If you haven’t taken the time to read Andy Staples’ sympathetic take on how Georgia’s athletics department copes with the school’s current drug policy, by all means do so. The article’s strong suits are two-fold. First, Staples aptly summarizes how the policy adversely affects the athletics department:
By dinging players for one game on the first positive and four on the second, Georgia’s substance-abuse policy hurts the program in two ways:
1. It puts the program at a competitive disadvantage by forcing suspensions when rival programs offer mulligans.
2. It harms the reputation of the program by allowing media and fans to easily identify first-time offenders who would have remained anonymous at most schools.
Second, Staples does a very good job illustrating the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” box McGarity and Richt find themselves in.
McGarity’s is a noble stance, but it’s also a stance that seems at odds with the current culture in college sports. Coaches who don’t win get fired. Athletic directors whose football and men’s basketball coaches don’t win get fired. At some point, this policy could cost Richt and/or McGarity their jobs. Of course, if McGarity softened the policy, he would get ripped for compromising Georgia’s morals for victories. He truly cannot win in this case. Also, it’s highly unlikely the NCAA or any conference would issue a uniform drug policy because testing laws vary from state to state.
There are a few points I’d like to elaborate on in response.
- If that last sentence in the above quote doesn’t disabuse you from the hope that the SEC will come to Butts-Mehre’s aid by adopting a uniform conference drug policy less rigid than Georgia’s, going back to read Groo’s post on the subject should. Georgia’s current substance-abuse policy isn’t something the athletic department came up with; it’s the child of Michael Adams. If there ever were a serious conference debate on the subject, I have no doubt that Adams would be in there lobbying his fellow presidents to follow Georgia’s lead. I have equally no doubt that his sales pitch would be disregarded by his peers. And in the end, if the SEC did in fact adopt a standard weaker than Georgia’s, I also have no doubt that Adams would see fit to maintain the standards he put in place at his school, because that’s how Michael Adams rolls. In other words, if you’re McGarity and Richt, you might as well put on a brave face about your school’s policy, because you’re going to have to live with it for a long time.
- Andy understandably has to pull his punches on one thing – “I realize there are quite a few of you reading this who feel recreational marijuana use should not be lumped in with the use of more hardcore drugs. That is a worthy debate for another day. At the moment, pot remains illegal, and almost every athletic department in the nation tests for it.” - but I don’t. Even if you don’t share my attitude about how pointless and wasteful this country’s four decades long War on Drugs has been, you can’t help but note how much public opinion has shifted on marijuana usage in the last five to ten years. The kids Georgia recruits certainly don’t share Michael Adams’ conviction about weed – and let’s face it, the majority of violations of Georgia’s drug policy involve marijuana – but it’s also likely that recruits’ parents don’t share his fervor either, at least to the extent that it results in more negative publicity and more down time than at other schools. And if that’s not affecting Mark Richt on the recruiting trail, I’d be surprised.
- If I can get on my soapbox for a second, this whole thing reminds me of what’s so stupid about “three strikes and you’re out” laws and mandatory sentencing laws: the false wisdom of people further removed from the situation who decide that what’s best is to limit the discretion of those who are in direct contact with those who are affected. There’s a big difference between what we learned happened at TCU and at Oregon this offseason. I’d like a substance abuse policy that’s designed to prevent the former from happening while giving the coach and athletic director enough flexibility to handle situations like the latter humanely and intelligently. Alas, nuance is something I’ll never associate with Georgia’s president.
- That all being said, it wasn’t Michael Adams who decided it was a good idea to drug test football players coming back from spring break. So my sympathy for McGarity’s and Richt’s dilemma only goes so far.