ATHENS — The University of Georgia has moved forward with the next step in the NCAA’s eligibility restoration process on behalf of star running back Todd Gurley. Whether or not the junior will be able to play again for the Bulldogs will now be determined by the NCAA’s governing body, and specifically by the group’s “student-athlete reinstatement committee.”
Georgia has been investigating since Oct. 9 allegations that Gurley had accepted improper benefits that were brought to its attention by an outside party. Since then, the Bulldogs have pretty much followed to the letter the reinstatement process, which is broken down HERE on the NCAA’s website.
The timing of UGA’s request for reinstatement suggests that it is hoping to have Gurley back for the Nov. 1 game against Florida in Jacksonville. It also builds in time to file an appeal, if the Bulldogs don’t agree with the NCAA’s ruling. Typically schools will receive a ruling within 24 hours of a reinstatement request and that’s the expectation here considering UGA has been “in communication” with the NCAA on the situation since it arose 13 days ago.
Two things are particularly important about the statement UGA sent out earlier Wednesday: (1) Gurley and his attorney admit wrongdoing. This is equivalent to pleading guilty in a civil or criminal case and he’s essentially asking for mercy from the “court;” (2) The timing. That it comes after Gurley has sat out two games means that the Bulldogs believe his suspension from approximately 20 percent of competition dates satisfies the requirement dictated by current NCAA statutes regarding improper benefits between $400 and $700 or the suspension length should be sufficient in light of the vague climate regarding the rules on the uses of student-athlete’s likenesses or images.
In any case, Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity indicated there is no predetermined outcome and the Bulldogs will simply have to wait to receive a response from the NCAA.
Meanwhile, the No. 9 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) are leading the SEC’s Eastern Division race and have the week off before facing Florida (3-3, 2-3) on Nov. 1 in Jacksonville. Having Gurley back the rest of the way could go a long way toward ensuring Georgia reaches the SEC championship game for the third time in the last four years.
Florida’s Will Muschamp, whose security as the Gators’ head coach beyond this season is in question, addressed the prospect of his team having to face Gurley in Jacksonville during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference call with reporters.
“He’s an outstanding player, one of the best players in college football and one of the best running backs in the SEC,” Muschamp said. “But, again, we want to play somebody at their best, and certainly Todd is one of the best players in country. He’ll be fresh, I’d imagine that.”
Here’s an excerpt from the NCAA manual on the process of restoring the eligibility of a student-athlete who is suspected of having broken rules.
If an institution determines that a student-athlete was involved in a violation that affects eligibility, it must declare that student-athlete ineligible. At that point, the institution must investigate, gather facts and submit a reinstatement request to the NCAA national office staff.
During the reinstatement process, specially trained NCAA staff members review each case on its own merits and facts. The staff members then provide an initial decision based on several factors including nature and seriousness of violation; any impermissible benefits received by the student-athlete; the student-athlete’s level of responsibility; mitigating factors presented by the institution; applicable guidelines; and relevant case precedent. Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and are made once the facts of the student-athlete’s involvement are determined. Most cases are resolved quickly. In fact, many likely conclude before an Enforcement investigation concludes
The reinstatement decision results in one of three possible outcomes: reinstated, reinstated with conditions or not reinstated.
If the institution disagrees with the NCAA staff’s decision, it can appeal to the NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for the applicable division. The committee is composed of representatives from NCAA member institutions and conferences. The committee can reduce or remove the conditions the staff has imposed, but they cannot increase them.