Is UGA’s drug policy helping or hurting the team?

For the UGA football team, starting the season with at least one or two players suspended is almost a given. This past week, Georgia permanently lost yet another star player because of a “violation of team rules.” Josh Harvey-Clemons was cut from the team after his third team violation relating to drug use. He is not the first and will not be the last player UGA has to suspend or dismiss because of issues related to drugs, alcohol and other illegal activities.

Georgia’s drug and alcohol policy is tied for the strictest in the SEC. On the first offense, a player will lose 10% of his season, on the second he’ll lose 30% of his season, and on the third offense, like Harvey-Clemons, he will be dismissed from the team.  Other SEC schools, such as Alabama and Florida, don’t suspend an athlete on the first offense. Alabama suspends a player for a year, not dismisses, on the third offense.

Many fans and coaches from other schools joke about Georgia always having a few players suspended. Steve Spurrier is infamous for making comments about UGA’s suspensions last season. Comments like these give the appearance that UGA players are “thugs” and are constantly getting in trouble. There is no evidence that Georgia football players get in trouble any more than any other schools, they just happen to be subjected to a policy that doesn’t allow for a lot of room for mistakes, and their mistakes are more publicized. The policy brings up questions about whether UGA’s discipline is too harsh for the extremely competitive SEC. Cases can be made for both sides of the issue.

On one hand, it obviously hurts the team from a competitive standpoint when important key players are suspended for difficult games at the beginning of the season. If this policy for a first offense weren’t in place, Georgia would most likely be at full strength when starting out the season, which helps when you’re playing Clemson and South Carolina within the first few weeks of the season. It seems that schools like Alabama are more relaxed about suspensions and dismissals because they have the need to win so badly. AD Greg McGarity has said that UGA’s policy is the right thing to do and they are trying to help the players do the right thing in the long run.

I think that while it’s unfortunate when Georgia can’t be at its absolute best for every game of the season, these policies are important to enforce. Rules are a part of life. If you can’t learn how to discipline yourself in college, you may never learn. These men playing here are 18-22 years old, which is the time when they should be learning how to control themselves and start planning for their futures. Many of these stars will go on to play in the NFL, where they won’t have someone monitoring them 24/7, so it’s important to learn early on how to stay out of trouble.

I think Georgia should be applauded for taking such a strong stance on the issue and caring for the welfare of the athletes. You would hope that a player would be able to learn after the first or second time that what he’s doing will get him into serious trouble. Unfortunately for Harvey-Clemons, he wasn’t able to figure that out and ruined any future he could have had at UGA.

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