Georgia Football: Finally, Stewart Mandel and I Agree on Something

Usually, when Stewart Mandel speaks about the Georgia Bulldogs, I don’t bother to listen; most of the time whatever he’s saying, about the Bulldogs, usually ticks me off to no end and therefore—to keep my pressure down and my good southern graces intact—I ignore any article where “UGA” and “Stewart Mandel” share a title.

However, this week, with the most recent dismissal of defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor up for media target practice, a question was sent to Mandel’s mailbag regarding UGA’s disciplinary practices—and for once, he wasn’t saying something that made me want to set stuff on fire.

Stewart, I am a new reader to your column, and I’ve enjoyed it since your move to Fox Sports. Keep it up. My question regards the University of Georgia’s seemingly routine spring suspensions that Steve Spurrier and everyone else seems to enjoy poking fun at. I am a UGA alum, and from what I have read and understood over the years, nearly all of these suspensions are not NCAA sanctioned, but are actually Richt’s personal choice. Is this more or less true?

— Kyle Cheesborough, St. Louis, Missouri

First of all, welcome. Tell your friends. Secondly, there are very few NCAA-mandated suspensions. The only way that would happen is if the NCAA deemed a player ineligible, either academically or for taking impermissible benefits, or, in the rare event a player failed an NCAA-administered drug test at a postseason event. Recent Michigan basketball player Mitch McGary garnered a one-year suspension for this very thing after he tested positive for marijuana last spring, so he turned pro instead. I’ve rarely heard of others. And everything else is at the school’s or coach’s discretion.

What doesn’t often get discussed about Georgia is the athletic department’s own rigid protocols that take many of the decisions out of Mark Richt’s hands. One failed drug test costs a player 10 percent of his season (one game in football), a second results in missing 30 percent. How strict is that compared to the Dawgs’ peers? Well, let’s just say that if the Honey Badger played at Georgia he may never have seen the field. Meanwhile, a DUI arrest necessitates a 20 percent suspension, which is two games in football, one game longer than most you’ll see. Even missed classes carry a preordained punishment; 10 percent once an athlete misses three in one course.

Of course, Georgia and Richt hardly get lauded for any of this. When he kicks a player off the team it elicits a whole new round of “Mark Richt has lost control of his program” jokes. Yet Auburn and Louisville take no such flack when they inevitably pick up one of those castoffs. I’m not saying Georgia and Richt should get a free pass. They’ve had an awful lot of athletes run afoul of the law the past few years. But when that happens, they more than most do genuinely seem to try to do the right thing.

For once, we agree.

The one thing I’ve always hated about the public perception of Georgia’s “lack of discipline” is that it’s something that goes unchecked, or something that Georgia can avoid by recruiting players with better character.

News flash: All of the young men that sign Division-I scholly’s aren’t choir boys; and a lot of them do a decent job of staying out of trouble until after Signing Day is over—you can’t weed them all out and your best hope is they’ll either become more mature once they’re under your supervision or they’ll learn to keep their nose clean via peer pressure.

Either way, you take a calculated risk, sometimes, in the name of talent and winning. Does it always work out for the best? Obviously not, but no one will ever be able to accuse the Georgia Bulldogs of not being proactive when a player runs afoul of the rules…and you’d be hard-pressed to say that about many other schools in the SEC or elsewhere.

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I am not a 'journalist' by trade, nor do I present myself as such. I am a wife, mother, and passionate Georgia Bulldog fan. That's it. I write. You read.

5 comments for “Georgia Football: Finally, Stewart Mandel and I Agree on Something

  1. TDAWG
    07/25/2014 at 9:22 AM

    UGA and CMR are always in the news not because of “lack of discipline” but due to “discipline!” I know this sounds crazy to a world that lacks any restraint, but it makes me proud to be a Georgia Bulldog. Doing things the right way is not or will not always be easy!

    • 07/25/2014 at 12:11 PM

      True. However the perception is he’s “lost control” and, believe it or not, some actually believe he’s intentionally recruiting bad apples.

      I actually had a conversation with someone last week who said “criminals are running rampant” on UGA’s football team because Mark Richt doesn’t care about character—SMH. It’s amazing how bashed he’s gotten for doing things the right way.

  2. Vic Webb
    07/25/2014 at 9:04 AM

    I often wonder if UGA players fall to mischief so often because of the local culture/environment. You take a kid through a tour of a chocolate factory and tell them they can’t have any, chances are when you get on the bus home there is going to be brown smudge on some mouths. My question is, is it possible that UGA players are exposed to more temptation than other schools? I know – temptation is everywhere and this is a stretch but when you have these disciplinary procedures on place and execution is solid and consistent you have to ask yourself why more at UGA. It isn’t because of choosing bad recruits. These other colleges were after these recruits too. Is enough emphasis placed on counseling and awareness as these recruits come in and then at regular intervals as a reminder? I’m not talking about a survey monkey email where they check all the boxes and run off to the next frat party but an face to face, heart to heart talk at regular intervals to keep this issue in front of the players in order to prevent stupidity when the chocolate bars start rolling in front of them. I have no clue how this process works currently.

    • 07/25/2014 at 12:15 PM

      UGA has programs in place to address many of the issues you speak of, Vic. Bottom-line is you can’t babysit these young men; the same way a kid like Todd Gurley or Chris Connelly has been able to keep their noses clean, is the same way you’d expect others to do the same; in the end, it still comes down to making good choices, and if these guys can’t figure out figure out how to do that, with all these resources at their disposal, they’ll never figure it out.

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