Skip the underlying tone to the Schultz piece I linked to yesterday and focus on the point he was making, that Georgia has changed its drug policy protocol in response to Kirby Smart. Is there a case to be made for that?
Look at a couple of dry descriptions of the night’s events. First, from Marc Weiszer:
Police searched Patrick’s dorm room in which he and Smith were on the night of the incident after a resident assistant reported smelling marijuana.
They found a fake can of Arizona strawberry iced tea with a hidden compartment, but marijuana wasn’t found in the can. Patrick admitted to keeping marijuana in it when he had possession of it, but said he did not have any on that night.
Police found other items identified as drug paraphernalia including a “smoke buddy, tobacco gutted from cigars and rolled in a paper towel and lighters and towels rolled up and pushed against door cracks. Both players admitted to smoking cigars that night, but not marijuana.
And this, from Jake Rowe:
Police did, however, find tobacco gutted from Black N’ Mild cigars and a container in which Patrick admitted he used to stash pot whenever he has it. Had the drug test been positive for Patrick, he’d have been in line for a four-game suspension due to it being his second offense. It would have been Smith’s first offense and just a one-game suspension for him.
However, as Rowe puts it, police on the scene “… weren’t able to find a testable quantity of the substance and neither player was arrested.”
So, despite some questionable surroundings, there was no arrest and no admission of guilt. Add to that one more thing.
“After receiving an incident report last week, we determined that neither Roquan Smith nor Natrez Patrick had violated any Athletic Association rules that would require suspension,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said in a statement. “This included drug testing, which was negative for both student-athletes.”
To summarize then, we have a situation where despite circumstantial evidence indicating drug use, the police don’t arrest football players and Greg McGarity, who, if you’ll recall, once was the mastermind behind a decision to drug test student-athletes returning from spring break, gives both a clean bill of health.
Okay, I concede that’s not the typical Georgia Way response to which we’ve been accustomed to seeing. But is it the sign of something bigger, a new drug policy era at Georgia? And is it something for which Kirby Smart is responsible?
With regard to the latter question, it’s not as if he’s claiming responsibility.
“I’m a team player when it comes to policy, and I believe in doing what the team theme is, which is what our athletic association has been so far,” Smart said in his press conference on Monday. “Do I think that we live in a society that’s a little bit different now than it was back whenever? Sure, I do. But I also believe in what we have, and we know and accept the rules that we’ve been charged with.”
Those comments don’t indicate total agreement with the policies in place at UGA, but it doesn’t appear as if Smart is on any sort of policy-changing mission. Thus far he hasn’t been heavily affected by it as the Bulldogs head coach.
If I accept that at face value — and also thinking back to comments he made in a similar vein when he was hired and first asked about Georgia’s drug policy — it’s hard to see Kirby taking on a crusade here. Which means if we’re considering Schultz’ charge seriously, that what’s happening is a more subtle evolution of policy that’s being directed by McGarity, or somebody over McGarity, and acceded to by Jimmy Williamson.
Maybe that’s so. But taken together, it’s a bridge a little too far for me to cross after only one such incident.
That being said, the most believable part for me is the chickenshit hypocrisy behind that kind of approach, if true. Rather than being forthright about the reality that Georgia’s drug policy is out of step with the rest of the conference to the detriment of the program, nibbling at the edges with incidents like this lets the school maintain its righteous public stance while allowing players to stay on the field as many of its peers do. Toss in the likelihood that such a dichotomy will result in student-athletes receiving more favorable treatment than mere students and you’re looking at some real weaseling by the administration should this indeed be the new road the school is traveling on.
I can’t say we’re there yet, though. What I can ask is, if Schultz is on to something, what happens if the change doesn’t help the bottom line, so to speak? And what sort of reaction can be expected if Morehead and McGarity decide to take another shot at convincing the SEC to adopt a uniform drug policy?