The Verdict Is In and Coach Richt Was Right to Dismiss Zach Mettenberger
The verdict is in: Zach Mettenberger was suspended for good reason. He pleaded guilty today to two counts of sexual battery. For said crime, he was given two concurrent 12-month periods of probation, ordered to pay two $1,000 fines (one for each count), and pay a $35 per month probation fee. He was also banished from the city of Valdosta and is ordered to have no contact—direct or indirect—with the victim in this case.
If you are like most Georgia Bulldog fans, this news doesn’t come as a surprise to you. The speculation about what Mettenberger did to warrant his dismissal began, almost, as soon as word of it hit the airwaves. This news does little more than provide the details.
Now that you know, do you feel any better about the actions that coach Richt took to protect the reputation of Georgia football? Does the punishment still seem harsher than the crime? Do you think you would be willing to forgive the actions of Mettenberger if it would save the integrity of the depth chart?
As a rule, I try to be objective where issues like this are concerned but I feel compelled to state my opinion clearly when I say that, in my opinion, coach Richt ABSOLUTELY did the right thing.
If coach Richt had allowed him to stay, Mettenberger would have been defined by this action, not his play. There would always have been two sides, those who agree and those who don’t. His crimes were offensive enough to complicate the opinion of even the strongest Georgia Bulldog fan. He would have been saddled with the stigma of it for the better part of his playing career and his presence would have provided a terrible distraction to the team and the university as well.
It would have followed him around, no matter how well he played, and it would have discredited the person that coach Richt has proven himself to be thus far.
Of course, the first argument for Mettenberger is always the fact that he was drinking. Well, the fact that he may or may not have been drinking when he committed the act—for those who don’t know, he grabbed the buttocks and breasts of a young woman—is irrelevant. There are plenty of situations where alcohol and bravado are present, yet a man still manages to keep his hands to himself.
Drunkenness is not an excuse for lewdness and to give any indication of it being such is irresponsible.
Now, of course there are those who will speak of the old days and the number of athletes who, on a nightly basis, were likely out of line—yet they still played on Saturdays. To those people I say this: so what? It was no more right then than it is now.
Here’s the thing, though, the 1980’s is not the 2000’s. There was no internet, no Twitter, no 24/7 media to catch and report your every move, and no message boards for people to document your action upon.
This is the age of information and when you are a high-profile athlete, at a major university, you don’t have the luxury of being blatantly immature and careless with your choices. You have a responsibility to be aware of the situation you put yourself and your career in because both matter.
Zach Mettenberger may be an 18-year old young man worthy of a second-chance but he isn’t exempt from consequences.
Which leads me to the people who will scream the name of Montez Robinson and say that he too had issues. He too committed a crime against a woman, yet, he was given multiple chances to play and succeed at Georgia. Why not Mett?
Well, for one, Montez Robinson had a dispute with his girlfriend and was not guilty of physically assaulting her until the second time around. Coach Richt promptly dismissed him from the team at that time. Decry the injustice all you wish, but the situations are different—but the swiftness of the punishment was the same.
In the end, Mettenberger will get his college football shot wearing another team’s uniform but his actions have sullied his opportunity at Georgia and that is a hard lesson for him to learn.
I hope that he grows from this experience and becomes a more humble, harder working, person as a result of this and I wish him the best of luck elsewhere.
In the meantime, I feel very secure in saying that Mark Richt did the right thing. He did what he HAD to do and, in the long-term, the University of Georgia will be better for it—what say you?
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