ATHENS — If Georgia’s drug policy for athletes is going to change, it won’t be because of Kirby Smart, who said Wednesday that the decision “is above me” and that he’s “completely understanding of that.”
Smart said he understood that during the interview process with athletics director Greg McGarity and president Jere Morehead, and that the decision to maintain it belongs to them.
“It’s a decision that’s top down, that’s managed,” Smart said. “President Morehead approached me with that and discussed it and told me exactly where it was, and I’m understanding of that. I mean that’s something that falls ultimately beyond my control and right now that’s where we’re at with it.”
Georgia has one of the toughest drug policies in the SEC and in the nation for athletes. A first offense of the marijuana policy means a one-game suspension for football players, and a second violation means a four-game suspension.
“I realize it’s not exactly a level playing field across the board. But we come in knowing that,” Smart said. “We know what the issues are. We know what the decisions are. We know what the program is here. The kids know what they are. So as long as you know that and understand it then if you don’t break the rules, you don’t break the law, if you don’t break the rules of the program. If you do then you’ll be punished for it. And I think they’ve got a pretty good understanding of that here.”
While McGarity inherited the drug policy when he became Georgia’s A.D. in August of 2010, he has been a vociferous advocate for retaining it. UGA president Jere Morehead, who replaced Michael Adams the summer of 2014, has also supported keeping it.
Mark Richt, at least publicly, also stood by the policy, saying “I don’t want my players to smoke marijuana.” But the policy has often cost Georgia the use of some of its best players.
Josh Harvey-Clemons, one of the key players on Georgia’s defense in 2013, was suspended for the season opener that year, and Georgia lost 38-35 at Clemson.
Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo, two future NFL players, were suspended the first four games of the 2012 season. Although Georgia won those games and went on to win the division, then-defensive coordinator Todd Grantham blamed the suspensions for his defense having a slow start to the season. Rambo was also suspended for the 2011 season opener against Boise State, which Georgia lost 35-21.
Isaiah Crowell and two fellow tailbacks, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome, were all suspended for a non-conference game in 2011. Georgia won that game anyway.
Those are just a few of the suspensions due to the policy over the years.