After their second consecutive championship win against Texas Christian University in early January of 2023, the University of Georgia’s football team has faced a multitude of challenges within its program, and it is not being talked about enough.
In an article written by Athens Banner-Herald in March of this year, it describes that nine players were arrested in a 13 and a half month span. That includes Eagles first-round pick Jalen Carter, who was arrested in early March after speeding around 100 mph and racing his teammate, which resulted in the crash and death of Devin Wilcox and Chandler Lecroy. Other notable instances include Jakob Dumas-Johnson getting a reckless driving charge the night after the Championship game and MVP of the Peach Bowl and the National Championship, Javon Bullard, getting a DUI charge in September of 2022. Bullard was one of three players to get an alcohol-related charge. However, since the article was posted, Georgia has continued to struggle with off-the-field issues.
Incoming defensive lineman recruit, Jamaal Jarrett, has had a few incidents since becoming a Bulldog. During the 2023 NFL Draft, Jarrett posted a reaction video and called out the person announcing the pick with a racial slur which resulted in a public apology a few days later.
Jarrett continued to feel the heat from the press as on June 28, CBS Sports reported that Jarrett allegedly was drinking underage and committed sexual assault while on a visit to Georgia as a recruit. The article also reports that a team official appeared at the hotel of the incident and spoke with police following the accuser’s 911 call. The official also sat with Jarrett during the police investigation, in which one detective allegedly spoke of “my beloved bulldogs.” Jarrett has not been charged with any crime, as the interaction was reportedly “consensual” until Jarrett forced the 20-year-old to perform explicit acts on camera. The 20-year-old is conflicted on whether she should pursue a case or not, explaining that she cares for Jarrett’s future.
In his seven years at Georgia, head coach Kirby Smart has allowed 11 players to remain on the team despite women reporting violent encounters to the police according to the University.
What I don’t understand is that Georgia is now the gold standard of college football, and that alone can shade what’s truly going on with the football program. They have been able to cut corners when it comes to legal issues, but the only topic most people discuss when talking about Georgia football is how good of a team they are.
There have been multiple players that were huge contributors that faced legal issues, including Carter, Bullard and Nolan Smith, but they are let off the hook because of their talent. I understand that people can learn from their mistakes, but with numerous speeding citations along with nearly a dozen violent reported encounters, it seems like Smart has not addressed this cultural issue. A similar team to Georgia, the Alabama Crimson Tide, always crack down on illegal activity while giving a punishment. Georgia does the complete opposite, as they continue to deal with players that struggle with legal issues.
You would think that after being the top dog in College Football, the program would want their image to be highly respected for producing NFL talent and winning championships while also staying clean off-the-field. But no, Georgia continues to ruin its reputation with all the off-the-field issues while still being viewed as one of the primary programs in college football.
With so many issues flowing from within, the University and Georgia football program need to slowly change destructive pieces of the puzzle. In March, Georgia announced that they are looking to hire a new coordinator of player development. The job title states the coach will be responsible for players off-the-field responsibilities and activities along with being a personal life coach. This is a great start for the university in trying to change the football program’s culture because they need to change something within the player’s development.
Another change I’d like to see is more disciplinary actions for players who are cited going over the speed limit or who inappropriately engage with women. At Alabama, players get suspended or kicked off the team for the legal issues players from Georgia are dealing with. I believe one-game suspensions or benching players is a good solution for the minor off-the-field issues.The major ones should be long-term suspensions or kicking the player off the team. With these punishments, players view their wrongdoing with more risk if their playing time is affected.
Georgia heads into the 2023-24 season as the favorite to win it all once again, and only time will tell whether the Bulldogs’ culture change is evident or the program continues to deal with frequent reports of illegal activity.