You almost always remember where you were when major earthshaking events occurred. For example, I remember getting off the school bus in high school in my hometown of Washington, Georgia when I heard that President Ronald Reagan had been shot on March 30, 1981. I remember being in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 31, 1997 when Princess Diana was in her fatal car accident in Paris. I would later make a pilgrimage to the scene of the wreck while passing through Paris on the way to Bucharest, Romania. I clearly remember pulling into my old subdivision on June 23, 2003 when news broke on the radio that Atlanta’s first African-American mayor had died of a massive heart attack. I remember exactly where I was on April 2, 2005 when Ioannes Paulus II, born Karol Józef Wojtyła but better known to the world as Pope John Paul II died.
So it was for me on Thursday, October 9 while I was on a fishing trip in Pensacola, Florida with my 90-year old fishing buddy, Dr. J. E. Hightower. I had taken a mid-afternoon nap so that I could do some night fishing. Upon waking up, I had the following Facebook message from my college classmate and perennial Georgia Tech football fan Vedia Murray Henderson at 6:36PM while I was still asleep, “What's going on with your boy Gurley? As much as I dislike the puppies, I hate it for him and his team. I guess you need to suit up [at] RB.”
My reply at 7:36PM was, “Hey um still in FL fishn...wut happened?” To my shock after scrolling the internet and reading the AJC.com and ESPN.com, I discovered that the “Top ‘Dawg,” Todd Gurley had been suspended indefinitely by the Georgia Bulldogs for allegedly taking money from a broker for signing autographed items.
Todd Gurley is unquestionably the best college football player in the nation. He is a man among boys running, leaping, passing and powering his way down the football field in between the hedges or in the opposing team’s stadium.
While we do not know many of the facts surrounding Gurley’s suspension, it has left the BullDawg Nation barking loudly and rightfully so. I wish that you could have heard me barking from Pensacola. When I learn of Gurley’s suspension, I barked louder at that news than I did after I had caught a five foot black-tip shark the night before!
Let me get this out of out of the way. I have a deep and deaf ear to those who keep saying, “Well Gurley knew better.” A man knows better than to cheat on his wife but he cheats anyway. People know better than to cheat on their taxes but they cheat anyway. People know better than to drink and drive, yet, they drink and drive anyway. So let’s leave our hyper moral hypocrisy for another conversation.
Regardless of the facts in this case, there are a few things that I would like to point out.
First, many African-American athletes come to college from environments of poverty or abject poverty where they are raised by mothers and/or grandmothers who are forced to work multiple jobs to put food on the table and to keep the lights on not just for the star athlete but also for his siblings.
Second, the temptations brought on by the lure and lights of super stardom are hard to resist when the athlete has been exposed to the grandeur and excesses of life that come with being the “best” player.
Third, there are leeches and vultures like Danny Robbins, the man who allegedly entrapped Gurley, who prey and pounce on star athletes so that they can cash in prior to the athlete signing his lucrative NFL contract.
Having established the aforementioned, everyone seems to benefit from the college star except the college star himself. Every Saturday in the SEC (Southeastern Conference), hundreds of thousands of fans and scouts pack into football stadiums as if they were the gladiatorial games of the Roman Emperor Titus when he opened the Coliseum in 80 A. D. At Sanford Stadium in Athens, home of the Georgia Bulldogs, 96,000 barking fans assemble for each home game.
The schools rake in millions of dollars each season and the stars like Gurley cannot receive one dime. This great NCAA injustice is a testament to its archaic rules. Athletes are forbidden to receive any $$$ for their services. The NCAA believes that since the athlete receives free tuition, room and board that he should be content while the NCAA rakes in billions with it conference championships, bowls and national championship game.
The only break of daylight for NCAA athletes came this past summer when U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit players from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools.
Judge Wilken appropriately wrote, “The Court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools.”
I do not know if this will help Todd Gurley but I pray that it does.
Student athletes should be allowed to eat from the same money trough that the NCAA eats from. Student athletes should be allowed to withdraw from the same ATM that the NCAA withdraws from.
Back to Gurley and Georgia. Coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff did a masterful job in preparing the ‘Dawgs for their game against Missouri on last Saturday just two days before the Gurley bomb dropped. Freshman sensation Nick Chubb chugged his way to 143 yards on 38 carries along with one TD in Georgia’s 34-0 win in Columbia.
However, T. Gurley deserves to be on the field. “Free Gurley!” No one knows how this case will end up as both Gurley and Rollins have lawyered up. If Gurley does not receive a favorable ruling, then he should return to UGA for his senior year and run his way to Heisman Glory while leading the ‘Dawgs to the National Championship which would be their first one since the “Legendary ‘Dawg” Herschel Walker was running wild.
Insure Gurley’s legs with Lloyd’s of London and let this ‘Dawg run wild.
Schools have to do more to protect star athletes from the pouncing predatory parasites who seek to line their pockets with silver and gold at the expense of the athletes who cannot even receive a plane ticket to fly home for the holidays.
I believe that one solution is to assign the athletes mentors from the faith community to shadow and shore them up.
Often God gives me the titles for my sermons way in advance of my preparation to preach the actual sermon. Such is the case of a sermon title that I was given in September which I will preach on October 26 entitled “There Shall Be Glory After This!” Now, I know why I was given that title and later wed it to II Corinthians 4:7-18.
After the mishaps and missteps of life, there can be glory!
There shall be glory for UGA and Todd Gurley after this!