Another Spring, Another Black Eye on the Georgia Football Program

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 18, 2014

Georgia S Tray Matthews
Georgia S Tray MatthewsDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Death, taxes and players getting arrested in the offseason.

Those seem to be the three certainties for people within the Georgia football program.

According to Seth Emerson of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, four players were arrested on Monday. Wide receiver Uriah LeMay (four counts), safety Tray Matthews (three counts) and defensive linemen Jonathan Taylor (two counts) and James DeLoach (two counts) were each charged with misdemeanor theft by deception involving the athletic department.

Georgia S Tray Matthews
Georgia S Tray MatthewsDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Emerson states that the four players are accused of depositing their stipend checks issued by Georgia via a mobile app, and then depositing the paper check somewhere else. Essentially, they were double-depositing university checks.

Head coach Mark Richt issued a statement on the arrests on Tuesday morning, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald

Mark Richt statement on arrest of four Georgia football players: "I’m aware of the situation and it will be handled in an appropriate way.”

— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) March 18, 2014

It's another black eye for the Georgia program, which always seems to have high-profile arrests in the offseason.

Last May, Jim Kleinpeter of broke down player arrests in the SEC over the last three years. Not surprisingly, Georgia chimed in at the No. 2 spot with 15 over the time span, two behind Florida (Missouri had 18 but wasn't an SEC program during that entire time span).

On top of that, Georgia has one of the strictest substance abuse policies in the SEC. It suspends players for 10 percent of the season for their first violation involving marijuana and 30 percent on the second. 

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtWade Payne/Associated Press

The two issues—which are related but not necessarily part of the same discussion—have created an image of the program being out of control.

That perception isn't going to change anytime soon.

The substance abuse policy is going to lend itself to more suspensions than other programs face, but arrests like this coupled with other recent incidents, including former running back Isaiah Crowell's arrest and dismissal stemming from gun charges, aren't normal and shouldn't be acceptable.

It is a black eye not only for the program, but also for the players themselves. If they expected to get away with double-depositing the same check—issued by their own athletic department—they aren't the sharpest tools in the shed.

Is the fair to Georgia to criticize the program for players getting in trouble? Yes, it is.

Georgia could fix part of the perception itself by loosening up on its substance abuse policy, which would relegate some of these incidents to behind closed doors. 

That would, of course, cause another public relations firestorm, even though it'd be a simple regression to the pack. Georgia isn't going to do that, and that comes at the expense of public perception.

Sometimes, 18-to-22-year-old young men make silly decisions.

Unfortunately for Georgia, it's lather, rinse repeat in the offseason.