketball player, gymnast, golfer, or any other sport arrested. Am I forgetting something?

Vance Duly

June 29th, 2012
8:57 pm

One additional factor involved is that the Athens PD does not give the athletes any breaks, compared to what is done in some college towns. Back in the late 80s, during the summer quarter, a certain prominent Dawg linebacker grabbed a shotgun at a party and blew out one of the apartment windows, simply because a female student (that I knew personally) did not know who he was. Coach Dooley, from what I was told, made all of the players move back onto campus for the remainder of the summer. Don’t know for sure about Vince’s role, but the cops did nothing to our linebacker. Today, that starting linebacker would have been arrested and kicked off the team. Back then, it never made the news……

JB

June 29th, 2012
8:57 pm

ed, you looked at bama, au, fla sideline ?