ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart toed the company line regarding the UGA athletic association’s drug policy, which is considered one of the more stringent in the NCAA.
The Bulldogs’ first-year coach was asked about the policy in the wake of Monday’s news that linebackers Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith had passed a drug test and therefore would not be suspended for this week’s game against Florida or any subsequent games.
“I’m a team player when it comes to policy,” said Smart, who was at Alabama for nine years before being hired as Georgia’s head coach last Decemeber. “I believe in doing what the team theme is, which is what our athletic association has been so far. Do I think we live in a society that is a little bit different now than it was back whenever? Sure, I do. But I also believe in what we have and what we know and accept the rules that we’ve been charged with.”
Patrick and Smith are both sophomores and starting inside linebackers for the Bulldogs. They were the subject of an investigation into suspected marijuana use on Oct. 15 when police were called to Patrick’s dorm by a resident assistant who claimed to have smelled marijuana on the fourth floor of McWhorter Hall. Police traced the smell to Room 422, which belongs to Patrick. No marijuana was found after a search and neither player was arrested. However, some contraband associated with the drug was confiscated by police and the athletic association was informed of the incident.
Last Wednesday, Smart said he was waiting to receive “more information” before deciding if or how the players might be disciplined. Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said in a statement Monday that the players had passed a drug test.
UGA routinely tests its student-athletes randomly and can require them to take tests when use is suspected. Those results are usually kept private under protection of federal privacy laws such as HIPAA. McGarity confirmed Monday that UGA received permission from the players to share the information that they had passed a drug test.
Smart was just happy to leave the issue behind.
“We brought the matter to a conclusion today,” Smart said. “I’m happy for these two young men. They get to move on to football and not have to deal with the distraction. I will say, on the field, these two young men have been exemplary leaders, especially for sophomores.”
The UGA athletic association’s handbook for student-athletes calls for a one-game suspension of football players found to be in violation of the drug and alcohol policy. A second offense calls for a suspension of one-third of competition dates, or four games.
Patrick was suspended for one game for violating that policy in 2015. Most SEC programs don’t suspend players from competition on a first offense.
“Natrez and Roquan have just started to be vocal just maybe since the Ole Miss game, which is tough when you’re a sophomore because you’re in the bottom half of the leadership,’ Smart said. “And those kids have done that and they’ve done a good job of being leaders.”