NCAA clears Jones to play

Georgia starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is available to play when its season begins Sept. 3 against Boise State.

The NCAA cleared Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, right, to play after benefits he received from his former AAU basketball coach put his eligibility in question.
David Manning

The school revealed Tuesday afternoon that the NCAA has cleared the Southern California transfer to play after his eligibility was called into question earlier this summer.

The NCAA notified UGA compliance director Eric Baumgartner late Monday that it had reviewed Georgia’s internal report concerning payments made by the former coach of Jones’ Columbus AAU team and ruled that Jones did not commit any violations.

“In the end, we’ve got a student-athlete that doesn’t have any eligibility issues,” Baumgartner said Tuesday. “The NCAA and SEC worked with us to expedite the decision. In the end, that’s all you can ask for.”

Georgia filed a report to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA in the Jones case last week separate from that of highly rated incoming freshman basketball guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also played for the Georgia Blazers AAU basketball team.

Georgia is still reviewing that case.

Baumgartner said Georgia’s investigation showed there were no improper benefits for Jones, a sophomore, based on his prior relationships with the coach, Tony Adams, before Jones became a prospect. For football, that’s in the ninth grade, Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said he spoke to Jones on Tuesday.

“There’s going to be a lot of weight off of him,” said Georgia tailback Richard Samuel, a scout team member last year with Jones. “He’s going to be excited, being able to play, being able to contribute. That’s all he’s been talking about, being able to get on the field and be able to play and have fun.”

Police records, uncovered by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, showed that then Columbus Parks and Recreation Director and AAU coach Adams paid for flights to and from Los Angeles totaling $828 for Jones and Parks and Recreation employee Shelley Stephens before Jones transferred to Georgia.

Another $700 may have been withdrawn for Jones from an unauthorized city bank account to purchase a laptop.

Adams coached Jones as early as the summer of 2003 with the Blazers program. Jones’ mother had reportedly given power of attorney to Stephens, with whom Jones lived.

“All the information was vetted and all the relationships were vetted,” Baumgartner said.

The determination by the NCAA was made more than three-and-a-half weeks before the season begins.

“The one thing that is pleasing is that up or down whether it was a decision in Jarvis’ favor or against it, at least you knew and you can move forward,” athletic director Greg McGarity said. “Just to be able to have an answer this far in advance, instead of the week of the game or into the season, is I think a credit to Eric for processing it as quickly as they did and for the NCAA office as far as responding as timely as they did. It just helps you move on.”

Georgia last year held star receiver A.J. Green out of its opener before he received a four-game NCAA suspension for selling a game jersey to an agent for $1,000.

“I appreciate the work of our compliance office for its time and effort in providing a thorough, comprehensive report and I’m thankful for the timely manner in which the NCAA reviewed and evaluated all the facts to reach a decision,” coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “We’re ready to move on with preparations for our season opener.”

In the Caldwell-Pope case, police alleged that his mother had a $280 cell phone bill paid for by Adams’ deputy. His status remains uncertain.

“We have not processed that yet,” Baumgartner said, “but we are still working on that. But obviously with Jarvis being a football student-athlete and them in practice right now and having their first game on Sept. 3, that was not to say priority No. 1, but ultimately that was one we needed to get rectified sooner.”

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RT @chris_starrs: UGA’s Christian Payne saw his first playing time last week against Arkansas. http://t.co/eFBPVIEFWV

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