Once upon a time, I was an amateurism romantic, like some of y’all still are. If you want to know what changed for me, just read Seth Emerson’s excellent piece on Green and Gurley ($$).
A.J. Green sitting at the head of a small table, fielding questions about a bank statement. A check deposit of $1,000, where did that come from? An investigator for the NCAA wanted to know. Green admitting that it was for selling his Georgia jersey from the Independence Bowl.
Todd Gurley, wearing street clothes, watching his Georgia teammates practice, while he prepared for his own interview with the NCAA, where he would explain how he sold autographs for more than $3,200 in cash. A few days after his teammates flashed three fingers — Gurley wore No. 3 — to honor their teammate, suspended for violating NCAA rules that few agreed with anyway, and are now on their way out.
It all seems so quaint, looking back now. Or is quaint the wrong word? Georgia fans may choose others: Maddening. Outrageous. Unlucky.
Looking back, I think I’ll settle for “wrong”. What made it especially so was how small the stakes were in each case — a $1000 for Green’s jersey; $3000 for Gurley’s autograph.
“I think when everybody was going through that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player at the time who faulted those guys,” said Hutson Mason, a quarterback on both the 2010 and 2014 Georgia teams. “Even though it’s against the rules, and some would say ‘it’s a selfish decision’, if that’s someone’s opinion, whatever that’s fine. But I don’t think people can relate to that temptation. Because people don’t come from the socio-economic upbringing, or at the time when you’re a college kid and you’re broke and someone puts an offer of $3,000 or $5,000 in your face, it’s a lot harder to turn that down.”
What made me white hot about the callousness of it all was how feckless McGarity was in the Gurley situation.
… But Gurley’s suspension also may have cost the team an SEC East title: The Bulldogs won their first two games without him, at Missouri and Arkansas, but three days after the NCAA affirmed Gurley’s suspension was two more games — when many thought he would play against Florida — the Bulldogs looked demoralized when they were shellacked by the Gators.
“The psychological impact more than anything affected us,” Mason said. “The hardest part, from a player’s standpoint, was we were going from ‘are we going to have him or are we not going to have him? Are we going to get him back on Thursday?’ It was constantly wondering whether Todd was part of the gameplan.”
There were even hypothetical scenarios within the gameplan, according to Mason. Coaches were in the dark as much as anybody on what was going on.
Yes, there were certain extenuating circumstances at the time and McGarity never was particularly aggressive about defending the program to the NCAA and the SEC, but he had no problem throwing Gurley under the bus, despite what fans, teammates and coaches wanted, because he was an avid defender of the status quo when it came to player compensation. When you’re willing to let amateurism rule over what’s best for your own program — and, yes, I get “rules are the rules” bullshit rationalizing, but that hardly stopped other programs from exploring gray areas when it suited their needs — there’s something seriously wrong with the way college athletics are structured.
That’s when I stopped caring about amateurism. Alston isn’t going to get those suspended games back for me or Georgia, but at least it’s going to force the NCAA and the McGaritys of the college sports world to be a little less hypocritical. I’ll take my victories where I can get them, cheap or otherwise. Fuck ’em, in other words.