Georgia football fans dragging AJC over report, but they shouldn’t be

Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Georgia football fans are losing their collective minds over a report shedding negative light on Kirby Smart’s program, but they should be grateful, not bitter.

If you want to draw the ire of the Bulldog nation, just say something unflattering about Kirby Smart. If you want to make them rise up and go completely ballistic, then use words like “out of control” or “reckless off-field culture” and watch them swarm like killer bees.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Chip Towers and the AJC investigative team did both of those things over the weekend, the reaction from Georgia fans was swift, and — in many cases — out of control.

The report that caused the big dust-up presented some new facts about off-field issues that have been plaguing Georgia football players, most of them centered around reckless high-speed driving.

It’s understandable that fans would want to rush to the defense of arguably the best football coach the school may ever see (depending on how things proceed in the future) and to a program that is having unparalleled success compared to its history. But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

Defending actions that endanger not only the players’ lives but innocent people who find themselves potentially in the paths of those players is not good optics for Georgia or its fanbase.

Also, the report itself is bringing an issue to light that maybe needs more correction than it’s currently getting.

The attacks on both the report and on Towers personally are reminiscent of what we’ve seen rival fan bases engage in when a beloved coach or player is perceived as being treated unfairly by the press, and Georgia fans were the first to jump in and troll those rivals.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, and fans from Alabama, Florida, and other rival schools are mocking the Bulldog Nation for wanting to turn a blind eye to facts.

Does the Georgia football program have a discipline problem?

The bottom line is, this report does not paint a flattering picture of how Kirby Smart or the Georgia football program is handling what is clearly a problematic, widespread behavior pattern — behavior, mind you, that has already led to the deaths of one Georgia player and one UGA staffer.

Maybe shining a little light on this problem is precisely what’s needed.

It doesn’t matter what goes on in Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, or Knoxville. The transgressions of their players should not be a concern to the Bulldog Nation. “But look what (name of school) players did” and “Kids do this everywhere” are flaccid and futile arguments that should be below Georgia’s fans.

This is Georgia. We’re supposed to be better. We need to be better.

No Georgia fan should like reading the information contained in Towers’ report. It should make anyone associated with the program — fan or otherwise — uncomfortable. But that doesn’t make it wrong to report it.

Neither Towers nor the AJC are “out to get” Georgia or Kirby Smart. The endgame wasn’t to damage the program or its reputation. Newspapers and journalists present facts, and (sometimes) form an opinion based on those facts. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Of all the things a modern-day college football coach has to routinely do, disciplining players for off-field behavior is the hardest and most complicated. There are a lot of moving parts involved, and a coach has to balance the severity of the action, the effect (possible or done) to others, the good of the program, and — with NIL now in the picture — the possible legal ramifications that can come as a result of handing down discipline, especially game suspensions.

Perhaps the notoriety brought about by a report such as this will also bring about some change. Maybe more players won’t want to see their names attached to these statistics. Maybe, just maybe, no more players or innocent people will have to die because of a poor choice that could have been avoided.

That would be the best endgame of all.