Josh Harvey-Clemons Suspension: Should Georgia Change Its Drug Policy?
Over the last few years, Georgia players being suspended for "violations of team rules" has become about as predictable as the sunrise.
News broke on Tuesday morning that safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended for the 2013 opener versus Clemson after he was implicated in a report about marijuana use in a dorm room. It was the latest in a long line of suspensions reportedly stemming from drug use.
Former safety Bacarri Rambo and former linebacker Alec Ogletree were suspended for the first four games of last season for reportedly failing drug tests (via: SI.com), and three running backs were suspended for one game in 2011 for the same reason (via: ESPN.com).
The steady stream of suspensions has cast the Georgia program in a negative light.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said last spring that he likes playing the Bulldogs earlier in the season specifically because of player suspensions, and the perception that "[Georgia head coach] Mark Richt loses control of everything" persists on the Internet, specifically because of the suspensions.
Kids getting in trouble isn't a Georgia problem. That happens everywhere, on every campus, without exception. The public-relations problem, however, is partly Georgia's own fault.
The university's substance-abuse policy specifies that the first offense mandates a suspension for no less than 10 percent of the season, 30 percent for the second offense and a dismissal for the third offense. That policy was tied with Kentucky as the strictest in the SEC in 2011-12, according to CBSSports.com.
Most of Georgia's primary competitors for the SEC title have more forgiving policies. Alabama doesn't suspend players for its first violation, imposes a suspension for 15 percent of the season on the second and a year-long suspension for the third.
Florida's policy on marijuana doesn't recommend a suspension for a first positive test/infraction, a suspension for 10 percent of the season for the second, 20 percent for the third and dismissal for the fourth.
A uniformed NCAA or conference policy on punishment for substance abuse violations is probably necessary, but right now is a pipe dream. In the meantime, Georgia is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage with its policy.
Is it fair that a player at Georgia automatically loses a game for one offense while a player for other teams outside of Kentucky won't? How about at Ole Miss and Texas A&M, where even the second offense might not result in a lost game? Of course not.
Should Georgia change its policy on suspending players for violating its substance abuse policy?
That shouldn't cause a change in its policy, though.
Welfare of the student-athlete is a touchy subject within the ever-changing dynamics of the NCAA. While efforts to include the full cost of attendance within an athletic scholarship sometimes get lumped into the discussion, promoting and encouraging the health and productivity of the student-athlete is Job No. 1 of any program.
While its policy has created a public-relations problem, Georgia should be applauded for its willingness to stick to a policy that is a hindrance to its football success its own conference. In this day and age of big business in college football, sometimes priorities get skewed by the blinding light from a crystal football and the dollar bills generated by escalating media-rights deals.
It's a shame that Georgia's players continue to run into problems and that its strict policy isn't more of a deterrent, but rules are rules. The university has made its own bed, has willingly slept in it and shouldn't change its policies anytime soon.
In fact, it should be commended.
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