What We Are Hearing: Todd Gurley

ATHENS - There are many moving parts to Georgia RB Todd Gurley’s situation.

Friday evening update

No. 13 Georgia arrived in Columbia, MO without the best running back in the country. Around lunch, the AJC cited a source and reported that Gurley "could miss remainder of season", and described Gurley's case as "significant".

At 4 PM, the NCAA acknowledged on Twitter that they "are working with Georgia as they continue to gather information."

Around 6 PM, Georgia AD Greg McGarity issued a statement including the following:

"There is currently a lot of misinformation about this matter in the public domain, and many pundits are offering opinions that are based on incomplete or erroneous information," the statement said. "While that is unfortunate and while we can’t control the pundits, I want to assure the Bulldog Nation that from the time this matter arose and continuing through today, University of Georgia personnel have worked tirelessly, making every effort and taking all appropriate steps to support our student-athletes and our coaches and to act in the best interests of the University of Georgia."

The statement went on to say: "While the University does not tolerate any violation of NCAA rules, the University has supported and continues to support its student-athletes. As just one example, when this matter arose, the University offered separate legal counsel to Todd; the University recommended -- and Todd retained -- counsel with vast experience with eligibility matters; and the University continues to pay for Todd’s counsel, as permitted by NCAA rules."

Around 7 PM, ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported that the "legal counsel" Gurley has retained is William H. King III of Lightfoot, Franklin and White in Birmingham.

Lightfoot, Franklin and White is the same firm that represented Cam Newton in 2010 and Texas A&M during the 2013 NCAA investigation of Johnny Manziel. Manziel's case is said to be similar in nature to Gurley's situation - although the details of Gurley's case seem very unclear 24 hours after Georgia's suspicion of the running back. Newton, who was involved in a pay-for-play scandal that involved allegations of payments well into the six figures, played in every game of the 2010 season, won the Heisman Trophy and the BCS National title. Manziel sat out a half of a game after the NCAA and Texas A&M agreed to that punishment at the start of the 2013 season.

Friday update

Another factor to remember is that Georgia has a pending case in front of the NCAA with Jack Bauerle.

That is a really big deal because you starting to get into the waters of lack of institutional control if you don't nip the Gurley thing in the bud.

I am well aware of the madness that is going on in the work of SEC West recruiting, but the reality right now is that Georgia now has two things pending with the NCAA in two different sports. That's not where you want to be.

With that said, the NCAA does not have subpoena power. What Georgia says that Todd did is what it is going to be. Georgia was the one that came to the NCAA - not the other way around. If Todd says the he took $1 or $400 dollars and Georgia can prove that's what's going on there's nothing really more left to the story.

So the matter at hand seems to be how much, in reality, did Todd admit to taking - not the number that has been alleged by this broker, SI or TMZ. That's what's going on. If the number is $400 or less I can't see this being more than two games - maybe one.

They can have a phone call vote at the NCAA to reinstate Todd... its not like they have to go up to the NCAA offices. But he's committed an infraction... he's going to be punished. I do not know, and I very seriously doubt very many people do know, how much he's said that he took. If it is less than $400 then we may well see him at Arkansas, but almost certainly vs. the Gators.

NCAA bylaw talks about the difference between taking $100 to less, $101-$400 and $701 or more. If Gurley took more than $700 (again how can we know what is reality and isn't) then it is going to be three games or more.

If the published reports are correct Todd is going to get a one-game suspension - missing this game at Missouri. IF THEY ARE CORRECT.

I'm going to tell you right now - Georgia isn't about to go down the path of rolling the dice for the entire athletic department so Todd can play at Arkansas. So this is going to be what Todd said and what the appropriate penalty is... and that's what it is going to be. There isn't going to be any risk taking because with the Swimming and Diving situation right now institutional control comes into the foreground if Georgia tries to pull a fast one on this.

Thursday Update.

The best running back in the country will almost certainly not play at Missouri on Saturday, but Georgia is working on a process that will reinstate the superstar as fast as possible. How fast remains to be seen.

Sport Illustrated reported that Gurley has been accused of being paid $400 for signing a slew of autographed items that have since gone up for auction. TMZ, the celebrity gossip website, has posted that "someone is trying to shop video and pictures", and that Gurley was "paid just shy of $2,000" for signing autographs. The interesting question a lot of people are asking is how we got to this point.

Just after it was reveled by Athens-Clarke County police that Gurley had been falsely accused in a downtown Athens bar I was told that ESPN was digging into a story that Gurley had, what else, signed autographs for a dealer. Obviously ESPN didn’t get the story, and SI has run out front on the story - now TMZ is jumping on board.

My response to the people saying that they had heard about the same thing was: “There are all sorts of things on Ebay singed by all sorts of high-level players.” In fact, Jameis Winston had more signed items up on Ebay than Gurley did at the time Georgia indefinitely suspended the running back on Thursday night.

That players sign autographs is hardly something new. That players, gasp, get paid for it isn’t anything new, either. What does seem to be a new phenomenon, however, is that autograph dealers are being more aggressive about cornering the market on a particularly college superstars’ signature - and they are willing to jam the player in the process.

Former Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel got into nearly the same exact situation a year ago. He signed some autographs. There was photographic proof that he’d signed (in the case of Gurley, SI is reporting that the running back has been videoed signing as well as photographed). None of that is against the bylaws of the NCAA. You can sign you name all you want… you just can’t get paid for it, which is what’s been alleged here.

However, in the case of Manziel, A&M was able to fight their way to a half-game penalty because they had time in the summer to push the NCAA around. The Aggies and NCAA agreed to the half-game penalty. I don’t know that Georgia will have as much leverage with 40 hours on the clock from the time they released the statement that Gurley had been suspended and the time the game kicks - noon eastern. But I can assure you they are trying to figure out how to muscle there way to Gurley playing in Little Rock next weekend.

I took the time to talk with a NCAA Division I compliance director on Thursday night after Gurley was suspended in order to get a little understanding of where Georgia is at in this process - and it is a process to be sure.

“(Georgia) had to shut (Gurley) down,” the compliance officer said. “They really had no choice because of the situation. If he plays and it is ruled by the NCAA that he received extra benefits, and Georgia knew about it not only will they forfeit the game, but in this new era of new level structure of penalties they could also get popped pretty hard with other penalties on the institution side of things.”

The officer went on to say that while they didn’t know all of the details of the situation, that with what was being reported in the media now, it was nearly impossible that Gurley would play on Saturday.

“Georgia is Georgia,” they said, “But I seriously doubt they can get something done this quick. Even if they could you still have the matter of the extra benefits. Anything over $100 has to be paid back in restitution form. So Gurley is going to have to pay that money back to his favorite charity… whatever that is… before he can play.”

Paying the money back shouldn’t be an issue. But even if Gurley pays the money back in the form of restitution, he would still be subject to NCAA penalty for the alleged violation - that’s the $400 SI is reporting Gurley took. Now, the punishments have changed from what they were in the recent past, so that’s a little less predictable than it once was.

“Georgia can ask for an expedited review from the NCAA,” the compliance officer said. “But with this new level structure that started last year there are new penalty levels that are going to be left up to the committee on reinstatement. We really don’t know what that could be because everything is so new.”

Gurley’s reinstatement will be a two-step process, but only one of those steps is the important one. Georgia has already indefinitely suspended Gurley and ruled him ineligible to play. Now they have to send in papers to the reinstatement committee as well as the committee on infractions.

The committee on infractions’ work can start while a player or coach that’s been suspended has served that suspension and returned to the playing field. So the committee on infractions, quite frankly, is irrelevant to fans, but isn’t to the institutions.

The committee on reinstatement is the one to focus on. Gurley was not at practice on Thursday, and allegedly was not in Athens for some of the day. This could be - could be… I don’t know this for a fact - Georgia’s attempt to run out as much in front on this disaster as possible. They could be getting every detail of every thing they need to know before running it up the NCAA pole to start that merry-go-round of compliance craps - you really don’t know what you will get.

“If they know exactly everything that happened the process is much faster,” the compliance officer said. “That’s a quicker way to get the student-athlete back to the field.”

So that’s likely what was going on Thursday with Gurley not being at practice. This doesn't seem to be about getting Gurley ready to play at Missouri - that seems like a lost cause. Him playing would be a real rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick we’ve not seen Georgia perform in recent memory. This seems to be about getting Gurley back onto the field as fast as possible by gathering all of the data and requesting an “expedited review” from the NCAA.

I have been told, but this is impossible to confirm, that Gurley will miss the Missouri and Arkansas games.I feel certain he’s not playing at Missouri. Many inside the program don’t think he’s going to play against the Tigers.

“If they tried to play him with this swirling around there would be some serious issues later in the year,” the officer added.

Back to where this all came from… about the turn of September to October the person(s) that Gurley signed the autographs for, or that person(s) representatives (that I am calling these people that is pathetic… they are losers) decided that what they had gotten from Gurley either wasn’t enough, or that somehow the “deal” reached had been breached.

So they went to the internet and sent out feelers as to which outlet or company might like a bite of the Gurley pie in the form of this story. But, again, why? Why would an autograph dealer want to destroy an under-the-table relationship with a superstar? Doesn't that mean that dealer could never be trusted again? Is this about a broken-hearted autograph dealer, or a much more complicated situation that involves a sinister act that will wreck Gurley’s career at Georgia for good?

Much of the background of this still doesn’t make much sense to me. But the story is evolving, and the answers will come out soon enough.

More UGA stories you might enjoy:
Details Emerge of Sketchy Memorabilia Dealer
Todd Gurley Suspended by UGA
So Is It Over Now For Dawgs?
The Missouri Game: Know, Think and Don't Know
Dawgs Try to Piece to Together Secondary
In-State LB Feels Like a Priority
Has Commitment Crossed Jeremy Pruitt's Mind?

Bonus Video: Hooking a Bizarre Sawfish

Dawg Post Top Stories