(Last updated 10:15 p.m.)
Georgia will have to play without star wide receiver A.J. Green for two more games, including Saturday’s against Arkansas in Sanford Stadium.
An NCAA committee Friday rejected Georgia’s appeal of the four-game suspension handed Green last week for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to a person the NCAA considers an agent.
Georgia had hoped to have the suspension shortened, but the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, after hearing the appeal by conference call Friday morning, informed UGA officials late in the day that the original penalty will stand.
That means Green, who sat out Georgia’s first two games, will remain sidelined for the crucial game against No. 12 Arkansas and the Sept. 25 game at Mississippi State. He’ll be eligible to return for the Oct. 2 game at Colorado.
While the original suspension was imposed by NCAA staff, the appeal was heard by a committee consisting of officials from colleges and conferences across the country. The committee rejected Georgia’s appeal without public comment. The ruling was disclosed by UGA on Friday evening.
“We respect the committee’s decision and will focus on moving forward,” athletic director Greg McGarity said in a statement.
The NCAA’s investigation of Green, a junior who is widely projected as a high NFL draft pick if he turns pro next year, began in July as part of a series of probes at a number of schools into dealings between football players and agents.
The NCAA said last week that “according to the facts of the case submitted by Georgia,” Green sold the jersey to “an individual who meets the NCAA definition of an agent,” later identified as former North Carolina football player Chris Hawkins.
The NCAA defines an agent as “any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete.” Hawkins has denied being an agent. It also would be against NCAA rules for a student-athlete to sell memorabilia to a non-agent.
Georgia has declined to release the “facts of the case” or other related documents. In response to an open-records request from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UGA said it would not release the documents because doing so “would directly identify one particular student,” Green. The university said that would violate a federal law protecting student education records, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Green’s four-game suspension has drawn criticism from some Georgia fans because of another recent case in which Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus received a two-game suspension for accepting about $1,800 in benefits from an agent. In that case, the NCAA said Dareus received a two-game ban, rather than four games, “based on mitigating circumstances.”
Another recent case, involving Middle Tennessee State quarterback Dwight Dasher, resulted in the same penalty as Green’s. The NCAA on Thursday suspended Dasher for four games for accepting $1,500 in “an impermissible loan from an individual in the community.”
Asked for comment on Friday’s ruling and the reason the appeal was denied, NCAA associate director of public and media relations Stacey Osburn said by e-mail “we do not have any further to share” beyond confirming the decision.
Georgia coach Mark Richt had held out hope that the appeal might put Green back on the field for Saturday’s game, but Richt said several times this week that the coaches were preparing the game plan on the premise that Green would not be available.
In a statement after Friday’s ruling, Richt said: “Our concentration is the same as the last two weeks, which is preparing for the next game. We’ll look forward to A.J.’s return for the Colorado game on Oct. 2.”
Green, who can continue to practice with the team during the suspension, was not available for comment.
His teammates were hoping for, but not necessarily expecting, good news on the appeal.
“It’s not something you can bank on because you never know,” tight end Aron White said at mid-week. “We’ve been preparing to where if he comes back great but if he doesn’t we’ve got to still go out and get these games. We’re still the Bulldogs, with or without A.J.”