Things have been looking up this season for Georgia football. Finally! Our defense, which, let’s face it, has been quite less than stellar since Brian VanGorder left, has begun to turn the corner. There’s a fire that hasn’t been there for a few seasons. We started off on shaky ground with our new QB, Hutson Mason, but he’s coming around, too. Then, there’s the return of Tailback U. Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Quayvon Hicks, and of course, superstar Todd Gurley. We (of course, all of us in Dawg Nation refer to the team as we. No, we’re not on the team, but just get over it, I’m using we.) had a little hiccup against South Carolina. We can’t stand Darth Visor. Ugh. That’s okay, though, because nothing can stop us now…we have Todd Gurley. But then,…
When I heard the news late Thursday afternoon, October 9, I was shocked. How could Gurley have broken that simple rule – don’t take money from anyone for an autograph or your likeness? Dawg Nation took a collective punch to the gut. The UGa Athletic Department jumped right in and did the correct thing. They suspended Gurley indefinitely while they investigated. They also hired Gurley an attorney. Smart move. Of course, everyone said Georgia had no shot against Missouri without Gurley, but don’t ever tell a Dawg what we can’t do. We (yes, we) hunkered down in true Dawg fashion and played the best game of Georgia smash mouth football than any Dawg fan has seen in years. Take that, marble mouth. Now, just a few days after Gurley’s suspension, word on the street in Athens is that Gurley is practicing with the team, and he may be back on the field this Saturday against Arkansas. (Hallelujah! He is glorious to watch in action.)
The real story, however, goes back to the taking of the money for signing memorabilia. I must say that when Johnny Manziel was accused of doing the same thing last year, I was not on his side. I have to say that it wasn’t because he took money, but it was just because I don’t like him. Back to Gurley. The Boston Globe’s Christopher L. Gasper penned a fabulous article the other day stating, “Todd Gurley Suspension is Absurd.” He is correct. When I was at Georgia, I spend four years as a recruiting ambassador, a.k.a. Georgia Girl. During that time, I became friends with many Georgia student-athletes. Yes, I’m sure that some didn’t take their schoolwork as seriously as they should have, but for some, the athletic scholarship changed their lives. I knew walk-ons, Super Bowl MVPs, Academic All-SEC and All-Americans, and Dancing With the Stars contestants. The one thing they all had in common when they were Georgia Bulldogs – they had no money. Scholarship athletes weren’t allowed to hold a job during the school year. Their athletic scholarship did give them a little spending money, which ended up being between $50 – $75 per month. That was all the money they had for: food, laundry, gas money, clothing, toiletries, dates, and any other incidentals they may encounter. Some of the student-athletes I knew came from families where mom and dad could send them extra money. Most of them, though, had no extra help from home. Schools make millions of dollars off the talents and hard work of these student-athletes. Gasper’s article reminded me that the UGa bookstore sells Gurley’s jersey for $134.95, and yet Gurley made five whole dollars off one autograph. Gurley is a beast. He truly is a joy to watch on the field. His natural God-given talent will make him millions, but not yet. He still is an amateur athlete, and by NCAA rule, which was overturned in a court decision earlier this year, he can’t make any money off his talents during his collegiate career.
Okay, it’s a stupid rule. We all know that. Now, it’s also illegal. Instead of punishing these young men, who like any one of us are just trying to use their talents to succeed in the world, why don’t we find a way to help them succeed? UGa has a fund that all season ticket holders contribute to so that we can earn the privilege of purchasing those tickets. That money goes not only toward funding football scholarships, but also other intercollegiate scholarships, tutoring for student-athletes, and facilities. Why can’t schools set up a similar fund, to be held in trust, for student-athletes to earn money from their likenesses? The Todd Gurley’s of the world could earn money to be held in trust by the University’s Athletic Association. A portion of that money, let’s say 5%, could be set aside for the unknown third-string linemen of the team. Set a limit of a monthly withdrawal that each student-athlete can make. Easy. The schools will still make their profit from jersey sales and other memorabilia, and the student-athletes can eat, have clean clothes, and focus on school, and let’s face it, football.
I’m praying hard that I get to see Gurley in the silver britches again. If you haven’t seen him play yet, I hope you get the chance, too.