Greg McGarity’s beach vacation last week didn’t 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)
“Let’s just say it was frequently interrupted,” 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’s facing a two-game suspension under Georgia athletic association student policies.
“People are upset, we’re upset,” McGarity said, “and we’ve 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.
“When you do have a problem, it makes you go back and just take another look, take a second look on what’s registering and what is not.”
Bellamy’s arrest early Saturday morning came the day after Georgia’s off field issues — including suspensions and arrests during the past four years under coach Mark Richt — were discussed during a segment on ESPN’s College Football Live.
“We all like Mark Richt, think he’s a wonderful guy, but those numbers, those numbers are awful,” said Rod Gilmore, a former Stanford defensive back. “You have to clean that up.”
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.
“You 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?” McGarity said. “By and large it is, but you’ve 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?”
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.
“All this is a reflection of my leadership and that’s the part that basically disappoints me,” McGarity said.
McGarity said he wonders what more could be done to reach the players but the “vast majority have done things the right way.”
The off-field issues haven’t been concentrated in one area, he said.
“All of our problems have been all over the place and it’s just been poor decision making,” 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 “accountability off the chart” for the program and said it “will be the focus of our efforts to get a handle on our discipline problems of the past.”
Georgia instituted a mentor program for players to engage community leaders—run 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.
“You’ve got the right structure in place,” McGarity said Tuesday. “It’s just a matter of decision-making. I don’t have an answer for it. These are things that we continue to work on .We’re 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.”
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.
“We’re not recruiting bad kids,” Richt said. “We’re recruiting a lot of great kids. We’re competing on the same guys with just about everybody else in the conference.”
McGarity said after the recent arrests, he’s 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’s sports teams who mostly do the right things.
“To me it just frustrates me to no end when we have failure in our program, especially in the conduct end,” McGarity said. “Our students are fully aware of all the consequences internally. Sometimes what doesn’t 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.”
Players in the “moment of truth,” when having to make a decision—whether clouded by an illegal substance or alcohol or friends that you keep — haven’t made the correct ones in these instances, McGarity said.
That includes the four players arrested for “double-dipping” UGA-issued stipend checks this March. Only one of those remains in the program.
“I want to be an outlier here,” McGarity said. “I realize a lot of people just chock all of these incidents up to the age. They’ll say, ‘kids are kids,’ and things like that. I don’t 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’s kind of where we are. It’s in an unhealthy place to be when you’re anticipating instead of one of shock.”