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NCAA may be misguided, but athletes bear brunt of blame

Frank Haynes,
Senior College Football Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The list of players who have failed to take the NCAA and its ludicrous list of rules seriously added one more name on Thursday when it was announced that Georgia star running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely.

The suspension was actually a preemptive measure taken by the University of Georgia, which continues to investigates Gurley's alleged involvement in a situation where he received compensation for autographs, memorabilia and the use of his likeness -- a big no-no in the eyes of college athletics' governing body.

The argument over whether or not a player should have the right to make money off his or her name and athletic achievements when so many others, including their school and the NCAA itself, do isn't in question -- the answer is unequivocally yes. The real issue however, is that Gurley, and all other student-athletes who find themselves in a similar situation, knows the rules and yet still think they're above the law.

The real downer here isn't necessarily that Gurley may or may not suit up again for the Bulldogs, but the fact that one of the SEC's top teams now has to scuffle its way toward a possible berth in the conference championship game as it looks elsewhere for the kind of production the standout junior from Tarbor, North Carolina had provided.

Gurley was considered one of the leading candidates to win this year's Heisman Trophy as he has rushed for a league-leading 773 yards and eight touchdowns in helping the Bulldogs to a 4-1 record, 2-1 in the SEC. He is also a threat on special teams, averaging 49 yards per kick return, and he had a 100-yard return for a TD in the season opener against Clemson.

For his career, Gurley has rushed for more than 3,100 yards and 35 TDs. He is considered by many to be a first-round NFL draft pick should he decide to come out, or be forced out, after this season.

The Bulldogs tangle with Missouri (4-1, 1-0) this Saturday in a battle of ranked SEC East Division rivals, and doing so without one of their best players won't be easy. Expected to hear his name called more often now that Gurley is on the shelf is freshman Nick Chubb (234 yards, two TDs), although there are others who could heed the call as well. Regardless, the loss of such a dynamic threat in Gurley puts the Bulldogs in a precarious position.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who like everyone else associated with UGA's football program, had already reserved themselves to the fact that this was likely to be Gurley's final year in Athens, spoke briefly about the suspension.

"I'm obviously very disappointed," Richt said. "The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri."

The list of players, coaches, administrators and schools the NCAA has levied its brand of oft-misguided justice upon is staggering. But as heavy-handed as it may be, it's still up to the individuals involved to be smarter and to consider the consequences of their actions.

Other recent cases involving college stars who have felt the NCAA's wrath for similar transgressions include Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, who was ostracized back in 2010-11. Collateral damage in that incident was the fact that it also cost head coach Jim Tressel his job.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, a lightning rod for controversy, mostly of his own doing, was accused of indiscretions in the same vein prior to starting his sophomore season at Texas A&M, resulting in a half-game suspension (2013 season opener vs. Rice) and tarnishing his reputation even further.

Even former Georgia wideout A.J. Green fell victim to the quick money grab, as he was suspended for four games in 2010 for selling an Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000.

It's only a matter of time before the fires of controversy ignite another stake, setting ablaze both an individual's amateur career, as well as a program's reputation and quest for on-field glory.

Gurley's fate for the remainder of his college playing days hasn't been decided yet. If he is given another opportunity, let's hope he has learned a valuable lesson. If he is done, he will simply take his talents to the next level. Either way, the NCAA's archaic rules have cost the viewing public a chance at seeing a master performer practice his craft, making the real losers in this case the fans.


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Frank Haynes at fhaynes@sportsnetwork.com.


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