Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Dumb rules are no excuse for Todd Gurley


(Updated: 5:45 p.m.)

I understand this is going to be a difficult question for those who bleed red-and-black. But seriously: Did you really believe that Todd Gurley did this only once? Did you really think that one day he acted impulsively, took $400 from some memorabilia cretin named Bryan Allen to sign 80 items, and never did it again?

Logic indicated otherwise, and evidence supported logic.

Gurley is gone for four games, not the two already served. He didn’t receive $400 for signatures. He received more than $3,000. The NCAA hit him with a four-game suspension, or the equivalent of 30 percent of the season, and the truth is it could have been far more than that. According to the NCAA’s statement, Gurley received “more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals to sign memorabilia and other items over two years.”

Not one time. Not one day. Not one dealer. Multiple times. Multiple dealers. Over two years.

There's your reality. If you truly believed this was some isolated impulsive action, you were being naive.

Georgia is appealing the decision. Good luck with that.

The NCAA had the option to suspend Gurley for the season. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported three weeks ago that Gurley was in danger of not playing another game this year after a source indicated the player's involvement with memorabilia dealers was "significant."

But the NCAA, citing Georgia's cooperation as part of the reason -- and no doubt realizing that public sentiment is running against them on this issue -- limited the suspension to four games, mandated he repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and also is requiring that he complete 40 hours of community service as conditions for his reinstatement. It’s believed the community service element of the disciplinary action is to compensate for the money Gurley can’t pay back.

He will miss Saturday's game against Florida, as well as the following week's game at Kentucky. Then he will return for the Auburn game Nov. 15 at Sanford Stadium.

Scream at the NCAA if you want. But remember who broke the rules here.

I've said this from Day 1: The NCAA needs to overhaul its rulebook but that doesn't justify breaking rules. This is no different from driving through a 25 mph speed zone at 45. "But your honor, the speed limit is too slow," is not a defense.

The NCAA is in the process of going through significant change. Student-athletes are seeking, and likely will receive, increased scholarship values. Rules prohibiting them from profiting off their name and likeness in the market place also are expected to be loosened. Current NCAA rules are antiquated, given the landscape of college athletics, and school presidents are finally, begrudgingly admitting that.

But that doesn't excuse what Gurley did. He broke a rule. More than once.

He knew what he was doing. He understood that he could be suspended. He understood that he was jeopardizing his Heisman Trophy chances (almost certainly now dead).

Gurley should have known that he was jeopardizing his team's season and betraying everybody he played for and with. He committed a series of foolish decisions at the ages of 19 and 20. Granted, that doesn't put him in exclusive company. But student athletes are told multiple times a year about NCAA rules and are warned about the potential repercussions if they break them.

He probably thought he was invincible. He certainly believed he deserved to profit off his name, and you'll get no argument here. But he'll be a multimillionaire when he enters the NFL draft in the spring. He couldn't have waited a little longer?

The NCAA said in its statement that it considered suspending Gurley for more than four games "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. 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."

This is not on the NCAA. This is on Gurley.

Dumb and hypocritical rules are still rules, at least until they're changed. Gurley will have to live with this. He almost certainly will need to apologize to his teammates and coaches for the position he has put them in.

Georgia has won two games without him. There's no reason to think the Bulldogs can't beat Florida and Kentucky. But Gurley has caused damage to himself, the team, the football program, the university and its large and passionate fan base.

He should have thought about that before taking the money.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.