Georgia hoped to get Todd Gurley back for this Saturday's game against Florida. It will have to wait a bit longer.The NCAA announced Wednesday that Gurley must serve a suspension for a total of four games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash for autographed memorabilia and other items. The cash exchanges took place over two years and involved multiple individuals, according to the NCAA's statement. Gurley must repay a portion of the received money to a charity of his choice, as well as conduct 40 hours of community service.
Gurley, who has missed Georgia's last two games against Missouri and Arkansas, will be eligible to play Nov. 15 against Auburn. The tailback will miss this weekend's game against the Gators in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Bulldogs' Nov. 8 trip to Kentucky.
Georgia, which submitted its request for Gurley's reinstatement on Oct. 22, will appeal the decision. The NCAA said the school's "due diligence" in its investigation prevented a harsher punishment.
"In determining the appropriate reinstatement conditions, a 30 percent withholding condition is consistent with precedent in similar cases," the NCAA said in its statement. "Additional withholding was strongly considered because the violations occurred over multiple years with multiple individuals and the student received extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs. However, the university’s due diligence in its investigation and the student’s full disclosure of his involvement in the violations were factors in not imposing a more severe withholding condition."
|Oct. 11||at Missouri||W, 34-0|
|Oct. 18||at Arkansas||W, 45-32|
|Nov. 1||Florida (in Jacksonville)||?|
|Nov. 8||at Kentucky||?|
|Nov. 22*||Georgia Southern||?|
|Nov. 29*||Georgia Tech||?|
* Gurley eligible to play
Gurley's suspension is just the latest situation involving a high-profile college football player and illegal benefits. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel missed the first half of the Aggies' 2013 season opener against Rice after similar allegations. The difference in Manziel's case is the NCAA could not find evidence that Manziel received money for autographs; the '12 Heisman Trophy winner was suspended for permitting his name or likeness to be used for commercial purposes.
The headlines surrounding Gurley will add fuel to the fire of those leading a crusade against the NCAA's regulations and enforcement. Like Manziel before him, Gurley is one of the country's most popular athletes, but he is not allowed to profit off his name or likeness. Meanwhile, coaches and athletic departments reap massive financial benefits off the sport and its star players. While the current restrictions may be unfair, Gurley broke rules that he knew could jeopardize his eligibility, and his Heisman chances are now gone because of it.
Still, Gurley's case has sparked another rallying cry in the popular criticism of the NCAA's amateurism model. He also might have helped alter the NCAA's stance for the future. This week NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA Today's Dan Wolken that he hopes NCAA members revisit regulations surrounding student-athlete autographs.
"I hope the members do look at it," Emmert told Wolken. "Whether they change it or not is less important than whether or not they look at it and say, 'We still think this is a good rule for good reasons' or not, but we need to have it affirmed or changed -- one of the two -- and this is a good time to do it."
Gurley carried 94 times for 773 yards with eight touchdowns through five games.
For now, he will hope to return to a Georgia team that is currently very much alive in the College Football Playoff conversation. The Bulldogs are 6-1 and came in at No. 11 in the first College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night. They won at Missouri and at Arkansas without Gurley. He'll return to face Auburn, the toughest remaining test on Georgia's slate.