Isn’t it time we heard from UGA’s Kirby Smart?

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

This is Kirby Smart’s program, for better and for worse. He’s paid $11.25 million per annum to win national titles, which he has done two years running. He’s also charged with running a program filled with players and staff. Forty-five days ago, one player and one staffer died.

Not since the morning of Jan. 10, the day after his Georgia Bulldogs won their latest championship, has Smart been made available to the media. He offered a statement in the wake of the Jan. 15 crash that took the lives of Chandler LeCroy and Devin Willock, and he spoke at two memorial services for Willock. Smart has not answered questions about his program.

Smart offered another statement Wednesday after Athens police issued arrest warrants for Jalen Carter, among the most famous Bulldogs ever. The charges are misdemeanors – street racing and reckless driving. Smart deemed them “deeply concerning,” and they are. They lead us to wonder: What’s going on over there?

Maybe soon, someone will get the chance to ask Smart as much. That’s the flip side of making eight figures. You get the glory when times are good; you also get the scrutiny when times are bad. For Georgia football, the days since Jan. 9 have been grim.

What was first characterized as a single-car incident has become something else. An investigation led police to identify Carter’s Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk as a second vehicle. Carter’s Trackhawk and the rented Ford Expedition driven by LeCroy, according to a police statement, “switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists and drove at high rates of speed, in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other.”

The Expedition hit a curb. It wound up a mangled mess of metal. Those seated on the driver’s side – LeCroy, a recruiting staffer and Willock, an offensive lineman – died. Staffer Tory Bowles, seated on the right side, suffered severe injuries. Offensive lineman Warren McClendon, also on the right, played in the Senior Bowl later in the month.

On Wednesday, police revealed the Expedition was travelling at 104 mph just before the crash. LeCroy’s blood alcohol index was .197, two times above the legal limit.

This wasn’t teenagers doing donuts in a deserted parking lot. This was a 24-year-old (LeCroy) apparently under the influence and a 21-year-old (Carter) allegedly endangering public safety at 2:45 a.m. after a day in which Georgia celebrated another championship. If the police are to be believed, this fatal accident, as bad as it was, could have been worse. Maybe it could have been prevented.

The University of Georgia has conceded LeCroy should not have been driving the Expedition, rented by the Georgia Athletic Association for the purpose of transporting recruits. Court records show Carter was cited three times last fall for traffic violations – parking in a handicapped zone, failure to obey a traffic-control device and going 89 in a 45-mph zone. He was fined $1,013 for the latter violation.

According to body-camera footage obtained by the AJC, an officer named J. Lewis told Carter he had ticketed two other Georgia players for speeding. “Your break is not going to jail,” Lewis told Carter. “That’s your break. It’d make all kinds of news.”

The warrants arrived on a day when Carter, who might be the first player taken in the NFL draft, was due to meet the assembled media at the combine in Indianapolis. The session was canceled. He later released a statement: “There’s no question in my mind that when all the facts are known I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”

Smart also issued a statement. He promised his program “will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”

Last week, linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson was arrested on charges of reckless driving and racing, the incident having occurred Jan. 10, the day after the title game. Have those affiliated with UGA football come to view themselves as invulnerable? Are they conditioned to having Bryant Gantt, Smart’s director of player support, sweep up after them?

(The AJC reported Gantt arrived at the crash scene in its immediate aftermath. Also: A court notation shows Carter’s $288 fine for improper parking was paid by “Gant.”)

Georgia is the king of college football. That doesn’t make Georgia the king of the world. Hours after he felt the adoration of his constituency in Sanford Stadium, Smart was informed that a player and a staffer were dead. Only now are we getting the full picture of what happened.

It would be nice to hear Smart tell us, in unscripted words, what he plans to do to keep such a thing from happening again. At this late date, it would be nice to hear him say anything.