Georgia star tailback Todd Gurley must sit out two more games as punishment for accepting money from memorabilia dealers, the NCAA has ruled.
UGA plans to appeal the decision, which came from the NCAA’s reinstatement committee late Tuesday afternoon. UGA and NCAA officials have declined comment.
Coach Mark Richt addressed the ruling Wednesday during his regular appearance on the SEC coaches’ teleconference call.
“Right now we’re really not worried about (the ruling); we’re just focused on getting ready for this game,” Richt said of Saturday’s game against Florida in Jacksonville. “That’s really all we can do right now.”
The NCAA determined that Gurley must sit our a total of four games — or 30 percent of the season as per bylaws — for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years, according to the NCAA’s news release on the case. Gurley already sat out the Bulldogs’ last two games, against Missouri and Arkansas. He will now miss Saturday’s game against Florida and the Nov. 8 game against Kentucky, unless UGA’s appeal is successful.
Gurley also will be required 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. He would then be eligible to play on Nov. 15 against Auburn in Athens.
However, there remains a chance that Gurley could be reinstated before Saturday. The NCAA indicated that Georgia’s appeal would be “reviewed this week.” The committee can reduce or remove the conditions the staff has imposed but cannot increase them, according to NCAA statutes.
“We can only control certain things,” Richt said. “The goal is to control how hard we practice and how hard we prepare. That’s been our focus all season long. Maybe a little bit more in the last couple of ballgames. But when there are questions and there are things swilring around that could become a distraction, I think our players have done a pretty good job of worrying about things they can control and doing what they can do to get a victory.”
A successful appeal would seem unlikely considering the NCAA’s assertion in its release that it showed leniency to UGA because of its compliant response to the allegations.
“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,” the NCAA said in its statement. “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.”
Gurley, a 6-foot-1, 226-pound junior from Tarboro, N.C., was considered the Heisman Trophy frontrunner when UGA first suspended him on Oct. 9. Despite missing the last two games, he still leads the SEC in rushing with 773 yards and eight touchdowns.
It’s the second time in four years that a star Georgia player has been forced to miss games for accepting improper benefits via the sports memorablia trade. Wide receiver A.J. Green also missed four games to start the 2010 season because an investigation revealed he had sold his autographed UGA Independence Bowl jersey to an individual with alleged ties to an agent for $1,000.
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