Athens — Georgia hasn’t ruled linebacker Jarvis Jones ineligible. Not yet, anyway.
Jones, a sophomore from Columbus who is slated to start at strongside outside linebacker this fall, continues to work out with the Bulldogs this summer as if he will be play in the season opener against Boise State on Sept. 3. But there is a good chance UGA will have to rule him ineligible and apply to the NCAA for reinstatement sometime before the start of the 2011 season.
“That has not happened and we’re really not even sure yet if that has to happen,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said on Monday. “We’re still looking into it.”
Jones and UGA basketball signee Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are the subject of an ongoing UGA internal investigation into allegations of receiving improper benefits from a former Columbus parks and recreation official. That official, Tony Adams, was fired following a police investigation for misusing funds, some of which allegedly benefited Jones and/or Caldwell-Pope.
Adams, who also was an administrator for the local AAU team, reportedly paid for four flights for Jones to and from Los Angeles in the summer of 2009 when he was a recent Southern Cal enrollee. Caldwell-Pope’s mother reportedly was provided cell phone service.
McGarity said that UGA is actively investigating the case and no records of their findings are currently available for review.
“I would say that we’re doing our due diligence internally to sort through everything,” McGarity said. “At some point in time we’ll have some sort of communication with the SEC and the NCAA on the entire situation. So much of this right now is verbal. We’re obviously having conversations, but there’s nothing to report right now.”
Whatever the outcome, it’s expected to affect the players’ individual eligibilities and not any of Georgia’s athletic programs.
To rule a student-athlete ineligible and then apply for reinstatement has become standard operating procedure for schools facing NCAA eligibility questions. That’s what Georgia did last summer soon after it was made aware that All-America wide receiver A.J. Green sold a bowl jersey to an individual who allegedly worked for an agent. Georgia declared Green ineligible for the season opener against Louisiana-LaFayette. However, it did not find out until the second week of the season — the week of the South Carolina game — that he’d also have to miss the next three games.
Georgia Tech did not inactivate Demaryius Thomas or Morgan Burnett when eligibility questions arose for them in the fall of 2009 and that seems to have contributed to harsh penalties handed down by the NCAA last week. The Yellow Jackets were placed on four years probation and had to vacate their 2009 ACC title.
In the meantime, Georgia must continue its preparations for a nationally-televised matchup against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Sept. 3 in the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs will do so with the anticipation that Jones will be able to participate.
“It’s no different than a guy being injured in the sense that you don’t know when a guy is going to be injured,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “We’re obviously going to prepare at every position as if the guy that’s the first-team guy is the player. And then if he goes down, who’s the next guy? We’re always going to have plans in place to get our guys on the field.”
So what happens if Jones is not available?
“We could move a guy around; it could be a guy that’s here now; it could be a freshman,” Grantham said.
Grantham said they had discussed cross-training inside linebacker Richard Samuel at the position but Samuel was moved to tailback last week. Sophomore Chase Vasser is currently listed as the No. 2 linebacker behind Jones. After that are walkons Matthew DeGenova and Jamal Allen.
Five incoming freshman linebackers will join the team in August — Sterling Bailey, Ray Drew, Amarlo Herrera, Kent Turene and Ramik Wilson. All but Turene were enrolled summer semester.
Asked which freshmen might get a look at strongside linebacker, Grantham quipped, “All of them.”