Georgia has contacted both the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA about alleged payments by Columbus Parks and Recreation employees that have put the eligibility of football player Jarvis Jones and incoming basketball player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into question.
Athletic director Greg McGarity said Monday in a statement that UGA “is aware of the recent matters involving” Jones and Caldwell-Pope.
“The UGAAA and the student-athletes will work cooperatively with both entities as the process continues,” the statement said. “No further comments will be available until the matter is resolved.”
A police investigation into Columbus Parks and Recreation Department activities uncovered possible improper benefits as reported Sunday by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Jones is slated to start at outside linebacker for the Bulldogs this fall. Caldwell-Pope is a McDonald’s All-American guard and one of Georgia’s top recruits in recent years.
The two played for the city-funded Georgia Blazers AAU basketball team.
The Ledger-Enquirer reported that interviews by Columbus police determined that an unauthorized bank account controlled by parks 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.
Caldwell-Pope played at Greenville High School.
The NCAA does not permit amateur sports organizations to pay for expenses in excess of actual and necessary travel, room and board expenses and apparel and equipment for competition and practice.
Police interviewed Parks and Recreation employee Shelley Stephens, who told them that Adams used a Georgia Blazers credit card to pay for four different flights for her and Jones, according to the report.
Jones’ case might be impacted if the NCAA determines there was a pre-existing relationship between himself and Stephens. Jones’ mother had given power of attorney to Stephens and Jones had lived with Stephens.
In an October 2008 story in the Ledger-Enquirer, Stephens attended a ceremony at the Carver High gym for Jones’ selection to the U.S. Army All-American game. The story identified her as Jones’ “mother” and said that “among those in attendance was Columbus Parks and Recreation Department director Tony Adams, who helped nurture Jones through his department’s programs.”
Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox said Monday that he became aware of the issue with Caldwell-Pope on Sunday.
“Obviously, we’ll cooperate with the process,” Fox said. “Really can’t speculate on what penalty there would be if there is one.”
Kentucky guard John Wall was forced to sit out two games by the NCAA in the fall of 2009 and repay $800 in expenses from unofficial visits with an AAU coach who was licensed as an agent at the time, according to an NCAA ruling in October 2009.
More recently, Baylor freshman Perry Jones was forced to sit out a Big 12 tournament game after the NCAA ruled that he and his family received improper benefits with the help of an AAU coach. He will also miss the first five games of this season.
His mother received three 15-day loans and airfare, lodging and tickets to an NFL preseason game, totaling $4,100, before his enrollment.