Mark Richt keeps kicking them out, and other SEC schools keep picking them up.
Zach Mettenberger found his way to LSU. Nick Marshall ended up at Auburn. Now Tray Matthews says he’s headed to the Plains.
This small but growing list of players who’ve had or have a chance to come back to haunt Richt and Georgia begs a question: Should the SEC step in to save Richt from himself? Does the conference need a rule prohibiting dismissed players from returning to the league?
John Pennington of MrSEC.com wrote a thought-provoking piece making that case in April after Missouri kicked out talented but troubled wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Pennington made this strong argument:
“If maintaining discipline and protecting the reputations of schools is important in the SEC, the league’s schools should work in concert to make discipline a priority. If a player is banished from one school for disciplinary reasons he should be barred from landing at one of that school’s conference rivals. No coach doing the right thing should himself be punished for doing that very thing.”
File this one under ideas with a lot of merit that have almost no chance of happening.
It’s not like SEC schools to put up roadblocks to any avenues that might lead talented football players to their doors, not when players such as Mettenberger and Marshall have been successful in leaving their troubles behind in Athens and making the most of their second chances.
Pennington suggested that there are plenty of Football Bowl Subdivision schools outside the SEC that could offer such players an opportunity to get their acts together and return to college football. One recent example: Josh Harvey-Clemons, another player kicked off the team at Georgia, is heading to Louisville.
SEC coaches might argue that putting those players off-limits to SEC schools would be a competitive disadvantage. Those players could come back to beat you in non-conference games.
Then there’s the more rare instance of D.J. Pettway, who was dismissed by Alabama, went to junior college for a season and has returned to Alabama, where he’ll play a significant role on defense this season. Any SEC rule prohibiting the return of dismissed players would have to put a stop to that possibility.
The SEC has never come close to instituting a league-wide disciplinary code that spells out uniform punishments for violations of team or university policy or the law itself. It’s unlikely the league would micromanage its schools to the extent that it would prevent dismissed players from coming back.
Richt deserves credit for sticking to his principles in letting players go knowing they can and have come back to beat him. Hard to imagine the rest of the schools in the league would line up to save him from his own idealistic self.