ATHENS — Having served his four-game NCAA suspension for selling a jersey for $1,000, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green on Tuesday told why he did it and how he got caught.
Green said he sold his Independence Bowl jersey to have “extra cash” during spring break and that the NCAA found out about it after asking him to turn over his bank records. He said he complied with the request.
“They had every bank statement going back to February ‘09,” Green said. “They looked and saw that [$1,000 deposit] and they were, like, ‘Hey, where did you get the money from?’ I told them. I’m not going to lie to them . . . and jeopardize my whole season.”
Green, eligible to play for the first time this season Saturday at Colorado, spoke to reporters in a UGA conference room Tuesday afternoon — his first interview since being suspended by the NCAA.
The star receiver did not deny knowing that selling the jersey was against NCAA rules, saying he “didn’t really think it through” and “everybody makes mistakes in life.”
“I broke the rule,” Green said, “and I paid my price. And I’m just ready to play again.”
He said he has never met the jersey buyer, Chris Hawkins, a former North Carolina football player, whom the NCAA considers an agent. Green said he and Hawkins communicated only through Facebook.
It also would be against NCAA rules to sell a jersey to a non-agent, but the NCAA’s designation of Hawkins as an agent might have added to the severity of Green’s penalty. Hawkins has denied that he is an agent and said that he bought the jersey as a collector.
Green said he was told the investigation started when the NCAA heard a rumor that he might have attended a Miami party sponsored by an agent (not Hawkins).
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Green said of the party. “When the NCAA told me about it, they said they heard it from [website] TMZ. [The NCAA] just heard it was a rumor, so they came down here and asked me.”
Green said he told the NCAA investigators, as he previously had told reporters and UGA officials, that he did not attend the Miami party. In the course of the investigation, he said, the NCAA asked for his bank statements, which led to the discovery of a rule violation — the jersey sale — separate from the Miami party.
“I guess when they couldn’t find [anything] on that trip, they went back and found this,” Green said.
He said the NCAA first asked him to explain the money about a week before Georgia’s Sept. 4 opener.
The NCAA declined to respond to Green’s comments Tuesday, and UGA has refused to turn over documents related to the case.
Green said the investigation was “a painful process, man. I’m not the type of guy who ever got into trouble here and stuff like that. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep just thinking about [it]. … I’m just glad that it’s over.”
Of the four-game suspension, he said: “I did something wrong. I deserve it, a penalty for what I’d done.”
Green said he had been approached about selling items before, “but I didn’t do it. But, like I said, it was spring break. So, you know, extra cash. I really didn’t think about it [being] a big deal, so I just did it.”
Georgia has lost three of four games without Green, who said the games have been “painful” for him to watch.
“I feel like . . . I caused a lot of people pain,” he said. “Because I feel like if I was out there some of the time we would have had a chance. . . . I beat myself up pretty much over that.
“But it taught me a valuable lesson. I’m growing up, and I’ve got to do the right thing.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt hopes the lesson spreads to Green’s teammates.
“I would think everybody saw what happened to A.J. and hopefully if they were in that position would not give in to whoever is trying to convince you that this is a good thing to do or that it’s OK to do,” Richt said.
Meanwhile, Green looks forward to his belated season opener Saturday.
“Now it’s about that time to show people what I was missing,” Green said. “I feel like I still got stuff to prove, that I’m behind and that I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do.”