ATHENS, Ga. — Mark Richt said a message needed to be sent. So for the next two games, his Georgia football team will be without its starting tailback, whose sin was less serious than it was poorly timed.
Georgia suspended Caleb King for two games Tuesday, a day after he was charged with failure to appear in court to address a speeding charge.
King was the team’s 11th player to be arrested this year and the sixth since July.
Richt was asked Tuesday whether the punishment is a reflection of a tougher standard.
Never miss a local story.
“Oh, yeah, no doubt,” Richt said. “But they knew that.”
Asked whether he felt he needed to send a message, Richt answered: “Obviously. Yes, sir.”
Six weeks ago, Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey was suspended for one game after being charged with three misdemeanors, stemming from a hit-and-run. King’s one misdemeanor drew two games, but it also came after two more arrests (safety Alec Ogletree was suspended for one game, and linebacker Demetre Baker was dismissed from the team.)
“Everybody knows that, at this point in time, if you get in trouble, you’re going to get a pretty good lashing,” said wide receiver Tavarres King, who was suspended for the season opener after a July arrest for underage possession of alcohol.
Senior fullback Fred Munzenmaier said the rules and consequences are laid down at a meeting before every season.
“It’s pretty black-and-white what everything is,” Munzenmaier said.
“But I guess, when you have a lot of trouble like we’ve been going through and stuff, you start to go through some gray areas, where you’ve got to make some judgment calls. But I think they’ve been handling everything well.”
Munzenmaier has his own background with the law. After being charged with underage possession of alcohol, he was suspended for the first two games of the 2008 season.
“It just comes down to we’re 18-22 years old. It comes down to learning to make the right decisions,” Munzenmaier said. “I learned it the hard way. But, luckily, I got the chance to stay around, and I think the way that they handled it benefited me as a person.”
While Richt has ramped up the punishment, the preventive aspect remains an issue.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, on the job a little more than a month, has spoken with Richt about preventive action. Richt wasn’t specific but said any ideas would be “all-encompassing.”
“(McGarity) and I have already been discussing some things, and we’ll implement some things as time goes on that I think will help us,” Richt said. “It will be an ongoing conversation, but I really have a lot of confidence that he’s got some good ideas in that regard, and I’m willing to listen to those and see if we can get better at that.”
King and Ealey had suspended driver’s licenses, as did a few other players who have had run-ins with the law. Richt said the team had been doing monthly checks on the status of players’ licenses; now, it will be done weekly.
But licenses get suspended only after unpaid tickets, and Richt said that would be hard to stay on top of. King’s speeding ticket — 76 mph in a 55-mph zone — happened in neighboring Walton County.
“If we are aware of things, we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen,” Richt said. “In this particular case, you basically would have to get in contact with every single county in the state of Georgia on a daily basis to find out if something like that popped up.”
Paying the ticket also remains the responsibility of the player, the coach said.
“Georgia is not going to take care of the traffic violations,” Richt said. “They have to.”
On the field, Ealey is likely to inherit King’s starting role. But with third-stringer Carlton Thomas questionable with a hamstring injury, Munzenmaier is getting practice reps at tailback. Freshman Ken Malcome, who has yet to play, also could have his redshirt taken off.
“They’re trying to find whoever can do it,” Munzenmaier said. “So I’d say pretty much all of us are getting a couple (reps) here and there.”