On Saturday morning, two more Georgia Bulldog players landed in hot water because of alcohol. Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King was charged with underage possession and will receive a mandatory one-game suspension.
His teammate, Dontavius Jackson—a spring game standout at running back—was charged with a DUI, underage possession, leaving the scene of an accident, and several other traffic violations. He is suspended for a minimum of six games.
Both players are suspended indefinitely from team activities.
The natural response to this most recent development is, "what is with the Georgia Bulldogs' football team this offseason?"
No one can argue that it's a fair question. After all, did King and Jackson not learn anything from the dismissal of Zach Mettenberger and Trent Dittmer, both of whom were kicked off the team as a result of using poor judgment while under the influence of alcohol?
I mean, it’s not rocket science, right? Even disgraced former AD, Damon Evans, understood the concept—you drink, you lose.
So, again, what’s the problem in Athens, GA? Honestly, the problem goes a lot deeper than a few bad apples.
The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the coaches, the culture, and the lack of discipline for everything that has gone wrong so far. However, I would contend that you don’t have to look very far in Athens, Knoxville, Iowa City, or Ann Arbor to find a football player with a drink in his hand—most of whom are underage.
I would also argue that the boosters, fans, bar owners, and bar patrons in those places are every bit as guilty as the players themselves. In many cases, they put that drink into their underage hands. Yet, little attention is usually given to how a player obtained the alcohol or entry into an establishment that only serves alcohol.
That said, I feel confident in saying that for every player that ends up in the police blotter, there are scores of others who won’t and likely never will. Some will last their entire career at Georgia and no one, outside of Athens, will ever know just how bad a reputation they truly had off the field.
As for the ones who won’t escape trouble, they can hardly feel too bad about being caught. We live in an age where social media (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc.) rules and few places offer shelter from the 24/7 public scrutiny you will receive as an athlete.
Thirty years ago, if a football player got into trouble, there was only that team’s lone beat writer to tell his story. In many cases, the tale was relegated to the local paper and it never went to the state level—much less the national one.
These days, anyone with a camera phone and a swift network connection becomes an instant reporter—even worse if they are on Twitter. Tennessee beat writer Wes Rucker just happened to be at Bar Knoxville when the fight between football players and police officers broke out. He immediately let people know about it—on his Twitter feed.
The co-owner of Bar Knoxville, where the infamous brawl took place, spoke of giving the football team the “VIP” treatment. That “VIP” treatment included players not having to pay a cover charge for entry into the establishment.
Do you honestly think that Knoxville is the only college town where that goes on?
Accountability needs to be had by all who are responsible if the culture of underage drinking in athletic programs is going to be contained even slightly. Neither Dontavius Jackson, Tavarres King, nor their companions that night were old enough to drink, so who bought it for them?
I won’t discount the possibility of fake IDs and off-campus parties where alcohol is freely available—I am not naive to the fact that there are many ways to obtain alcohol, even if you are underage.
However, I will say that athletes are more likely to be given special privileges by local bars and restaurants because they want the business, the prestige, and the honor of saying that they have a relationship with the Georgia football team and its players. For some, that is enough to overlook an alcohol sale here and there, especially when no one is likely to report it or see it as it happens.
This offseason at Georgia, and many other university towns, has seen far too many of the same story lines. How much more has to happen before we start to understand that the overall repercussions to the program, its players, and the surrounding community are far more important than the points gained on the infamous “Fulmer Cup?”
In the end, the football players who are stepping outside the lines and behaving badly are not above reproach. They deserve to be punished and they are responsible for their own behavior—no question.
However, at what point does the community (bar owners, patrons, etc.) start to take some of the responsibility for fostering this sense of entitlement and allowing it to continue?
Your comments and insights are always welcome—even if you completely disagree—share your thoughts.
(This article appears courtesy of The Lady Sportswriter—find more like it here)