Is this the Georgia way?

sports@macon.comNovember 2, 2011 

Friday morning, the Internet was abuzz with rumors that a certain Georgia star running back might be suspended before the Florida game.

There are a lot of things mentioned on message boards. Some things you pay attention to, and others you ignore. But this talk seemed to have legs, and it could have been a huge story if it had an impact on a Georgia team that was desperate to beat the Gators.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. Sure enough, Isaiah Crowell and two other running backs were suspended by Georgia for the upcoming New Mexico State game.

There are so many questions about this we’d have to run a special section to try and dissect it correctly. They are legitimate questions, but we’d probably have a hard time getting correct answers.

We won’t get a full admission of what the violation of team rules was, but The Telegraph and others are reporting it had to do with drugs or alcohol. And to be honest, that was what was rumored all along.

First, the SEC is to blame here for leaving these situations in the hands of the schools. There is no uniform policy on failed drug tests, so schools can conveniently suspend players when they want to suspend them (i.e. when they play an easy opponent instead of the biggest rival).

Go figure ... neither the NCAA nor the SEC has a policy about something to have everyone on the same page. We’ve heard this before.

Crowell’s behavior is a concern. Remember, he was suspended for the first quarter of the game against Vanderbilt. When asked, Georgia head coach Mark Richt would only say that Crowell didn’t play because he loved Crowell. But now, we wonder if we really know the reason.

Richt can love Crowell all he wants, but it obviously didn’t stop him from doing something bad. This player is counted on as a franchise back, but now how can Georgia count on him? Crowell’s durability already has been questioned, and now (again) we wonder if we know the reason.

Richt went back to the stock quote file folder he has in his drawer to respond to the latest Crowell incident Tuesday, saying the three running backs did not do things, “The Georgia way.”

What exactly is the Georgia way? We know what it’s not, since we only hear it when Richt has to respond to things like Cornelius Washington’s DUI arrest last month and now these three players possibly failing a drug test.

He has to stop saying that. It sounds silly. Here’s a program that had, what, 10 players arrested in 2010? Now these things have happened. People are going to think this mess is the Georgia way. Richt needs to stop using these flowery comments that are unnecessary.

People are also going to naturally wonder when Georgia knew of the reported drug test results. Did Richt and athletics director Greg McGarity know Friday morning, when the rumors were flying, that Crowell had flunked a drug test? And if so, did they still let him play knowing how important the Florida game was?

Maybe they wanted to wait to verify the test results. Maybe they simply wanted to do what most schools in the SEC have done and suspend the players when it was good for them. And again, with the rules being left up to the school that was their right.

But is that the Georgia way?

That’s why Richt needs to stop using his well-used line. He opens himself up to criticism by putting it out like there is some regal standard that is not realistic when dealing with young people.

It’s like earlier in the week when Richt was asked about Blair Walsh, the place-kicker who has missed 10 field goals this season. Richt said he hadn’t thought about replacing Walsh and one of the things he would do was to “love him.”

This is not normal for a football coach to say. If Walsh isn’t producing like this program needs, he should be replaced. It’s not personal. It’s really not. The problem is Richt takes it personally.

And now he has been disappointed again. Players he loved failed him. Maybe if he could truly define the Georgia way, the players around him wouldn’t fall short.

But he just can’t use the line anymore. Crowell and others showed the Georgia way doesn’t always look very good.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.

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