The only thing that could possibly make the four-game suspension of Todd Gurley any more controversial is if the running back did something like come back and suffer a season-ending injury. The terrible news is that Gurley appears to have done just that in Saturday night's Auburn game.
A source confirms to @bmac_120 and @120Sports that MRI exam results show a torn ACL in Todd Gurley's left knee. #uga #sec— Michael Kim (@MichaelKim120) November 16, 2014
That backs up what the AJC reported shortly after the game, citing "sources familiar with the situation," and what Bruce Feldman is also reporting. Seth Emerson says an MRI has confirmed it's a torn ACL.
The impact on Georgia's season at this point is minimal. The only teams left on the schedule are Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech. The Dawgs' shot at an SEC East title depends entirely on whether Missouri loses one of its last two games. Nick Chubb has proven to be a great running back in his own right, so the team won't lose as much as it otherwise would have without Gurley. Even in an SEC Championship Game and a bowl, having Gurley probably wouldn't change the Bulldogs' chances much.
But for Gurley, it just seems fundamentally unfair. You can argue about whether he should have been punished as sternly as he was for the autograph issue, you can argue (as some will) that he never should have been punished at all, but what no one can argue is that this wasn't a capital offense even in the arcane world of NCAA violations. It wasn't pay-for-play, Gurley didn't use performance-enhancing drugs -- he broke a rule that is largely in place to guard against opening up a loophole.
Gurley might very well have been injured against Auburn no matter what happened with the NCAA -- in fact, the odds are that he would have been out no matter what. But we would have only missed seeing him in the last two games of the season, or maybe four out of the last seven -- not six out of the last seven. He will almost certainly get drafted by an NFL team if he decides to go that route, but his draft status could be dinged after the 49ers' experience with Marcus Lattimore, another great college back who declared after suffering knee injuries. (Gurley has the advantage, so to speak, of having just had the injury to one knee.) NFL teams love nothing so much as drawing lessons from completely unrelated situations.
It also marks the second time that a tragic ACL season-ending injury has struck Georgia's star player, after the same thing happened to Aaron Murray last year. It was awful then, too, and we got to see almost a full season from Murray. The tragedy here isn't that Gurley tore his ACL after the NCAA suspension, but that he tore his ACL at all. The other games he lost just makes it that much worse.