ATHENS – Georgia not only got good news from the NCAA regarding the eligibility of Jarvis Jones, it got it fast.
Jones, a sophomore linebacker from Columbus, was determined to have not violated any NCAA rules and therefore will be eligible to play every game for the Bulldogs this season, UGA confirmed on Tuesday. Georgia received the news from the NCAA on Monday night, exactly one week after filing the report on its internal investigation with the SEC.
“I think the NCAA is making a concerted effort to turn things around as quickly as possible,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ve been hearing in these various meetings they were going to try to do a better job of that. So we’re just thankful NCAA was able to do that in this case. Whether the decision was up or down, we’re able to move forward now. At the end of the day that’s all schools want.”
Last year the Bulldogs had to wait until the second week of the regular season to learn from the NCAA that wide receiver A.J. Green would have to sit out four games for violating NCAA rules. UGA held Green out of the first game on its own.
“I appreciate the work of our compliance office for its time and effort in providing a thorough, comprehensive report and I’m thankful for the timely manner in which the NCAA reviewed and evaluated all the facts to reach a decision,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in the statement. “We’re ready to move on with preparations for our season opener.”
Richt was not made available to reporters on Tuesday.
The NCAA’s decision is significant for Georgia as it prepares to open the season against a pair of highly-ranked opponents. The Bulldogs open against No. 7 Boise State on Sept. 3 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and follow that with a home tilt against No. 12 South Carolina in Athens.
Jones, a sophomore linebacker from Columbus, is slated to start at strongside linebacker for Georgia. He was having his eligibility reviewed after a police investigation into alleged corruption within the Columbus parks and recreation department revealed an administrator had provided benefits to him and basketball signee Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the summer of 2009.
Jones’ relationship with that administrator, Tony Adams, was the center of UGA’s investigation. Adams reportedly paid for four flights for Jones to and from Los Angeles in the summer of 2009 as well as some other benefits. At the time Jones was a freshman signee at Southern Cal.
In its investigation, Georgia was able establish that Jones’ legal guardian, Shelley Stephens — who also worked for the rec department and flew with him to LA — had been in a long-term relationship with Adams.
“Based on the information that we reviewed, it was interpreted that it met the four-pronged test of an established relationship,” UGA compliance director Eric Baumgartner said.
The main criteria for meeting the stipulations of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.6 (preferential treatment, benefits and services) is that a relationship was established before a prospects ninth-grade year.
McGarity said Georgia has not yet completed its investigation of Caldwell-Pope. The five-star shooting guard from Greenville allegedly was using a cell phone that was paid for by Adams.
“We’re still processing that case,” McGarity said. “Jarvis’ situation was a little more urgent.”
Jones transferred to Georgia from USC — where he played in eight games as a true freshman — last summer and sat out per NCAA transfer rules. He’s a former AJC Super 11 player who was rated among the top linebackers in the nation.
Jones has not been available for comment but Tuesday night he addressed the news on his Facebook page. (Edited) “The right support, great mentors, friends/fans. I’m so grateful for everyone that’s in my corner. I put my trust in a higher power and not in man. No stressing, just hard work and dedication. Stand up Bulldog Nation, we have business to tend to. — #29″
Georgia launched an internal investigation earlier this summer and turned over its findings to the SEC office on Aug. 2. UGA declined the AJC’s open records requests under the Freedom of Information Act to view that report under the claim that the document was protected by a federal law protecting the privacy of students. The AJC disputed that claim.