Flanked to his right by Athletic Director Josh Brooks and deputy AD Darrice Griffin and to his left by Qiana Wilson, director of UGA’s Equal Opportunuty Office, Smart alleged that “false accusations” have been levied against his program regarding sexual misconduct or abuse.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation into the football program that was launched after a UGA player and an athletic department employee died in a high-speed, alcohol-involved car crash Jan. 15 revealed a pattern of unlawful behavior by players, who benefit from an internal system designed to render them immediate legal assistance.
Some players were dismissed. Those include star outside linebacker Adam Anderson, who is awaiting trial on two separate rape charges.
UGA took issue with the characterization that its policies create a permissive culture.
“We take these allegations extremely serious, OK?” Smart said during the hour-long meeting conducted in a team meeting room of the Butts-Mehre football complex. “Me, personally, I take these allegations extremely serious. We do not tolerate sexual misconduct in our organization.”
As for the speeding epidemic that has plagued his team in the past six months, Smart was less defiant. Georgia football players have been ticketed or arrested at least 12 times for excessive speeding since a high-speed, alcohol-involved crash Jan. 15 took the lives of recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy and offensive lineman Devin Willock. That was in the early-morning hours the day after Georgia celebrated its second consecutive national championship.
It was two months before Smart finally answered questions about the double-fatality accident that occurred in a university-leased vehicle. On March 13, as Georgia was preparing to open spring football practice, Smart proclaimed, “we’ve got complete control of our program and our kids in our program.”
Georgia players have received speeding or reckless-driving citations at least six times in the days since Smart made that statement.
“I’ll be the first to admit we haven’t solved that issue or problem,” Smart said. “I don’t know that anybody has but, for us, it’s important to acknowledge it first. ... I don’t know if we can ever eradicate speeding; I’m not sure that’s possible. But I’m damn sure going to try.”
The latest player to get pulled over is believed to be freshman linebacker Samuel M’Pemba. The 5-star recruiting prospect was stopped by an Oconee County Sheriff’s deputy Wednesday and cited for driving 88 mph in a 55-mph zone. The officer reported smelling a strong odor of marijuana in the vehicle in which fellow UGA freshman linebacker Raylen Wilson was a passenger. Asked if there was any marijuana in the vehicle, Wilson said the smell was from “last night” when the two players were partying in Tallahassee, Florida. M’Pemba’s 2020 Dodge Durango was searched but only an empty plastic baggie was found.
Smart said a team meeting was held later that day.
“It was very moving, and I’d say very effective,” Smart said. “We had a leader on the team who stood up and talked about how upset he was because Devin was one of his closest friends and teammates. It’s still to be determined if it will have an effect.”
On Friday, senior wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint pleaded guilty to an excessive speeding charge. He was arrested by Athens-Clarke County Police on May 23 for driving 90 mph in a 45-mph zone on Atlanta Highway in Athens. A reckless driving charge associated with that incident was dismissed. Rosemy-Jacksaint was sentenced to six months of probation, fined $1,013 and ordered to attend a defensive driving class and a traffic violators impact program. That was Rosemy-Jacksaint’s third speeding infraction in an eight-day period immediately following his acquisition of a 2020 Dodge Charger.
With the exception of felony arrests, in which athletic-department policy results in automatic suspension from all team activities, neither Smart nor the athletic department share disciplinary actions as a result of violations of team policy. Smart insists he has laid down the law with players regarding speeding and said the players are aware of the repercussions for doing so. At the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Smart said he didn’t need to because “the players know.”
But that has done little to slow them. The AJC has determined that since 2016, Georgia players have been cited at least 74 times for going 20 mph or more over the speed limit.
“It’s not the volume of the speeding tickets; it’s the speed of the speeding tickets. That’s the bigger concern to me,” Smart said. “High speeds, according to the Georgia State Patrol, is where you get bigger accidents.”
Smart vowed to make a priority of getting his players to slow down, off the field, at least.
“We’re not perfect,” Smart said. “I don’t claim to be that. But what I do want to understand today ... that we won’t tolerate it (law-breaking). We have high expectations and values for the players in this organization.”
1. Samuel M’Pemba, freshman, linebacker: Stopped by Oconee County Sheriff’s Department on July 5 and cited for driving 88 mph in a 55 mph zone. Charges still pending.
2. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, junior, wide receiver: Stopped by Athens-Clarke County Police on May 23 and cited for reckless driving and speeding-maximum limits after being clocked at 90 in a 45 mph zone on Atlanta Highway.
3. Rosemy-Jacksaint: Stopped by police in Coral Springs, Florida, on May 16 and cited for speeding (71 in a 40 mph zone)
4. Rosemy-Jacksaint: Stopped by police in Coral Springs on May 15 and cited for speeding (60 in a 50 mph zone)
5. De’Nylon Morrisette, freshman, wide receiver: Arrested on May 9 for DUI/drugs by Oconee County authorities after striking another vehicle from behind on Georgia Highway 316. Also charged with driving too fast for conditions.
6. Kendall Milton, sophomore, running back: Stopped by Georgia State Patrol on March 25 in Athens for speeding (79 in a 65 mph zone).
7. Christen Miller, freshman, defensive lineman: Stopped by Oconee County Sheriff’s Department on March 25 for speeding (95 in a 65).
8. Jalen Carter, junior, defensive lineman: Arrested by Athens-Clarke County Police on March 1 on charges of street racing and reckless driving stemming from the Jan. 15 double-fatality crash that took the life of teammate Devin Willock and football recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy. On March 16, Carter pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, fined $1,000, ordered to do 80 hours of community service and attend a state-approved defensive-driving course.
9. Marvin Jones, freshman, defensive end: Stopped by Georgia State Patrol in Athens on Feb. 23 for driving 93 in a 65 mph zone on the Highway 10 Loop, which is the four-lane perimeter highway that surrounds Athens.
10. Morrissette: Stopped by Athens-Clarke County Police on Feb. 23 for driving 81 in a 45 mph zone on Atlanta Highway in his gray 2019 Dodge Charger.
11. Aliou Bah, freshman, offensive lineman: Stopped in February by Athens-Clarke County Police for driving 65 in a 45 mph zone in a gray 2020 Dodge Charger on Atlanta Highway at Epps Bridge Parkway. He received 12 months’ probation and was ordered to complete a defensive driving course and traffic violators’ impact program, pay a $635 fine and do 40 hours of community service.
12. Jamon Dumas-Johnson, junior, linebacker: Arrested on Feb. 21 for racing and reckless driving for an incident that actually occurred Jan. 10. On April 17, pleaded guilty to reckless driving and had racing charge dismissed. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and was ordered complete a defensive driving course and traffic violators’ impact program, pay a $635 fine and do 40 hours of community service.