Todd Gurley, Georgia’s top-flight running back who was a Heisman Trophy candidate, was suspended two extra games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia, the NCAA ruled Wednesday.
Georgia issued a statement Wednesday saying it plans to appeal the decision immediately. The NCAA membership committee that oversees the reinstatement process will review the appeal this week. The committee can reduce or remove the conditions the staff has imposed, but cannot increase them.
According to the NCAA, Gurley received the cash for signing memorabilia and other items over two years and must repay a portion of the money he received to a charity of his choice and also complete 40 hours of community service as conditions of his reinstatement.
Gurley, whom the NCAA said acknowledged violating NCAA rules, has already missed two games for the No. 11 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) and would be eligible to return Nov. 15 against No. 3 Auburn.
The Bulldogs will be without Gurley for Saturday’s game against Florida in Jacksonville and next week’s game at Kentucky.
Georgia is nearing the three-week mark since Gurley, a star tailback who had been among the top Heisman Trophy candidates, was indefinitely suspended Oct. 9 while the school investigated allegations he received improper benefits for signing autographs.
Gurley, a junior, has rushed for 773 yards with eight touchdowns and has averaged 8.2 yards per carry.
In its release, the NCAA said Gurley’s punishment, which equals 30 percent of his team’s competition, “is consistent with precedent in similar cases. Additional withholding was strongly considered because the violations occurred over multiple years with multiple individuals and the student received extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs.”
The NCAA also said: “The university’s due diligence in its investigation and the student’s full disclosure of his involvement in the violations were factors in not imposing a more severe withholding condition.”
Earlier this month, ESPN.com reported that Bryan Allen, a memorabilia dealer from Rome, Georgia, had hired Atlanta attorney Ed Garland because of Allen’s relationship with Gurley. Garland confirmed to WSB–TV in Atlanta on Thursday that Allen paid Gurley $400 to sign several UGA mini helmets.
In the weeks before Gurley was suspended, Allen sent emails to several news outlets, claiming he’d paid Gurley “thousands of dollars” over the previous 18 months to autograph large quantities of footballs, helmets, photos and other memorabilia.