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My take on Georgia’s eligibility issues

Posted By Brenden Hull On Jun 28 2011 @ 1:32 pm In Georgia | 2 Comments

Like many other schools in the NCAA, Georgia now has several players who are facing investigation and possible suspension for receiving improper benefits.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has reported that Jarvis Jones and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope allegedly received financial assistance from a local parks and recreation department, according to police documents obtained by the newspaper. Jones is a sophomore outside linebacker on the football team, while Caldwell-Pope is a basketball signee.

The report says that Tony Adams and Herman Porter, two officials in the parks department, paid for airline tickets for the two players to fly to Los Angeles for basketball games. They also may have paid a cell phone bill for Caldwell-Pope’s mother. Because the NCAA prohibits accepting improper benefits from anyone marketing an athlete, these two players may have violated NCAA rules.

In my opinion, if the accusations are true as they are reported above, neither player should face any type of suspension or other punishment from the NCAA. The case shows many similarities to the Cam Newton case from last season, and Newton was not punished at all.

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Jarvis Jones (#10)

First, the accusations almost exclusively involve the players’ parents. The cell phone bill was not paid for Caldwell-Pope, but for his mother. The other benefits involved plane tickets for the players’ flights to Los Angeles. I find it most likely that transportation for the two players was handled by their parents. High school student-athletes who are flying across the country probably shouldn’t arrange their own transportation, so their parents would do it for them.

If that is the case, Jones and Caldwell-Pope have not violated any NCAA rules. They did not accept transportation or other benefits because their parents would have accepted it without their knowledge. The same holds true for Cam Newton, who did not know that his father was asking for money for a commitment (unless the continuing investigation finds evidence to the contrary).

Even if they did know about the improper benefits, the two Georgia players could likely avoid NCAA suspension by repaying the money for the airplane tickets and cell phone bill before the NCAA decides on punishment. The NCAA usually requires athletes to repay improper benefits as a condition of reinstatement, and doing that without the NCAA’s orders would likely reduce any suspensions.

Furthermore, if the report is correct, there would not be a problem with Jarvis Jones because Georgia was not the institution that benefited from the improper benefits. The airplane tickets were for a flight to Los Angeles, and Jones initially played one season with USC before transferring to Georgia. Under NCAA rules, because the benefits were paid before Jones transferred to UGA, Georgia could not face any discipline for the improper benefits. In that case, only Caldwell-Pope could face possible suspension.

[2]

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (black jersey)

However, because money did not change hands in the Newton case, a situation at Baylor may reflect Jones’ and Caldwell-Pope’s case more accurately. Perry Jones was declared ineligible for one tournament game, plus six regular season games, after the NCAA determined that a coach loaned money to his mother and paid for Perry Jones to travel to a preseason NFL game. However, there could also be one key difference between the two situations: in that case, it sounds more likely that the athlete actually knew about the benefits.

In reality, I’m looking at a two or three game suspension for Jones at most. The improper benefits did not total a ton of money ($828) and occurred while he was traveling to Los Angeles, after which he decided to play for USC. Jones is slated to start at outside linebacker if he is not suspended for the benefits.

Georgia has notified the NCAA and the SEC of these violations, but it is unclear if any official investigation has started.

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