College Football College Football

Price of success

Nine UGA players ruled ineligible for selling SEC title rings

Posted: Wednesday May 14, 2003 9:37 PM
Updated: Thursday May 15, 2003 11:36 AM

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Nine Georgia football players were declared ineligible Wednesday by the NCAA for selling their 2002 Southeastern Conference championship rings.

The group included senior receiver Michael Johnson and cornerbacks Kenny Bailey and Bruce Thornton, junior receiver Fred Gibson and four sophomores -- defensive tackle Darrius Swain, linebacker Tony Taylor, cornerback Tim Jennings and walk-on Trey Young.

Jennings was one of five players suspended for at least two games by coach Mark Richt last month after they were arrested for marijuana possession.

Freshman nose tackle Kedric Golston, who had already been cited by the university for selling his ring, was also declared ineligible after it was discovered his Sugar Bowl jersey and SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl rings were sold on the Internet auction site eBay for $3,500, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Thursday.

The school will appeal the NCAA's ruling.

NCAA regulations do not prohibit athletes from selling rings as long as they receive no more than fair-market value. The university, which is working to recover the rings, did not say how much money the players received for the rings.

The players will be required to make restitution for the money they received from the sale of their rings.

After paying back the money they got for the rings, the players could regain their NCAA eligibility. But they would probably still face penalties handed down by Richt.

One unidentified individual, who is not a Bulldog booster, bought the rings from the players for various amounts, university compliance director Amy Chisholm said.

"It was very disappointing," Richt said. "I think as a football program and as an athletic program we have to do a better job of educating our student-athletes on the worth of achievement awards, which far transcend monetary value."

In an unrelated development, Richt suspended four sophomores for violation of team rules. B.J. Fields, Chris Hickman and Jamario Smith were each suspended for one game, and Tyson Browning was suspended for three.

Jennings and the others charged with marijuana possession, wide receiver Bryan McClendon, defensive back DeMario Minter, wide receiver Mario Raley and offensive lineman Randall Swoopes, were given pretrial diversion May 6 in Athens Municipal Court. Pretrial diversion is for first offenders and requires them to do community service work.

Swoopes has transferred to Georgia Military College but could be allowed to transfer back to Georgia, the university said.

With the suspensions and/or ineligibility of 17 players, the Bulldogs could be without seven starters when the season begins Aug. 30 against Clemson.

Richt said he is always concerned about being short-handed, "but we've got to do what we've got to do with discipline."

"We've got to do what gets the players' attention. I hope it doesn't cost us a game," Richt said.

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