Posted: 10:04 am Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
There goes that quiet offseason.
By now you’ve probably heard that Georgia, not unaccustomed to unflattering headlines in the offseason, had four football players arrested for “theft by deception,” a misdemeanor.
The four players: starting safety Tray Matthews, wide receiver Uriah LeMay and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor and James DeLoach. Their crimes: Double-dipping on $71.50 stipend checks. They would do this by depositing the checks with a picture on their smartphone apps, then quickly cashing the same checks at a convenience store.
If we go on the assumption that the four players are not in the Terry College of Business and weren’t doing this in hopes of accumulating credit hours toward their MBAs, let’s say that they’re beyond stupid for thinking they wouldn’t get caught.
I’ll weigh in on the arrests and what they mean to the program in a full column later on MyAJC.com. But for now, let’s address blame, because that’s where everybody’s mind immediately turns. Here are the three candidates:
• 1. Mark Richt: Is it his fault? No. The only reason I’m listing him first is to address this Tweet by former player and current ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit:
Clearly some of the UGA players take advantage of Coach Richts forgiving heart. No fear of the consequences leads to ongoing shananagins.—
Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) March 18, 2014
Herbstreit must’ve been besieged by Georgia fans but he has since followed up with comments that he admires Richt and that his comments weren’t meant to be a criticism of Richt as much as the frequency of arrests at Georgia.
A couple of thoughts: I’ve been as critical of Richt as anybody through the years. But he’s far tougher on crime than he ever was before and that, in combination with Georgia’s strict anti-drug policy, can’t possibly send a stronger message to players. There have a number of high profile players kicked off the team in recent years, including running back Isaiah Crowell, quarterback Zack Mettenberger and the guy who just led Auburn to the BCS championship game, quarterback Nick Marshall.
Now, if somebody wants to pose the question as to whether Georgia should have a tougher filter in terms of which kids to recruit, that’s another issue. But it seems Richt has been far better in this area than in the past.
• 2. The players: They need to be suspended. They need to sit out games and feel the consequences of their actions. Whether they need to be expelled depends on how many other off-the-field issues they’ve shown that maybe we’re not aware of yet. But these acts of stupidity are all on them.
• 3. The system: The only thing dumber than the players for thinking they can get away with this are the short-sighted fans who scream, “Give them more money, that will solve the problem.”
No, it won’t. I’m not arguing against increasing the stipend of athletic scholarships. That’s for another blog. But if an athlete is going to do something dumb, he’ll do it whether he has $1 in pocket or $100. If you give him more money, he’ll spend more money and need more money. Increasing stipends will not fix this issue.
Those are my early thoughts. Let’s see how this story plays today.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the full subscription column.
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About the Author
Jeff Schultz has worked at newspapers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta. He has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations. He also likes puppies, rock and roll and anything with cheese on it.