UGA returns to negative spotlight

Photo by Rob Saye


Last week I painted a broad picture on football’s troubled offseason. On the varsity level, I looked at the recent Grady High School situation. The Knights had 14 players on last year’s roster that reported fraud residencies and among the individuals was one who was never enrolled in a single class. In the NFL, I mentioned the 27 arrests from the end of the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory to mid-June of last year’s offseason. Finally, on the collegiate scale, I looked specifically at the SEC’s perpetual run-ins with the law each offseason.

As predicted last week, more headlines and more self-inflicted wounds came and history once again repeated itself. Georgia and Missouri added six more arrests to the SEC’s growing total (not to mention the three Missouri basketball players also arrested this week). Tennessee, Ole Miss, Georgia and Missouri have each seen two or more football players arrested in the last month. With this trend continuing to hurt these teams early in the season, I shift my focus specifically to the problem in Athens, Ga.


Type “UGA football players” into your search engine and “in the NFL” and “arrested” are the two most visited additions to your search. Since the start of the 2010 season, 19 players have been arrested. Out of the 19, just five arrests have come during the actual season. Among these players are starters and some of the most highly-ranked recruits of their respective classes. People have pushed blame to head coach Mark Richt on not being tough enough or not having any control over his players. The way I see it, Richt is not the brunt of the problem. A lack of leadership within the team is. Tray Matthews, Jonathan Taylor, James DeLoach and Uriah LeMay were all arrested on St. Patrick’s Day this past Monday. No, it was not for being underage or for drinking too much green beer. Spring break was over as well and the first day of spring practice was the next day. Instead, these four were booked for trying to double-dip checks.

Instead of watching game film maybe the coaching staff needs to show each new Georgia recruit Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can and teach them about Frank Abagnale’s run-ins with the law. Or maybe these kids just need to start thinking for themselves. Four players all making the same dumb decision proves they are not.

A typical college student is thrown into a world of freedom with plenty of peer pressure and decision-making involved. A college athlete is not. Showing up minutes late to a workout or a class requires a punishment and nearly every day is spent constantly watching the clock to make sure you are not late. The majority of football players have a tutor for each specific class to push them and keep them on track. In between class or a study session is barely enough time to eat. Then you have to be dressed, taped up and ready for hours of film, practice or workouts. During team activities, every player is on the clock and whistle. “Run this play, line up like this, move your feet, etc.”

There is a constant voice telling you what to do. However, coaches are not roommates and coaches are not going to be your classmates/ peers. Off the practice field, there is a need for teammates to act as the positive role models and UGA currently lacks this key ingredient. Who is the leader of this year’s team? Richt needs guys to step up to the plate as men and competitors.

While I was playing at UGA, I had one of the best mentors to look up to in Mohammed Massaquoi. For much of that 2008 season, Richt and the coaching staff placed a complete ban from downtown for anyone on the football team. No one was allowed to set foot past North Campus. After the spring game the ban was removed and we finally had our freedom back. That first night, Massaquoi called and texted every receiver from starters down to the brand-new walk-ons like myself to make sure we were all back safely and out of trouble. This is your answer to this annual headache, Bulldog fans: leadership.

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