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If UGA Can Sue Bryan Allen, That Doesn't Mean They Should.

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Mike Zarrilli

There's been a lot of talk now that the guy who allegedly paid Todd Gurley to sign memorabilia has been identified about a certain Georgia statute passed in 2003 which gives colleges the right to sue those whose actions lead to probation for the school. AJC political insider Jim Galloway discusses the law and its inception here:

On making enticement of a UGA football player a criminal act | Political Insider blog


While I'm fairly comfortable labeling that guy a predatory dirt bag, there are some good reasons for the University not to pursue such an action. One is that it would drag this incident out publicly for years. It's rare to conclude a civil suit in Georgia's courts in under 6 months, and the norm (especially in busier metro jurisdictions) is well over a year.

Second, there's no telling what skeletons (real, provable, or otherwise) Allen would dredge up in his defense. If Allen knows of other Bulldogs signing memorabilia for money he'd inevitably use that as leverage. Even if he didn't, Georgia would still be under an obligation to report it to the NCAA if it found out about such violations. Finally, Georgia law allows the defendant in a civil lawsuit to file as part of his defense what's known as a "third party complaint." This is a claim against an individual other than the original plaintiff (hence the title "third party") arising out of the subject of the lawsuit. In essence, it's a way of saying "If I owe you money, then this guy owes it to me, because he was an equal participant in what we did."

If I were Bryan Allen's attorney in such a civil suit I would file a third party claim against Todd Gurley. I would argue that Todd Gurley is a legal adult who knew what the NCAA rules were and made a conscious decision to break them in exchange for money. Maybe not a lot of money, maybe not a "fair" amount of money.  But Gurley would be called as a witness, and I don't think the University really wants to put him through that. I also don't suspect that Gurley, a guy who looks like he's having bamboo shoved under his fingernails when forced to talk to reporters, would be thrilled about it either.

Another consideration? The venue for civil suits in Georgia is normally the county in which the defendant resides. At least according to published reports, for Villa Rica resident Allen that would be Carroll County, on the Alabama line. There are a lot of Georgia fans in Carroll County, but also a lot of Alabama and Auburn partisans. And a lot of folks who just won't care about helping Todd Gurley or the University of Georgia.

Finally, University officials have to consider the endgame. What can one actually recover from the owner of a failed sports memorabilia shop? Odds are not a lot. If Allen isn't bankrupt, he's unlikely to be far from it. Does anyone really think the guy meeting college athletes in parking lots to sign mini-helmets and then selling them on eBay is independently wealthy?

In other words, any victory may be nothing more than a symbolic warning. I for one would have some reservations about having my tax dollars and/or Hartman Fund donation converted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees in order to say to the shadowy autograph guys "Now let that be a lesson to you!" In other words, to this member of the Georgia Bar, a lawsuit against Bryan Allen probably isn't worth the time, money, and risk involved. University officials will simply have to be content with the fact that the guy is probably persona non grata from Columbus to Augusta and points north and south.