Little did Greg McGarity know that Georgia’s serious misconduct proposal, which became SEC law, would be revisited so quickly.
But as McGarity took a couple of questions about the potential evolution of what the SEC will adopt in a revised version of its serious misconduct policy, Georgia’s athletics director seemed grateful that his program got that piece of conference legislation to the forefront.
“In hindsight, I think everyone is thankful we did what we did because of certain things that are in today’s world in college athletics,” McGarity said. “Those are certain things we have in place now that might have prevented certain situations at other institutions that might not have done their due diligence. It’s a good thing we got a jump start on it last year, and really I think it helped everyone.”
It’s easy to realize McGarity was referring to what transpired at Baylor, in which an investigation concluded former head coach Art Briles covered up sexual assault allegations against players and contacted victims in defiance of the protocol established as a part of Title IX law. Baylor fired Briles, with athletics director Ian McCaw and president Ken Starr ultimately resigning from their positions at the university.
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Georgia’s 2015 proposal at the SEC meetings was quickly dubbed the Jonathan Taylor rule, since the former UGA defensive tackle was kicked off the program for assaulting his girlfriend in 2014. After a junior college stint, Taylor then transferred to Alabama.
Taylor, however, found himself in trouble with the law again with another domestic violence arrest. Taylor was subsequently dismissed from Alabama’s football program. This led to the SEC adopting the serious misconduct rule, which prevents schools from accepting transfers who were accused of sexual misconduct or domestic violence at previous institutions.
While the SEC is broadening the definition of serious misconduct, the rule will still apply only to transfers. McGarity said the conference could look at implementing it toward recruits in the future.
With transfers, the spectrum of the serious misconduct policy is expected to include dating violence and stalking, as well as anyone who has been convicted or pleaded guilty to a similar crime resulting in a felony.
Mississippi State faced a similar situation involving five-star prospect Jeffery Simmons, who was videotaped beating a woman in March. Simmons was charged with simple assault but will still be admitted to the university and suspended for the season opener. But since Simmons is an incoming freshman, there’s still a chance Mississippi State admits him since his case won’t fall under the conference’s serious misconduct policy.
Support for the serious misconduct rule’s expansion has been unanimous among coaches.
“By and large, if somebody is involved with serious misconduct, he needs not to play in the SEC,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “That’s a straightforward and consistent theme.”
McGarity said that Georgia faculty athletics director David Shipley is on the committee that will recommend the necessary changes to the SEC presidents. The updated policy is expected to be announced by the SEC on Friday.
A related topic brought up this week is whether individual institutions can do a better job of providing background checks on the prospects they recruit. While college applications generally include sections for applicants to list any run-ins with law enforcement, there is still a need for college programs to do additional research.
But that can be difficult since most prospects don’t turn 18 until their senior year.
“If you’re transferring from a university, you’re generally of age, you’re 18 years or older,” SEC commission Greg Sankey said. “You’re in a higher education setting. You’re in an environment that maybe is very different from that in which you lived as a child, as a minor. Generally speaking before enrollment, they are minors. You may have difference access to legal records and information.”
When the updated version of the serious misconduct rule is announced Friday, it will be a next step in what could evolve over the years.
As it stands, McGarity applauded the SEC for being proactive on this issue a year ago.
“That was the conversation that dominated last year’s meetings, the need for that and for closer scrutiny to make sure you do your due diligence and try to avoid the mistakes others have, even going into last year,” McGarity said. “This year, now that it’s ramped up even more, I think it was a great move by the conference to adopt that and get ahead of that as best you can.”