We all know that Todd Gurley’s four-game suspension is now over, and that he’ll play for No. 16 Georgia on Saturday night when No. 9 Auburn comes to Sanford Stadium.
But do you remember the conditions of his reinstatement?
Since he got approximately $3,000 in exchange for signing memorabilia, the National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled that he also must “repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service.”
Now there’s no denying that Gurley broke rules – stupid as they may be – and when a rule is broken a price must be paid.
A four-game suspension is a pretty steep price. But of course, that’s not enough for Mark Emmert and the gang at the home office of the NCAA. They have to teach these kids a lesson.
Yet when I think of restitution and community service as forms of punishment, I think of a first-time offender in the criminal justice system – something along the lines of a Pretrial Intervention Program.
However, Gurley broke no laws when he put pen to mini helmet and jersey. By signing memorabilia and profiting from it, he did not commit a criminal act.
In a last-ditch effort to remain relevant before the Power 5 conferences extract its canine teeth, though, the NCAA is determined to show who’s boss. This is another example of how it dearly loves to make an example of a student-athlete.
That’s why when it handed down its ruling on the kid who was once the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, it did so in much the same way a judge would pronounce sentence.
What’s worse, the NCAA made it sound like it was doing UGA a favor when Gurley’s appeal of the four game suspension was denied.
In a statement saying the original punishment would stand, the NCAA suggested an even longer suspension was considered because Gurley’s transgression occurred “over multiple years with multiple individuals and the student received extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs.”
In retrospect, the suspension of Gurley didn’t alter Georgia’s season at all.
It had already lost to South Carolina with him in the lineup and would have lost to Florida even had he been available; it was an inability to stop the run that cost the Bulldogs that game.
In fact, you could almost make the case that Gurley’s suspension worked in UGA’s favor since it allowed freshman Nick Chubb to fast-track himself as the school’s next great running back.
As for Gurley, he won’t win college football’s highest individual honor now.
Certainly, that’s disappointing for him.
Tempering that disappointment is the knowledge that the National Football League couldn’t care less about what the NCAA thinks of Gurley’s “transgressions.”
The back has three regular season games, a possible SEC Championship Game and bowl to play before ending his career as a Dawg with a year of eligibility remaining.
If he gets through that stretch without an injury and continues to display the skills that make him one of the best backs in the game, he’ll be a first-round draft pick.
That means he’ll make first round draft money – more than Emmert’s $1.7 million annual salary – and no longer need to sell his signature to have a little cash on hand.
And rest assured that when NFL general managers do their standard background checks on Gurley in an effort to make sure there are no “character” issues, the NCAA sanction will carry no weight.
Just because the governing body wants to treat Gurley like a criminal doesn’t mean he is one.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Scott Adamson. The original article was published in the Anderson Independent Mail and can be viewed by clicking here.