ATHENS - Georgia had cautious optimism about Todd Gurley, but the NCAA has quashed that. Now the Bulldogs must proceed without their star for two more games, barring a successful appeal.
The NCAA has extended Gurley's suspension by two games, meaning he will not be able to return until Georgia hosts Auburn on Nov. 15. He is set to miss Saturday's game against Florida and the following week at Kentucky. A condition of Gurley's reinstatement is he must also repay a portion of the money to charity, and complete 40 hours of community service.
"I'm asking Todd to stay in good spirits, and stay in good shape," head coach Mark Richt said after Wednesday's practice, which Gurley participated in. "And then the rest of us will be preparing to do battle against Florida."
UGA officials, including athletics director Greg McGarity, declined comment, pending the appeal process.
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The NCAA said it found that Gurley accepted "more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years."
Suspending Gurley for additional games, the NCAA added, was "strongly considered" because the violations were over multiple years with multiple individuals. It was only UGA's "due diligence in its investigation" and Gurley's "full disclosure of his involvement in the violations" that prevented that.
The information that was in the NCAA report - including the cash amount - was all in the report UGA had provided a week earlier. The main evidence was Gurley's "full disclosure," as the NCAA later put it. There was also other evidence provided by multiple memorabilia dealers, not just Bryan Allen.
UGA did not suggest the length of a suspension in its report to the NCAA. So it was not asking for immediate reinstatement, just providing the evidence it had gathered, along with what it felt were mitigating circumstances. It was clear, however, that it hoped it would be enough for his immediate reinstatement, but the NCAA enforcement staff disagreed.
Now UGA's appeal will be heard by a separate committee, comprised of officials from other schools. The basis for the appeal is the mitigating circumstances, which UGA is hoping a different set of people will find sympathetic. But it is not very likely.
"My opinion is when rules are broken, you don't have control over the discipline," Richt said. "So that's part of life."
UGA is hoping to hear on the appeal as soon as Thursday.
When UGA suspended Gurley on Oct. 9, it was based on evidence it had gathered over a couple days. The school then went about the investigation. It sent its report to the NCAA on Oct. 22, and two days later the NCAA asked for more information, which UGA provided Saturday and Sunday. The NCAA notified Georgia of its ruling late on Tuesday, and it was announced at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
The news certainly means that Gurley's Heisman chances are over. He was considered the frontrunner when UGA suspended him on Oct. 9, two days before the Missouri game.
No. 9 Georgia (6-1) plays unranked Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville. Nick Chubb, a freshman, has starred in Gurley's absence, running for 143 yards and a touchdown at Missouri, and then 202 yards and two touchdowns at Arkansas.
Chubb will now start against Florida on Saturday, unless UGA wins the appeal, with sophomore Brendan Douglas serving as backup. J.J. Green is also likely to move back to tailback from safety; Green was back at safety this week in UGA's apparent anticipation that Gurley would be cleared.
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon, speaking after Tuesday's practice (apparently before finding out the NCAA ruling), was asked if he would continue to give Chubb a heavy workload, if Gurley isn't cleared. It would depend on how the game went, McClendon said.
"When you look at the number of carries he got the last couple of games, Brendan probably could have gone in there a little bit," McClendon said. "But it's all on how the game unfolds, and me knowing what everybody does well, and subbing it that way."
As for Gurley, he plans to return once he is reinstated, according to Richt, rather than get ready for his pro career.
"My expectation is he's getting excited to play as soon as he's allowed to, which right as of now is Auburn," Richt said.
Here is the full release from the NCAA:
Todd Gurley, University of Georgia football student-athlete, must sit a total of four games, or 30 percent of the season, for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. Gurley, who acknowledged violating NCAA rules, must repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service as additional conditions for his reinstatement. Gurley will be eligible to play on Nov. 15.
In determining the appropriate reinstatement conditions, a 30 percent withholding condition is consistent with precedent in similar cases. Additional withholding was strongly considered because the violations occurred over multiple years with multiple individuals and the student received extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs. However, the university’s due diligence in its investigation and the student’s full disclosure of his involvement in the violations were factors in not imposing a more severe withholding condition.
The University submitted its original reinstatement request on Wednesday, Oct. 22. The NCAA requested additional information on Friday, Oct. 24, which it received from the university on Saturday, Oct. 25, and Sunday, Oct. 26. The NCAA issued its decision to the university on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 28.
The university indicated it will appeal the decision. A membership committee which oversees the reinstatement process will review the appeal this week. The committee can reduce or remove the conditions the staff has imposed, but cannot increase them.