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March 18, 2014

Kramer: UGA football arrests becoming the norm

THOMASVILLE —

You’ve got to wonder if Steve Spurrier woke up and enjoyed a hearty chuckle on Tuesday morning.

The South Carolina coach, who prides himself on personifying a Darth Vader-esque role to Georgia, has oft critiqued the Bulldogs athletic program for consistently facing offseason arrests and/or suspensions to football players, which – more often than not – results in an early season suspension.

The streak continued to four years on Monday night when four Bulldogs – safety Tray Matthews, linebacker James DeLoach, defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor and Uriah LeMay – were booked on theft by deception charges stemming from “basically double-dipping” 11 student tuition checks drawn from the UGA Athletic Association, according Marc Weiszer, my former colleague and mentor at the Athens Banner-Herald who first broke the story.

The checks, according to Weiszer, were each in the amount of $71.50, which totaled to $786.50. Because the value of each is under $500, the charges were misdemeanors. Matthews faces three, and Taylor and DeLoach each face two. LeMay, who faces four charges, allegedly took discarded checks from a roommate and attempted to cash and/or deposit them, unlike the other three players booked. 

The news was first reported close to midnight on the eve of Georgia’s first spring practice, creating an unwanted distraction in a spring that will be bulked with defensive competition with the addition of new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and a horde of new assistant coaches.

In digesting this information – which seems to annually surface on the offseason docket – one can’t help but ponder on the character of Georgia. Arrests from drugs, fights, or any other extraneous charges, seem to have become the norm. 

Having sat in nearly every press conference Mark Richt conducted over the past two seasons, I’ve observed the 14-year head coach address them like they’re nagging gnats. He dances around the subject and rarely gives definitive answers unless the matter has already been reported.

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