When I pay University of Georgia President Michael Adams a compliment, you may be sure it is the real thing.
Somewhere over the years, he and I have gotten at rigid right angles. It is not the end of the world for either of us. The president seems to have survived without my advice and counsel - although he would be light years less controversial had he listened to me - and I support my beloved alma mater with my time and dollars and will continue to do so, whether I have his blessings or not.
Having said that, he is spot-on with the message he has delivered to the UGA Athletic Association. According to a recent interview in the Atlanta newspapers, Adams said he spoke to "every employee" of the association in a recent staff meeting, telling them that he wants the off-field problems on the football team to stop. No ifs, ands or buts. As I write this, 10 players have been arrested so far this year (and, alas, the year is not over.)
Dr. Adams told his interviewer, "You're dealing with 19-year-olds, and we have more (arrests) in the general student body than I would like. But we have had too much in the football team. And so we expect the coaches and the ADs (athletic directors) to provide role models and leadership for their players, and I told the whole Athletic Association staff that."
He then laid out what he calls the "three Adams rules":
"You follow NCAA and SEC guidelines. You go to class. And you stay out of trouble.
"You don't have to be Phi Beta Kappa," he added, "but you have to do those three things to play here."
Adams said. "It's an honor to put on the jersey that says ‘Georgia.' We expect people to represent us in a positive fashion, on and off the field. That is not an unrealistic expectation."
I agree with the president that it is an honor to represent the University of Georgia. You don't honor it by stealing motorcycle helmets, sassing police officers, hitting automobiles and leaving the scene and you don't drive drunk but you do drive with a valid license.
As Adams says, this isn't Phi Beta Kappa stuff.
We all know that a number of the football players are just passing through UGA on the way to what they hope is a professional football career. They are not here because they bleed Red-and-Black. They are here because they are deemed to possess a specific skill set needed for the team's success. Otherwise, they would be at some other school filling that team's needs.
Making the university proud is not necessarily high on their agenda. Getting a fat football contract is.
I'm too old and decrepit to understand the modern generation, but my guess is that kids who are wont to make stupid decisions off the field can't not be counted on to make good ones when the going gets tough in a football game. And that certainly seems to be the case with the current edition of the Bulldogs.
There are no doubt those in the Bulldog Nation that will rationalize the bad behavior and point out that other schools have the same problem. They have a point, but I don't care about the other schools. I do care about the university and I wanted it represented well, whether it is the football team or the Forestry School.
I believe Georgia can be competitive in athletics and do it with the right kind of kids in the right program run the right way.
I recall an incident a few years ago where a player at Penn State broke the team rules. Joe Paterno, who holds the record for most victories by a major college football coach, had the entire team out on Sunday morning after their game, cleaning the stadium and running the steps. I don't recall another incident of that type at Penn State, a perennial college power.
I hope President Adams' message resonates with the athletic department, with the coaches, with the athletes and with win-at-any-cost football fans. No more incidents by undisciplined kids on or off the football field. Either do it the right way or do it somewhere else.
We may not howdy on a regular basis, but this is one time, Adams and I are on the same page.
Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; website.