UGA Appeals 4-Game Suspension of Gurley

ATHENS - The NCAA says that Todd Gurley will have to sit until the Auburn game, but Georgia is appealing that decision.

Todd Gurley, who was suspended for two games by Georgia for accepting money for autographs, was cleared by the NCAA today. But Gurley, according to the NCAA, is not eligible to play until Georgia's game with Auburn on November 15th.

"Todd Gurley, University of Georgia football student-athlete, must sit a total of four games, or 30 percent of the season, for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. Gurley, who acknowledged violating NCAA rules, must repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service as additional conditions for his reinstatement. Gurley will be eligible to play on Nov. 15."

Georgia immediately released a statement saying that it will appeal the decision by the NCAA.

Tuesday afternoon the University received the decision from the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff regarding the University's request for the reinstatement of Todd Gurley. The University plans to appeal the decision immediately.

The announcement continues nearly a month's worth of speculation about the status of Gurley, who was considered the front runner for the Heisman Trophy before the suspension. But that announcement on Oct. 9 sent shockwaves through the world of college football.

“I'm obviously very disappointed,” said coach Mark Richt said in a statement regarding Gurley's suspension earlier in the month. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.”

And the Bulldogs did just that beating No. 23 Missouri 34-0 without Gurley. Georgia players repeatedly signaled their support for Gurley by making an “OK” sign with three fingers in the air.

“Threes up,” multiple players said leaving the field after the win.

COLUMBIA, MO - Damian Swann signals his support for suspended teammate Todd Gurley during No. 13 Georgia's 34-0 win over No. 23 Missouri at Faurot Field on October 11, 2014. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

The day before the win over Missouri it was reported that Gurley might not return to Georgia. Multiple reports in the media speculated that Gurley might not ever play at Georgia again. However, NCAA rules specifically state that the maximum penalty for what Gurley was said to have done was a maximum of a four-game suspension.

The speculation in the media drew criticism from Georgia AD Greg McGarity the Friday before the Missouri game.

“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,” McGarity said in a statement. “We can’t control the pundits.” McGarity didn't single out any organization or reporter regarding the "incomplete or erroneous information".

Sports Illustrated reported the day Gurley was suspended that the running back was paid $400 to sign autographs in the spring.

"A person confirmed to Georgia’s compliance office this week that he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 items on campus in Athens, Ga., one day this past spring. The person claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but neither the photo nor the video showed money changing hands,” SI reported.

That person person turned out to be a small-time autograph dealer from west Georgia. Bryan Allen, who owned a memorabilia store in Rome, became the focus of the ire of Bulldog fans.

Allen shopped not just memorabilia near Rome, but also his story about getting Gurley’s autograph. Several media outlets, including ESPN, SB Nation, blog Every Day Should be Saturday and Deadspin, were offered the story by what Deadspin called “a spurned memorabilia dealer.”

Deadspin went on to quote a person, presumably Allen, who was interested in getting paid not only for the memorabilia, but for story and proof that Gurley actually signed the items in question.

Small-time autograph dealer Bryan Allen (CoosaValleyNews)

"Its pretty incriminating and SI is pretty into it. It would definitely be front page of ESPN if leaked at the right time. Again, not offended at all if you have no interest. TMZ has seen the video but NP offer has been made. Again, not trying to get rich. I spent a few grand on the signing and Gurley has since kind of screwed me by doing this with about 30 other guys. The stuff has lost a ton of its value. Just wanna recoup some of my money," the e-mailer wrote to Deadspin.

As the scandal continued to rage and after the win over Missouri, the Bulldogs and Gurley returned to practice where his teammates said he was doing well.

“He was in high spirits,” tight end Jay Rome told the Athens Banner-Herald. “He was running around, finishing runs. He’s really upbeat, yelling and getting everybody up. I don’t think he’s mentally down about it at all. I think he’s in the right place.”

All the while Richt maintained that he was in the dark about what Gurley’s final punishment would be - or when he would return.

“I have no idea,” Richt said when asked about Gurley’s return on Oct. 14. The next night Richt said that the running back would travel to Arkansas to play if he was available - otherwise he would stay at home.

“If we know he's not gonna play he won't travel,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of suspended running back Todd Gurley. “If we know he's able to play he'll travel. If he's not he won’t. He's either able to play or not. We'll definitely know in plenty of time before we get on the plane."

“(Todd) has been practicing and getting some reps,” Richt continued. “But until we know something for sure one way or the other… he is eligible to play he will travel. If he is not he won’t travel.”

But after Richt made that statement a University official said Georgia, in fact, did not know if they would have word on if Gurley would be eligible or not. Dawg Post specifically asked a University official on Wednesday if the school had turned in the case to the NCAA. "I don't know the answer to that," the official said. "Let me get back to you." That didn't happen. On Thursday the University sent out a statement on the Gurley case saying: "Georgia representatives (met) with the NCAA eligibility staff regarding the ongoing matter involving Todd Gurley. There is no new news at this time and no further comment is necessary."

Later Thursday night, the NCAA's Twitter account sent out the following message: "Regarding Todd Gurley's eligibility, the NCAA is continuing to work with Georgia and is awaiting the school's request for reinstatement."

Georgia, as it turned out, had not filed anything with the NCAA at that time.

The Bulldogs played on without Gurley - again giving the ball to freshman Nick Chubb again along the way to a 45-32 win over Arkansas in Little Rock . The Bulldogs didn't practice on Monday, and according to a source, Gurley showed up near the end of Georgia's practice on Tuesday, but didn't take part in any drills - fueling speculation (again) that Gurley was done playing in Athens.

But the following day Georgia released a statement saying that the school was filing for the reinstatement of Gurley, and that it expected a "prompt ruling" from the NCAA.

That ruling came today - clearing the way for Gurley to return to the gridiron, but not immediately.

Todd Gurley works out during practice on Oct. 22, 2014 (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

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