ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Mark Richt said he was optimistic on Wednesday as Georgia was expected to file a request with the NCAA for tailback Todd Gurley’s eligibility to be reinstated.
Gurley, the Southeastern Conference’s leading rusher, has been suspended for the last two games while Georgia investigated allegations he broke NCAA rules by receiving improper benefits.
“I think we as an institution and Todd as a student-athlete did everything within the protocol of the governing body, the NCAA, so hopefully it all will end well and hopefully sooner than later,” Richt said after Wednesday’s practice.
Georgia said in the statement released Wednesday morning it “hopes for and expects” a prompt ruling by the NCAA. It was unclear Wednesday evening if the university had filed the request.
Richt has confirmed the allegations involved autographs. In the statement released by Georgia on Wednesday, Gurley acknowledged making mistakes.
“I want to thank the university, coaches, teammates, and the Bulldog Nation for their patience and support,” Gurley said. “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made, and I can’t thank the university, my coaches, and teammates enough for supporting me throughout this process. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field with my teammates.”
Richt said he believes Gurley has been honest in the way he addressed the allegations.
“I think we all make mistakes,” Richt said. “What I’ve always asked of our players is if they do make a mistake to be honest about it and to take their discipline like a man and then move on in a positive direction, move on in a positive way. I think that’s the approach Todd has taken right now.”
After reviewing Georgia’s request, the NCAA could either accept the two-game suspension of Gurley imposed by Georgia as sufficient or announce a longer suspension and possible additional penalties.
After an off week, No. 9 Georgia plays Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 1.
Richt hopes to learn “as soon as possible” if Gurley will be cleared by the NCAA to play against Florida.
“So that’s what we’re hoping for, a relatively quick turnaround here,” Richt said. “But you know I have no idea how long it will take.”
Gurley has continued to practice with Georgia during the suspension.
Richt said his game plan for Florida “really and truly won’t change whether Todd plays or not” but added Gurley’s role in the practices would change next week if he were cleared by the NCAA.
“This week for us is a little bit like spring ball or like camp in that we really re-emphasize fundamentals and don’t do an awful lot of things scheme-wise,” Richt said. “The repetitions for who we think are going to play really doesn’t go into play as much this week as it would next week when you’re inserting the plan and trying to get a lot of repetitions with the guys who are going to play.”
Gurley has been represented by attorney William King during the process.
“Todd has taken responsibility for his actions and is ready to rejoin his teammates,” King said. “The university has been great throughout the past two weeks and has done everything it can to support Todd.”
King thanked University of Georgia president Jere Morehead, athletic director Greg McGarity, and coach Mark Richt “for standing by Todd.”
McGarity said earlier this month there is “a lot of misinformation” in reports about Gurley’s alleged ties to a merchandise dealer.
Despite playing without Gurley, who was considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate before the suspension, No. 9 Georgia took impressive road wins at Missouri and Arkansas. Freshman tailback Nick Chubb filled in for Gurley with a combined 345 yards rushing in the two wins.
Despite missing two games, Gurley continues to lead the SEC with 773 yards rushing. Chubb is eighth with 569 yards rushing.
Richt said Georgia was careful to be thorough in its investigation of the allegations.
“We just wanted to make sure when we presented something, it was correct and it was not rushed,” he said. “We wanted to be sure we did things properly, so that’s what we did.”
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