Greg McGarity‚Äôs beach vacation last week didn‚Äôt have as much rest and relaxation as the Georgia athletic director would have preferred.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity as the Georgia Bulldogs face the Idaho State Bengals at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, November 6, 2010, in Athens, Ga. (David Manningfirstname.lastname@example.org)
‚ÄúLet‚Äôs just say it was frequently interrupted,‚Äù he said Tuesday.
Back home, two Georgia football players were arrested bringing the total this offseason in the program to seven.
Defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was dismissed from the team a day after being charged with felony aggravated assault/family violence for an incident with his girlfriend. He was dismissed the next day.
Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy was arrested on a DUI charge. He‚Äôs facing a two-game suspension under Georgia athletic association student policies.
‚ÄúPeople are upset, we‚Äôre upset,‚Äù McGarity said, ‚Äúand we‚Äôve got to work even harder to try to do things that will help us avoid these problems but at the end of the day, a young person has to make a decision. You see that not only with 18-year olds but you see that with 50-year olds that make poor decisions.
‚ÄúWhen you do have a problem, it makes you go back and just take another look, take a second look on what‚Äôs registering and what is not.‚Äù
Bellamy‚Äôs arrest early Saturday morning came the day after Georgia‚Äôs off field issues ‚Äî including suspensions and arrests during the past four years under coach Mark Richt ‚Äî were discussed during a segment on ESPN‚Äôs College Football Live.
‚ÄúWe all like Mark Richt, think he‚Äôs a wonderful guy, but those numbers, those numbers are awful,‚Äù said Rod Gilmore, a former Stanford defensive back. ‚ÄúYou have to clean that up.‚Äù
Georgia has put in place programs in an effort to curb off-field missteps.
Players this June spent a weekend with former special operations officers to work on team building and leadership.
Others, including UGA police and former lettermen, address the team on making the right choice.
‚ÄúYou can always do more, but you look at the flip side, are we doing an adequate amount, are we doing enough on a programming front to basically feel like the message is being absorbed by our population of students?‚Äù McGarity said. ‚ÄúBy and large it is, but you‚Äôve got a percent, I always call it the one percent that are going to fail from time to time. We have to determine, is that person worthy of a second chance? Is that person worthy of rehabilitation?‚Äù
Players report on Thursday and start practices on Friday.
McGarity addresses the team each year when practices start up. Decision-making by players is sure to come up this time.
Ultimately the buck stops with him, McGarity said. He sets the tone administratively on the expectations and each head coach is responsible for running their program.
‚ÄúAll this is a reflection of my leadership and that‚Äôs the part that basically disappoints me,‚Äù McGarity said.
McGarity said he wonders what more could be done to reach the players but the ‚Äúvast majority have done things the right way.‚Äù
The off-field issues haven‚Äôt been concentrated in one area, he said.
‚ÄúAll of our problems have been all over the place and it‚Äôs just been poor decision making,‚Äù he said.
McGarity dealt with off-field issues on the football team soon after being hired as athletic director in 2010.
That year there were 11 players arrested.
McGarity said at the end of that season that he wanted ‚Äúaccountability off the chart‚Äù for the program and said it ‚Äúwill be the focus of our efforts to get a handle on our discipline problems of the past.‚Äù
Georgia instituted a mentor program for players to engage community leaders‚Äîrun by former strength coach Dave Van Halanger in his role as director of player welfare–and added more layers on the staff for accountability, he said at the time.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got the right structure in place,‚Äù McGarity said Tuesday. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just a matter of decision-making. I don‚Äôt have an answer for it. These are things that we continue to work on .We‚Äôre trying to learn from others. What are others doing that we might start doing? You can program all you want, you can talk about it all you want, but people have to listen.‚Äù
The Bulldogs went 10 months in 2011 without a known player arrest but in 2012 suspensions (to Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings) and arrests (including star tailback Isaiah Crowell who was dismissed) cropped up again.
Richt addressed the type of players he was bringing into his program that summer at SEC Media Days.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not recruiting bad kids,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre recruiting a lot of great kids. We‚Äôre competing on the same guys with just about everybody else in the conference.‚Äù
McGarity said after the recent arrests, he‚Äôs reviewing to make sure Georgia is doing everything it can to minimize these type of incidents. He said there are 650 athletes across all of Georgia‚Äôs sports teams who mostly do the right things.
‚ÄúTo me it just frustrates me to no end when we have failure in our program, especially in the conduct end,‚Äù McGarity said. ‚ÄúOur students are fully aware of all the consequences internally. Sometimes what doesn‚Äôt register are the consequences external and all of the legal issues that surround inappropriate behavior whether it be a DUI or a misdemeanor or a felony.‚Äù
Players in the ‚Äúmoment of truth,‚Äù when having to make a decision‚Äîwhether clouded by an illegal substance or alcohol or friends that you keep ‚Äî haven‚Äôt made the correct ones in these instances, McGarity said.
That includes the four players arrested for ‚Äúdouble-dipping‚Äù UGA-issued stipend checks this March. Only one of those remains in the program.
‚ÄúI want to be an outlier here,‚Äù McGarity said. ‚ÄúI realize a lot of people just chock all of these incidents up to the age. They‚Äôll say, ‚Äòkids are kids,‚Äô and things like that. I don‚Äôt want to be in that group. I want to be an outlier to where our fans, our staff and our coaches, when you have things like this it would be a surprise instead of an anticipation. That‚Äôs kind of where we are. It‚Äôs in an unhealthy place to be when you‚Äôre anticipating instead of one of shock.‚Äù