I get that Georgia’s drug policy is less tolerant than most schools. I also get that Richt strongly supports it, to the point that he’s willing to accept the consequences of being tougher than others. He reiterated that at SEC Media Days, when he said,
“No, we’re not worried about that part of it,” Richt said. “We don’t want our guys to do drugs, okay? I don’t want my son to do drugs. We’ve got policies that are stronger maybe than some when it comes to the punitive part of it. That’s kind of what everybody talks about. Georgia ends up suspending their guys a little bit sooner in the policy, which I’ve got no problems with.”
The same can be said for Richt’s stance on player transfers.
Richt also reiterated his philosophy on granting players the right to transfer wherever they like. He was asked about it in the aftermath of the rash of offseason departures that saw two key players go to Louisville and another to Auburn.
“When guys leave our program, my goal for them is that they continue their career and they continue and realize all their dreams,” Richt said. “Life’s too short. They’re young men that make mistakes. If somewhere along the way you learn from your mistake, you turn it around, finish your career strong, I’m happy for the guy.”
After that, things got a little fuzzy. First, Nick Saban, who’s dealing with his own rash of player problems, followed Richt with his philosophy, which I suppose was supposed to come off as a justification for some tough love, but instead sounded a little like he was pointing fingers. (The irony of Saban having a former Georgia player on his roster isn’t lost on me.)
“I want you to know that there’s not one player, not one player, since I’ve been a head coach that I kicked off the team that ever went anywhere and amounted to anything and accomplished anything, playing or academically,” Saban said. “That’s not always the answer. Discipline is not punishment. Punishment is only effective when it can help change somebody’s behavior.
“When you have a family and you have someone in your family who disappoints you, we certainly can’t kick them out of our family. I think we have to try to support them, teach them, get them to do the right things because we love them, we care about them.”
I wasn’t the only one who got that impression, either.
It’s puzzling, because I’m not really sure what Saban wanted to accomplish with his stance, other than to try to state a case for why he feels his players may be entitled to more second chances than players at other programs. And if that’s all that was about, it’s hard to understand why he felt the need to justify that to the media in the first place.
Needless to say, some in the media took the ball and ran with it in one direction.
Maybe Saban will take a cue from the SEC coach once excoriated for disciplinary problems — Georgia’s Mark Richt.
Richt actually seems harder on crime than ever. The Bulldogs dismissed safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons this offseason.
“Just because we’ve got guys suspended isn’t evidence we have a discipline problem,” Richt said. “It’s evidence that we discipline our players. It’s evidence there’s accountability. … Sometimes when you make part of your discipline playing time, it becomes a very public thing. Some of your dirty laundry gets out there in public. I’m willing to take that risk if the process will help these guys grow into men. If we ignore stuff they do and act like it didn’t happen and sweep it under the rug, let them get away with it or whatever, what are we teaching? We are setting them up for failure down the road.”
And that’s certainly one way of looking at it, although Saban didn’t sound like someone waiting for a cue.
But there was also this strange take from SI’s Andy Staples and Zac Ellis, which took a mash-up of the two themes and actually posed the question whether Richt’s morality is interfering with the success of the program. (It also glosses over the fact that Richt has no control over where a dismissed player lands, but we’ll leave that for another day.)
The thing is, for all this supposed strictness, all the players cited on that clip received second chances at Georgia. So where’s the sweet spot supposed to be? It sure beats me, but you can bet Richt won’t hear the last of this if Georgia doesn’t at least get to the SECCG this season.