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Why A.J. Green Got a Four Game Suspension

A.J. Green got a four game suspension, and that sucks. I don't know that the punishment fits the crime, but this is the NCAA we're talking about here. It has rules, and those rules matter to its governing committees.

When Green sold his jersey for $1,000 to someone who classifies as an agent in the NCAA's eyes, the money he received is classified in NCAA-speak as an "impermissible benefit." In order to qualify as an amateur athlete, which you must be in order to participate in NCAA-sponsored activities, you cannot make money off of yourself or your likeness. Selling a game-worn jersey is making money off of yourself, so it is verboten.

When the NCAA honchos decides penalties for impermissible benefits, they don't just pull suspensions out of their rear ends. There is a clearly defined scale depending on how large the money inflow was:

  • $100 - $300: repay the amount and miss at least 10% of your team's games
  • $300 - $500: repay the amount and miss at least 20% of your team's games
  • $500 and up: repay the amount and miss at least 30% of your team's games

Because Green made more than $500 on the jersey sale, he gets a penalty of repayment (which he has done via a donation to charity) and missing 30% of his team's games. Thus, he was suspended for four of his team's 12 games (33%).

Marcell Dareus originally was on the hook for a four game suspension with a repayment of over $1,700 for his role in the agent-sponsored South Beach party. The reinstatement committee reduced that to two games because of mitigating circumstances. Those circumstances were that his mother was on her death bed, something which could have affected his judgment.

To anyone's knowledge, Green has no such mitigating circumstances. He knew (or should have known) that selling his bowl jersey was not allowed under NCAA rules. Even if it turns out that Green didn't know his buyer counts as an agent, he still received an impermissible benefit of over $500. The scale above has no wiggle room in that regard.

I'd like to see Green's suspension reduced because I think it's pretty harsh for what he did and because he's by all reports a good guy, but right now I don't see UGA's appeal being successful. The penalty for this sort of thing has been written out in black and white for quite some time.