Crowell gave Georgia no other choice
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Crowell, the SEC’s Offensive Freshman of the Year last season, was dismissed from the team on Friday after being arrested earlier that morning on three weapons charges, two of them felonies. The development was the latest in a roster of disciplinary problems that have plagued the Bulldogs.
Georgia coach Mark Richt announced Crowell's dismissal in a brief news release.
“We have a dedicated and committed group of men who are working hard to prepare for the coming season,” said Richt, who had been on vacation. “Our total focus will be directed toward the team and this effort.”
Crowell, the No. 1 rated prep running back in the country in 2010, was driving a 2005 silver Mercury Grand Marquis at 2:20 a.m. when he came to a vehicle check point on campus. Four teammates, three of them incoming freshman, were passengers. Athens police officer Kathryn Thornton detected the odor of marijuana and requested to search the car and its occupants.
Though Thornton found no illegal drugs, she did discover a 9mm Luger under the driver’s seat, its serial number completely scratched off.
Crowell, 19, was charged with a felony count of possessing a weapon in a school zone, a felony count of altered identification mark and a misdemeanor count of possession/carrying a concealed weapon.
Crowell has no previous arrest record, but could face a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of between two and 10 years if found guilty. In February of 2011 Crowell, then a senior at Columbus (Ga.) Carver High School, became an internet sensation after punctuating his live, nationally televised announcement that he would be attending Georgia by hoisting a bulldog puppy clad in a red sweater.
Now, 17 months later, his time as a Bulldog is finished, his future as a college — and pro — football player in jeopardy.
“I don’t want to talk to a reporter right now,” said Crowell’s mother, Debbie, when longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution Bulldogs beat writer Chip Towers reached her by phone. “If I want to talk to anybody it’s God.”
Crowell’s arrest and exodus is the highest profile in a litany of Georia disciplinary problems in the past four years. Already this year, Richt had announced the suspensions of linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo, both starters, who will miss at least the first two games of 2012 for breaking “unspecified team rules.” But this is nothing new under Richt, who arrived in Athens in 2001.
In a three-year stretch between 2008-2010, 25 Georgia players were arrested for crimes ranging from underage alcohol possession to sexual battery. In the summer of 2008, the Bulldogs were a preseason No. 1 squad, but literally 80 percent of the questions Richt fielded at the SEC Media Days that July were related to discipline.
In 2010, nine Bulldogs players were arrested between the end of spring practice and the season opener in September. Among them was Crowell’s predecessor as the team’s leading rusher, Washaun Ealey, who was arrested for hit-and-run of a parked vehicle while driving with a suspended license.
“As long as we have 18- to 22-year old guys who are human beings, they are going to make mistakes,” Richt said at the time. “That’s just all there is to it. If you don’t discipline it, you have a problem.”
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Richt, 52, has disciplined it, repeatedly — Ealey was granted an unconditional release in May of 2011 and has since transferred to Jacksonville State. Still, the longest-tenured coach in the Southeastern Conference seems to consistently recruit players who fail to learn from their mistakes.
Ealey was suspended twice before departing Athens. Crowell was suspended one game last season for a failed drug test and was held out of the first quarter of another contest for breaking unspecified team rules. When asked at the time why he held Crowell out of the game for one quarter, Richt replied, “Because we love him.”
Yesterday, they left him. Isaiah Crowell gave Georgia no other choice.