Another offseason of trouble at UGA


Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.

ATHENS, Ga. - For the second straight week, Georgia football coach Mark Richt plans to meet with senior defensive tackle Darrius Swain on Wednesday.

For the second straight week, that meeting must take place at the Athens-Clarke County Jail.

Swain, arrested May 7, is serving a 45-day jail sentence for repeated driver's license violations.

"He's in a very tough place right now," Richt said. "He's embarrassed. He's hurt. He's sad. He's lonely. He's ashamed."

It's been another rough offseason for Richt and his Bulldogs as four other players have also landed in legal trouble.

Derrick White, one of two Georgia players arrested following a bar fight April 10, has been banned from downtown Athens at night for six months. White, a linebacker projected as a starter, has been suspended by Richt for the first two games of the season because of the fight.

Defensive tackle Kedric Golston, the other player arrested following the bar fight, has been suspended for the Sept. 3 season opener against Boise State. Two other players, offensive linemen Zeb McKinzey and Michael Turner, also were suspended for the opening game by Richt earlier in the spring. McKinzey was suspended for public drunkeness; Turner for being in a vehicle where marijuana was found.

"I see them as isolated events," athletic director Damon Evans said Tuesday. "I don't see this as a lack of discipline in our program. When you have the number of student-athletes, you're going to see events like this. We hope it's a lot fewer. I feel that Mark understands the situation and has good measures in place."

Richt has led Georgia to three straight seasons with 10 or more wins, but that success has not shielded the team from problems away from the field.

One year ago, Richt suspended three starters for the 2004 season opener. In 2003, he suspended eight players for the opener, including five held out for two games after their arrests for marijuana possession. At the time, university president Michael Adams said his patience "is exhausted over this continuing improper behavior by athletes."

Also in 2003, Richt dealt with the perplexing news that nine players sold their 2002 Southeastern Conference championship rings. The players were temporarily declared ineligible by the NCAA.

A university spokesman on Tuesday said Adams prefers to let Evans speak for him regarding the arrests.

Richt said he obviously would prefer to be focused on other duties during the offseason, but tending to his player's legal woes "occupies my time."

"To think that 130 guys are going to be perfect throughout a four- and five-year career is just not very realistic," he said. "That does not excuse any of the behavior by any means, but people tend to learn by their mistakes. Not many people learn by other people's mistakes. We have to constantly stay on top of the training of these guys and their behavior."

Swain's jail sentence followed his third arrest for driving with a suspended license in the last two years. Swain also was ordered by Clarke County Municipal Court judge Kay Giese to perform 40 hours of community service.

Richt said he did not impose a suspension on Swain because he believed the judge's sentence was strong enough.

"When the penalty was handed down, I thought that was really going to get his attention," Richt said. "I thought it was a severe enough penalty for the crime, and I think he'll learn from that. If he doesn't learn from that, I don't think anything we could have done on top of that would have made any difference."

The coach also plans unspecified "internal discipline" for Swain.

Richt said he has assigned players to perform community service while others have had to complete "boot-camp type of stuff that will make folks think twice about what they did." In the past, Richt also has left a player's picture off a media guide cover or a game program as a disciplinary measure.

"No one likes to be humiliated in public or have things taken away from them that are very precious to them," Richt said.

Georgia assistant strength coach Joe Tereshinski, whose son Joe is a backup quarterback, has been around the program for most of the last 40 years as a player or staff member. The elder Tereshinski said the program "is not just about football."

"In our weightroom we start our workouts every day with a little something to do with the growth of men - be it in their relationship with women, their Lord, their families, this team or to themselves," Tereshinski said. "It's a constant lesson of what it means to be a man.

"Speaking as a father, I'm glad my son is in this program because of Mark."

Even with the life lessons, players still land in trouble and, in Swain's case, in jail.

"If one of our players does something wrong and we find out about it, it's like a dagger goes in your heart," Tereshinski said.

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