ATLANTA — Georgia hopes to file a report to the NCAA and Southeastern Conference by the end of this week on its internal investigation regarding alleged improper payments made involving two of its athletes by Columbus Parks & Recreation employees.
The eligibility of football linebacker Jarvis Jones and basketball guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are in question.
“I quit trying to guess how things will turn out,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Monday evening before an appearance at UGA Day in Atlanta at the Cobb Galleria. “The bottom line is, it is what it is and you report whatever you find out and try to uncover everything at one time. If we can wrap this up by Aug. 1, that gives (the NCAA and SEC) time to react. That’s what you hope.”
McGarity said the school hopes for a timely resolution to the case after A.J. Green’s four-game NCAA suspension was not determined until after the first game of last season. Green was held out of the opener after selling a bowl jersey to a person the NCAA deemed an agent.
“It just puts a sense of urgency on everything,” McGarity said. “You try to wrap up everything you can as soon as we can. We’re hopeful that we’ll have everything wrapped up here by the end of this week.”
McGarity indicated that Georgia has been in touch verbally with SEC and NCAA officials on the case.
“You find out about it and all of a sudden you have to interview student-athletes, the individuals, the guardians, things like that,” McGarity said.
He said that compliance director Eric Baumgartner did that after the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported that a police investigation into Columbus Parks and Recreation Department activities uncovered possible improper benefits.
Jones and Caldwell-Pope played for the Georgia Blazers AAU basketball team.
The report said that an unauthorized bank account used by director Tony Adams and his deputy Herman Porter was used to pay for flights to and from Los Angeles for Jones totaling $828.40 after he signed with Southern California. Jones, who played at Carver High in Columbus, transferred to Georgia after one season at USC.
Police also alleged that Porter’s credit card and money from the Blazers’ bank account was used to pay a $280.90 cell phone bill of Rhonda Caldwell, the mother of Caldwell-Pope.
Police interviewed parks and recreation employee Shelley Stephens, who told them Adams used a Blazers’ credit card to pay for four different flights for her and Jones. Jones’ mother had reportedly given power of attorney to Stephens, and Jones had lived with Stephens, something McGarity said he expected would be part of the report.
“Any time you report something, you’re turning in something that either is an issue or not,” McGarity said. “You basically turn in the information, and it’s up to others to decide what the next course of action should be. Luckily, you’re just dealing with one entity. You’re dealing with Columbus. It’s not like you’ve got 10 different groups to work with. A lot of the legwork already has been done by the investigation.
McGarity said he did not know if Jones and Caldwell-Pope will have to be declared ineligible and if Georgia would have to ask for reinstatement.
Georgia football coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs will open preseason camp next week. The season opens on Sept. 3 against Boise State.
“Our goal is that we will have an answer early enough to be able to prepare properly,” Richt said. “I think we’re on track to do that.”
NOTES: Richt spoke to a crowd of about 800 that gave him a standing ovation before he addressed the crowd for about 35 minutes. “This room could have been empty,” Richt said in his closing remarks. “Everybody could have been in the tank. The Bulldog Nation has supported us. … after a subpar year. I thank you for that.” … The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State sold out Monday when 800 tickets put on sale by Georgia were snatched up in two minutes. Asked if freshman Isaiah Crowell from Carver High in Columbus will get the first handoff at tailback against Boise State, Richt said: “If he earns it, if he deserves it, if he’s the best one, he’ll tote it.” Richt said the status of signees Kent Turene and Devin Bowman remains “up in the air.” Turene needs to be certified by the NCAA Clearinghouse, and Bowman has to pass an English portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test.