Mark Richt was in a fine mood in Hoover, Ala., on Thursday. He told the media he liked what he has seen of his team. He’d just become a grandfather. He was wearing a bright red tie and smiling a lot, even by Richt’s affable standards.
He flew home to Athens and, twice in the past few days, was reminded that happiness, for a big-time college coach, can be a fleeting concept. A football recruit who visited Georgia over the weekend is being investigated for a dormitory burglary, and this morning comes word that Jonathan Taylor, a backup defensive tackle, has been arrested on charges of aggravated assault/domestic abuse.
UGA police chief Jimmy Williamson told the AJC’s Chip Towers than Taylor was arrested this morning after a third-party complaint led officers to ascertain that there was “significant probable cause” that Taylor had choked his girlfriend. In sum, this isn’t one of those incidents of a player exiting an alley improperly on a scooter. This is serious stuff.
Taylor had already been arrested once this year. He was involved in the “theft by deception” incident that saw three other Bulldogs arrested, including Tray Matthews, who was later dismissed from the squad and has announced that he’s transferring to Auburn. Taylor was subsequently accepted into a pretrial intervention program.
As we know too well, this isn’t the first time the Georgia program has had to deal with arrests. It’s not alone in this, but we have to concede that Georgia does seem to have more than its share of incidents. Over the years, we’ve gone through the is-Richt-too-soft debates, which have lately yielded to Richt-gets-tougher nods of approval, but every high-salaried big-time coach — from Nick Saban and Urban Meyer on down — lives in ongoing fear of the next middle-of-the-night phone call.
No coach can be with 120 players 24 hours a day. (Even if he could, that wouldn’t really be imparting discipline, would it? Discipline involves the astute application of free will.) That said, the coach is the guy who brought these players to campus, and he has to live with their choices. Yes, coaches get paid a ton of money, but they’re also the ones whose phones ring in the middle of the night.
I’m reminded of what a big-time basketball coach once told me about being intrigued by coaching in the NBA. I said I thought any successful college coach who would put himself in the position of coaching guys who made more money than he did was crazy. He smiled and said, “Yeah, but when one of those guys gets in trouble, that phone call doesn’t come to you. It goes to the agent.”