Smart, UGA deny leniency in sexual misconduct cases

University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, shown at a news conference in March, addressed off-field issues surrounding his team in an interview Tuesday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, shown at a news conference in March, addressed off-field issues surrounding his team in an interview Tuesday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

EDITOR’S NOTE: On July 19, 2023, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution modified an article that was linked to this article, including the headline, several paragraphs and a quotation. Two sentences have also been removed from this article. The AJC explains the reason for these actions here.

ATHENS – University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday he has never condoned sexual misconduct by his players, disputing a recent news report that asserted his program rallies to support athletes accused of violence against women.

“We take these allegations extremely serious,” Smart said. “Me personally, I take these allegations extremely serious. We do not tolerate sexual misconduct in our organization. ... Never have, never will.”

Smart, who rarely makes public comments during his team’s off season, spoke during an hour-long session with a small group of reporters invited to the football team’s offices. Athletics officials did not allow video recording or still photography and instructed reporters not to tweet about Smart’s remarks until the session ended.

Georgia’s athletics director, Josh Brooks, said the coach wanted “to set the record straight” in response to a story published June 27 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Brooks said the story wrongly suggested Georgia had failed to appropriately respond when players were accused of sexual or domestic violence.

“It crossed a serious line, and we will not stand for this conjecture,” Brooks said. He added, “The reporting also conveniently minimizes the significant actions we’ve taken in direct response to address these matters.”

The article focused on two cases: a rape case from 2021 involving a star defensive player and another sexual assault allegation from 2022 involving a recruit.

Smart dismissed Adam Anderson from the team after he was arrested on the rape charge. But, according to Anderson’s lawyer, Smart allowed eight other players to appear on their teammate’s behalf during a court hearing. Anderson’s accuser, also a Georgia student who worked part time in the football program’s office, was present in the courtroom.

At the same hearing, Bryant Gantt, the team’s director of player support, testified as a character witness for Anderson.

A lawyer who handles campus sexual assault cases said the presence of the players and Gantt indicated the university had inappropriately sided with the accused player over the student who alleged she was the victim of a sexual assault.

In the other case, Georgia signed Jamaal Jarrett to a football scholarship even though he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman during his official recruiting visit. During the same weekend, Jarrett drank with current players in an Athens bar, breaking curfew by more than two hours before returning to his hotel after 3 a.m., according to text messages the Athens police retrieved from his phone.

Jarrett’s accuser said they engaged in consensual sex at first. But she said Jarrett later forced her to perform oral sex.

The Athens police filed no charges against Jarrett, who was 16 at the time.

In the Anderson case, Smart said, he had no choice but to honor the players’ request to let them appear in court on their teammate’s behalf.

At one point Tuesday, Brooks said that when Gantt supports players in their dealings with the legal system, “it’s always for the university” as part of his job. Asked about Gantt’s appearance at Anderson’s bond hearing, however, Brooks said, “That was a personal decision he made.”

Anderson, who had been considered a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft, played one game as the police investigated the rape allegation against him. Georgia officials have said they weren’t aware of the investigation until after the game.

Once he learned about the allegation, Smart said, he suspended Anderson from the team.

“How is that to be contorted to be supportive of bad behavior?” he said.

In the Jarrett case, Smart said he considered revoking a scholarship offer after learning about the sexual assault allegation. But he said he honored the offer because the police filed no charges.

Smart, Brooks and two other university officials who spoke Tuesday said Georgia has a strong policy, as required by federal law, governing investigations of allegations of sexual misconduct by students.

When athletes are accused, they face the same scrutiny as other students, said Qiana Wilson, director of Georgia’s Equal Opportunity Office.

Athletes found to have engaged in sexual misconduct may be held out of competition, suspended or dismissed and may have their financial aid packages reduced or canceled, said Darrice Griffin, a senior deputy athletics director.

“We do a wonderful job of educating our student-athletes about sexual misconduct,” Smart said.

Smart acknowledged this off season, which followed his team’s second consecutive national championship, has been unusually difficult. On Jan. 15, recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy and offensive lineman Devin Willock died in a high-speed car crash, after which defensive lineman Jalen Carter was charged with racing with them through Athens at speeds exceeding 100 mph. Eleven other players have been charged with excessive speeding, reckless driving and other serious traffic offenses since the fatal crash.

Smart said they still haven’t solved the problem.

“I don’t have the exact answer,” Smart said. “I wish I did.”

But he said he “vehemently disagrees” with the suggestion that off-field issues have tarnished his program.

“I’m a firm believer our program is a good program,” Smart said. “We have good kids in our program.”


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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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