Over the past few days, a letter written by Mary Grace Lyon has been making its rounds throughout the metropolitan Dawgosphere. If you don't know who Mary Grace Lyon is, you're not alone. Luckily for you, she gives quite a family pedigree in her letter so that you're informed that she's a lifelong (and legacy) Bulldog. Since the letter was posted, we've seen a number of reactions, varying from plenty of instances of 'Here, here!' on Facebook to the Good Senator Blutarsky's response that 'Todd Gurley is not a crook.' Now, the Senator took umbrage with Mrs. Lyon's implication that Todd Gurley had committed a crime - indeed, at one point in time, there was a line in the post that posed the question 'And how does a crime with no consequences benefit any player, coach, team, or school?' That particular item has since been removed to prevent any future misunderstanding. Here, though, I'd prefer to focus on the bigger premise of the post - the idea that Mark Richt and the University of Georgia overall should be lauded for the fact that they have suspended Gurley with so much to lose and in the face of many examples to the contrary around the country.
The majority of Mrs. Lyon's post is filled with praise for the University of Georgia and, more specifically, Mark Richt, for how the situation with Todd Gurley has been handled. Throughout the letter, we see this demonstrated with quotes such as these:
Your benching Gurley does not mean that you don’t stand behind your player. It means that you do stand behind your player by choosing what is best for him and for your team and for the University. Even when it hurts. ESPECIALLY when it hurts. It means you stand for a lot more than any one player.
In these past scenarios, the quiet cover-ups and lack of disciplinary action tell us that in collegiate sports, winning is supreme. College football is damaged. Forget what we are teaching these boys and all the little ones watching about what it means to wear a jersey, to be part of a team, part of a University, part of something bigger than yourself. You, Coach Richt, know exactly what that means.
But when allegations were made with the highest stakes in college football, you and the administration at UGA took the high road down an unpopular, largely unprecedented, and tumultuous path. Guilt or innocence aside, actions have consequences.
This sort of flattery continues for a few more paragraphs and ends with Lyon thanking Coach Richt for being the man that he is.
I'll be the first to agree with Mary Grace on being thankful that Mark Richt is our coach - it's no secret that he's a man of high character - and that he should be commended for his stance (and actions) on many issues in college football and life at the University of Georgia. In this case, though, I think she missed the point. What Mary Grace seems to automatically assume is that these actions were taken to prove a point - Mark Richt suspended Todd Gurley because he broke the rules and that's the way it goes - and not for some other, larger-looming reason(s). Personally, I'm of a different opinion.
When a player is accused of violating NCAA rules, schools often take steps ahead of time to protect themselves from exposure to risk by suspending the player before starting an investigation. We've seen this occur on a number of occasions and this is typically to prevent the school from having to forfeit games in which the player competed while under investigation, in the event the investigation finds wrongdoing (even Auburn suspended Cam Newton, if only for a brief period)...that is to say, this is done to benefit the school and not done out of high moral standing. Beyond that, there's also the possibility that if the player is not suspended (or if the school doesn't go through with a proper investigation and perform the necessary due diligence associated with such an investigation) and this is deemed to be part of a bigger trend, the school can be slapped with the greatly feared 'Lack of Institutional Control' penalty, a charge no university wishes to suffer.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, 'Well, self, with Mark Richt's track record and the way he wants his players to behave, I can only assume that he would have a problem with the fact that Gurley sold autographs on the side for cash', but based on his response when questioned about his opinion on players signing autographs for money recently, I think you're wrong. Here's what he said:
I’m not going to get into all of that right now . . . It would obviously be tied into what we’re living through right now. If you had have asked me two weeks ago I’d have probably answered that one
'What we're living through right now'? What's he talking about? Oh...right...that. Seriously though, does that sound like a guy who thinks his players ought not be able to profit on their own image? It would seem to me that choosing not to comment is an indication that he disagrees with the current rule and is keeping his mouth shut to avoid a media firestorm on the subject. Beyond that, take a gander at Jay Rome's comments on the subject:
It’s a completely dumb rule, completely dumb, and there hasn’t been a single ounce of negative thoughts towards Todd at all. Everybody’s behind him 120 percent.
So, based on this, Mary Grace, you're telling me that Mark Richt and Georgia suspended Todd Gurley because they felt it their moral obligation to do so out of some idea that it's setting an example to the rest of the team...or, for that matter, that it's setting an example to the many youth who look up to Todd Gurley and see that 'guilt or innocence aside, actions have consequences'...and that they should be thanked for that? I don't think so. Mark Richt and Butts-Mehre have no choice but to make these moves proactively because not doing so would be putting the institution itself at risk...the very 'G' that hangs on your wall...you know, the one that every Bulldog knows 'stands for the very first state chartered university in the country and for every graduate, faculty member, and administrator who has walked under the Arch, out into the world to make a difference.' Quite frankly, that's a risk that Richt and company just can't take, so Gurley suffers the consequences - guilt, innocence, or asininity of the rule aside. Let's save the high praise for Richt's moral character and principles for a day when it's deserved - as it many times has been - and take this instance for what it is: an institution doing what it has to do with a gun to its head.
As always...Go Dawgs!