Georgia Bulldog fans are freaking out right now as rumors regarding Caleb King’s potential ineligibility begin to take over the Internet and radio waves. I am admittedly bothered by this panic for several reasons. First and foremost, as a former University of Georgia student with my fair share of academic shortcomings, I’m somewhat concerned as to where this rumor took root.
I enrolled at the University of Georgia just one year before King, and I can say with all certainty that I never knew what my grades were before finals were completed. In fact, more often than not I experienced a seven-day lag between when I finished my coursework and when I received my final grade.
Athletes are given numerous academic resources that are not as readily offered to general students, but I’m not sure that expedited examination grading is one of them. So, I’m hoping that these rumors are completely unfounded and a result of exaggerated circumstances stemming from Caleb’s poor academic performance during the fall semester (remember, he was ineligible for the Liberty Bowl).
Of course, with respect to full disclosure, there were certainly classes during my tenure that I had a pretty good (or bad as it may be) idea about as soon as I finished. If that is the case, then this news is even more concerning. Student athletes at the University of Georgia are carefully monitored with regards to academic performance. They have independent advisers, coaches making sure they are in each and every class, private tutoring, etc.
So, if King did in fact walk out of his Housing 3000 class, seek out his friend with the biggest mouth, and say, “Dude, there’s no way I passed this class. I was failing going into that test and I left the entire multiple choice section blank,” then we have an even bigger problem. If that is the case, then the laziness and apparent lack of effort that the Bulldogs have displayed on the field over the past few years is now showing its droopy-eyed face in the classroom.
In any event, the most confounding part about these academic rumors has been the fans’ reaction. Last week, Washaun Ealey was granted his release for transfer and Bulldog Nation let out a collective, “Yeah, whatever.” This week, rumors are circulating about King’s grades and everyone is melting down.
Ironically, Washaun Ealey was not only the better player, but in my opinion had the brighter future for the Dawgs. Over the last two years, Ealey rushed for 500 more yards than King, had a higher yards-per-carry average and scored more touchdowns. Furthermore, Ealey performed at a higher level during his first and second years on campus than King did on his third and fourth years.
Did Ealey fumble the football? You bet. Did he have disciplinary problems? You bet. But hasn’t King’s career been plagued by the same costly errors? King has underperformed during his entire tenure at Georiga, and Ealey has refused to block. However, I’d rather have an underachieving younger back who might have a chance to mature than a fifth-year senior with similar struggles.
So why are the King rumors so frightening? Is it simply a matter of depth? I hope not. Georgia takes great pride in its recruiting rankings and according to those numbers the Dawgs will still have a couple of highly touted backs in the backfield (Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome were both top-25 backs in the nation coming out of high school), and incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell is supposed to be pretty decent by all accounts.
Even without King that is more depth—at least according to recruiting rankings—than a lot of SEC schools can boast.
If King had been ruled ineligible prior to Ealey’s departure would the fan-base be more concerned about Ealey’s departure than about King’s ineligibility? Or is the concern something deeper?
Have Georgia fans come to embrace Mark Richt’s “Georgia Way” while fearing the aforementioned prevalence of apparent lackadaisical efforts both on the field and in the classroom? I think the loss of King scares Georgia fans more because of what it reflects (laziness) than the actual effect it may have on the program—a shortened depth chart.
In any event, I hope that Crowell comes to town ready to play, because even if King is eligible I’m not sure fans are ready to suffer through another lackluster season from a once highly regarded athlete.