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White: Woods puts puppy business to bed

Mike “Big Dawg” Woods just wants to clear the air.

White: Woods puts puppy business to bed
By Chris White

There was no money exchanged, no recruit tampering and no illicit puppy provisions when Isaiah Crowell held up a
5-week-old English bulldog related to the Uga line that belonged to Woods on National Signing Day, said the Georgia fan best known for painting a bulldog atop his head on gamedays.

For anyone following Georgia’s recruiting and the saga involving Woods and Crowell, now a Georgia freshman tailback, this is nothing surprising.

What comes as news, however, is that the University of Georgia quietly launched and wrapped up an investigation into the incident, that Woods was just a few minutes away from committing what may have qualified as an NCAA infraction and that the dog-runner, former Georgia defensive back Glenn Ford, had close enough ties to Crowell and the Carver-Columbus football program to squash any allegations of wrongdoing.

Woods said Wednesday that he was only recently notified by Georgia that the investigation into whether the loaner puppy could have violated NCAA rules came to an end, clearing him and Ford and taking away another of the nit-picky potential violations looming over Crowell’s head.

Georgia sports communications associate athletic director Claude Felton confirmed the athletic department’s counsel looked into the exchange “quite thoroughly” and found no issues. The NCAA then took a look and found nothing worth worrying about.

“The NCAA reviewed the information and did not find sufficient evidence that violation occurred,” NCAA associate director of public and media relations Stacey Osburn said in an email Thursday.

The attention came as a surprise to Woods, a Georgia season-ticket holder and booster club member.

“I never imagined that could happen over something like puppies,” Woods said of the investigation. “Any one who knows me knows I would never do anything to hurt Georgia. Never.”

Yet in 2011, you can’t be too careful, and Georgia knows this. At least one minor violation regarding Crowell’s recruitment was already self-reported and led to a momentary suspension of his eligibility, and revelations regarding a parks and recreation department scandal in his hometown of Columbus brought to question the eligibility of linebacker Jarvis Jones and basketball player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. All have since been cleared.

What is amazing, Woods said, is just how close he came to unknowingly crossing that line.

On Feb. 1, Woods said he received a call from a number he did not recognize. The caller, former Georgia defensive back Ford, asked Woods if he could borrow a puppy for the following afternoon’s signing day ceremony in Columbus. The highly recruited Crowell was set to unveil his decision to sign with Georgia over Alabama, and Ford thought the puppy would be a nice touch as ESPN cameras cut in for a live feed of the announcement.

Always happy to help a Georgia fan in need, Woods agreed to let Ford borrow a puppy. He even wanted to drive it to Columbus himself. But just a few minutes earlier, he had taken a medication that would make it dangerous for him to drive at night.

Ford agreed to drive to Athens the following morning, pick up the dog and return it that evening, and everything went according to plan.

But within a few days of Crowell’s announcement, Woods said he was contacted by attorney Ed Tolley, who often represents the athletic department in legal matters.

“(Tolley) called and asked about how Isaiah got the dog, whose dog it was and if there was any money changing hands,” Woods said. “They had a lot of questions. It was about as full-blown as it could get, I think. He said he would take it from there.”

Ford also took part in the investigation and said he faced similar questions.

“They mostly wanted to know if there was any money involved and where I got the dog, and they asked a lot about me and Isaiah,” Ford said.

At the heart of the matter was the relationship between the dog’s owner and Crowell, and this is where all involved lucked out.

Had Ford called earlier and Woods driven the dog to Crowell, Woods’ booster status may have raised issues regarding the NCAA’s policies on extra benefits and contacting recruits. But Ford’s ties to Crowell and Carver-Columbus’ football program kept the situation from getting messy.

Ford graduated from Carver-Columbus in 1994, his son Cequanti is a senior running back there, and his grandfather and Crowell’s father were cousins. With that connection established and Ford having requested the puppy, Crowell was in the clear.

Now that the puppy — since named Isaiah “Big Dawg” Woods — has grown into Woods’ 70-pound pride and joy and the investigation is complete, Woods said it was time to refute rumors that the dog was a gift to Crowell, that he delivered it or that he had any effect on Crowell’s decision.

“I just want to get the truth out there,” Woods said. “I’m always going to support Georgia, and I want people to know I didn’t do anything to hurt them.”

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