At 5 p.m. Friday, Georgia coach Mark Richt announced that Isaiah Crowell has been dismissed from the squad. More to come.
Here they go again. Four summers after a team that would be ranked No. 1 in preseason saw its summer so roiled by player arrests that 16 of the first 20 questions asked of Mark Richt on Media Day involved discipline (or the lack thereof), the Georgia Bulldogs are about to embark on another season of great expectations, and again we’re talking less about football than foolishness.
Four defensive starters have managed to get themselves suspended for the start of the 2012 season, forcing the Bulldogs to move Malcolm Mitchell, their best wide receiver, to defensive back. That was bad. This is worse: Isaiah Crowell, the 2011 SEC freshman of the year, was arrested in Athens early Friday on three weapons charges, two of them felonies.
According to Athens-Clarke County Police, a Luger was found under the seat of the car Crowell was driving, a car from which an officer reported the smell of marijuana emanating. Crowell denied knowledge of the gun. Also in the car: Four other Georgia football players, three of whom are incoming freshmen. None of the four was charged.
This comes after a freshman season in which Crowell finished sixth among SEC backs in yards rushing but was suspended from the New Mexico State game after a failed drug test. He also limped off so often with a bad ankle that, by the SEC championship game and the Capital One Bowl, discontent among Georgia fans in the stands was aurally apparent.
On the one hand, Crowell is a superb player. On the other, he became a major distraction in no time flat. At halftime of the Vanderbilt game, Richt was asked by an interviewer why Crowell hadn’t played in the first quarter. “Because we love him,” was the coach’s answer. (Actually, the first-quarter holdout had been another suspension, this for “undisclosed disciplinary reasons.”)
And now he has been arrested, and not just for dinging a car in a parking garage or effecting an improper exit of an alley on a motor scooter. Crowell has been charged with felonies involving a firearm, and according to the UGA Student-Athlete handbook — perhaps the most-thumbed reference tome on campus — any felony arrest carries “immediate suspension from athletic competition.”
(Footnote: Crowell’s arrest came one day shy of the two-year anniversary of Damon Evans’ midnight ride through Buckhead, a misadventure that cost the Georgia athletic director his job.)
On Signing Day 2011, Crowell’s announcement for Georgia set off wild celebration. He was the capper atop the famous Dream Team, the latest in a long line of New Herschel Walkers. Only nine months later, Richt was quoted as saying, “There’s a tremendous opportunity for running backs in [the 2012] class to come to Georgia and make an impact.”
Sure enough, the Bulldogs landed the highly regarded Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, though neither was quite so highly ranked as Crowell. Ordinarily you’d expect big-name recruits to avoid a program that had landed a big-name tailback the year before, but it had already become apparent that a team with Crowell as Plan A had better have workable Plans B and C.
There was a time when Georgia felt it needed this tailback so badly that it had 10 jersey-wearing incumbents array themselves in an offensive set and beckoned Crowell to dot the “I.” This became known as the “Missing Man” formation. It also became a self-reported secondary NCAA violation.
After Crowell’s second suspension, we posed the question: Was the famous recruit more trouble than he was worth? After this felony arrest, we have our answer. He has been the most-discussed Bulldog from the moment he unveiled that puppy at his signing ceremony, and in the swelter of summer we’re discussing him still, and not in a way that confers honor on the player or the school.
Yes, he’s a talent. Yes, he would have helped the Bulldogs win. (Heck, he already did.) In the grand scheme, however, the University of Georgia has no further need for Isaiah Crowell. He’s not worth this much aggravation. Nobody is.
By Mark Bradley