9 UGA Players Now Eligible for Clemson Game

The nine Georgia football players who sold their SEC championship rings will not be punished by the NCAA and will not have to miss any games in the 2003 season. It was originally thought that the nine players suspended would likely the miss the season opener at Clemson.

The NCAA's Legislative Review and Interpretations Subcommittee ruled late Wednesday that no penalties will be imposed on the nine players who were declared ineligible by Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley last month after it was learned the players sold their 2002 Southeastern Conference championship rings.

Because selling the rings qualified as a rules violation, it was normal procedure for Georgia to declare the players ineligible while awaiting a ruling from the NCAA.

The NCAA subcommittee said there was a lack of precedent and also cited the unclear nature of NCAA rules regarding players selling their rings while still on scholarship.

Georgia coach Mark Richt announced he will impose internal discipline on the players, but he said his action would not include game suspensions.

Said Richt in a statement released by Georgia Wednesday night: "We are pleased with the subcommittee ruling; however, I also feel the players should be disciplined and some restitution made for what I consider poor judgment and engaging in an activity that does not demonstrate proper respect for the symbol of a great team accomplishment — one that has generated great pride on the part of our team, the university and our fans.''

The nine players who sold their rings were defensive backs Kenny Bailey, Bruce Thornton and Tim Jennings; receivers Fred Gibson and Michael Johnson; defensive tackles Kedric Golston and Darrius Swain; linebacker Tony Taylor and walk-on running back Trey Young.

Georgia is attempting to recover the rings from the seller, who placed the rings on sale on the internet.

Dooley said the NCAA subcommittee's ruling "confirmed my feelings that this situation was unprecedented and I am pleased with their decision.''

Dooley also said he was pleased Richt was not suspending the nine players.

"At the same time, I'm confident (Richt) will handle the matter concerning the players judiciously in other ways,'' Dooley said.

Dooley said there now will be a clearly stated rule set by the Georgia athletic association so no players in the future can be confused about selling items like championship rings and thereby risking their eligibility.

The subcommittee agreed with Georgia's contention that because the NCAA in the past has given different interpretations on the issue of a student-athlete selling gifts and awards such as championship rings, the Georgia players will not have to apply to have their eligibility reinstated.

On the same day last month that Dooley declared the nine players ineligible for selling their rings, Richt suspended four players for one to three games for undisclosed rules violations and announced another player, center Randall Swoopes, was transferring to Georgia Military College.

Georgia also has suspended five players for two games after they were arrested for misdemeanor drug charges.

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