May 14, 2003
Georgia is going jewelry shopping. The school is having to buy back the SEC championship rings of nine football players-- all of whom have been declared ineligible to play-- five of whom were listed as starters on the depth chart after spring practice.
The University began the investigation after learning that two jerseys and an SEC championship ring belonging to Kedric Golston were being auctioned on the internet.
Now the University has learned the receivers Michael Johnson and Fred Gibson and starting defensive cornerback Bruce Thornton, linebacker Tony Taylorand defensive tackle Darrius Swain also sold their rings.
The other players are Kenny Bailey, Tim Jennings and walk-on Trey Young.
The UGA Athletics Association has arranged to recover the rings to prevent future sales that violate NCAA rules.
They will also work with NCAA to determine proper re-payment procedcures from the players so that their eligibility may be restored.
"As I have said, it's very disappointing," said head coach Mark Richt. "I think as a football program and Athletic Association we are now committed to doing a better job of educating our student-athletes on the worth of achievement awards which far transcends monetary value."
In unrelated developments, Richt has imposed game suspension on four other football student-athletes for violation of team rules: rising sophomores B.J. Fields (one game), Chris Hickman (one game), Jamario Smith (one game) and Tyson Browning (three games).
In addition, Richt said that by mutual agreement, rising sophomore Randall Swoopes will transfer to Georgia Military College in the fall of this year.
The door has been left open for him to possibly return to UGA at some future time.