Evans "concerned" with Felton's practice time

ATHENS — Dennis Felton clearly has a lot of work to do with Georgia's basketball program.

The amount of time Dennis Felton spends doing that work has come under question recently from athletics director Damon Evans, who earlier this month sent Felton a letter addressing concerns about the team's adherence to the NCAA's 20-hour rule. Under NCAA regulations, college athletes are not allowed to spend more than 20 hours per week on any team-required athletic task.

"I am writing you because I am very concerned with some information that has been brought to my attention," Evans wrote in the letter, which was dated Nov. 1 and obtained Friday by The Telegraph through Georgia's open records law.

The letter went on to state that this isn't the first time Georgia's administration has had questions about Felton's use of his players' time.

"The Compliance Office gave you and your staff the benefit of the doubt on some untraceable rumors last year," Evans wrote. "We enhanced and emphasized the rules education. Now, after all that has been in place, the rumors persist and they need to be addressed. In the past week, information has come to our attention from many directions because of the concern for your student-athletes and the appearance that their days are being consumed with athletic-related activities."

Felton met with Evans the day after receiving the letter, Georgia's athletics director said, and addressed the administration's concerns. The two men reviewed detailed practice plans and logs during the meeting, Evans said. Nothing from the matter was reported to the NCAA or SEC because no violation was deemed to have occurred, Evans indicated.

"He responded promptly and responded in a way that I feel confident that our practice structure is within the framework of NCAA rules," Evans told The Telegraph.

Felton said Friday that he first became aware in October, through "second-hand information," that there were questions about his practice schedule, but he didn't know where that talk got started.

"I think it's been put to bed," he said. "We're always in compliance with the rule. There's no reality to the concept of us overworking our players."

Felton hasn't heard any complaints from his players about going beyond the mandated 20 hours or being overworked, he said. Two players said Friday evening that the amount of practice time has not created conflicts for them.

"It's not like I sit there and add up the hours every week," junior forward Steve Newman said. "We practice a lot, but I've never really paid attention to how much it is."

College athletes are required to sign log sheets each week attesting to the number of hours they have worked with the team, and Evans' letter addresses that subject.

"Student-athletes should never sign practice logs that are not accurate or do not adequately account for all the time required of them," he wrote. "Your student-athletes are educated and know the rules. They also know when the rules are not being adhered to."

The Bulldogs, who were 8-20 last year, are under NCAA probation for the next four years due to violations that took place under Felton's predecessor, Jim Harrick. Georgia opens the 2004-05 season on Friday against Old Dominion in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"I do not have to remind you," Evans wrote, "that the basketball program is on probation. There is no room for error."

The fact that the team is on probation makes Felton extra careful, sophomore center Dave Bliss said.

"They make a practice plan every day, and it's down to the minute," he said. "From a personal standpoint, I've got a 3.5 GPA and got to class every day. It's not interfering with my studies, and I'll do anything I can to be a better player."

Evans stressed to The Telegraph that he has the utmost confidence in Felton, and pointed out that Felton has improved the team's overall GPA, which rose to 2.60 for spring semester.

"I'm very pleased with the direction the program is headed," Evans said. "I believe he's the coach who is going to rebuild our program."

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