ATHENS — Kirby Smart is keen to get a handle on Georgia’s off-season speeding issues, but the two-time CFP Championship coach has yet to figure out how to handle it.
“I’ll be the first to admit that we haven’t solved this problem yet,” Smart said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I honestly don’t know anyone has done that, but it’s important for us to acknowledge it first.
“We had frequent discussions and visits, and disciplinary measures were implemented.”
Coaches’ ability to scout for players in the off-season has become more difficult since the introduction of name-picture similarity legislation over the past two years.
The trend of Georgia soccer players being fined for speeding and/or arrested for reckless driving has made headlines during the difficult offseason.
Smart acknowledged that some of the overspeed issues stem in part from unintended consequences of NIL deals.
More than one Georgia player was pulled over in a Jeep Trackhawk, a 707 horsepower vehicle that accelerates from 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds and tops out at 180 mph.
Some of Georgia players’ supercharged vehicles have been secured by NIL deals – including the powerful Trackhawks and Dodge Chargers, which have been implicated in recent traffic violations.
Smart doubts that the speeding of some of his players was excessive in the truest sense of the word.
“NIL has given some of our players and players in general the opportunity to get probably faster cars,” Smart said. “I think this points to an article by AJC.com that said it’s not necessarily just the amount of speeding tickets that matters, it’s the speed of the tickets.
“And what worries me more is the speed of the tickets. Because according to the Georgia State Patrol, who spoke to our team, major accidents happen at high speeds. And that is the biggest concern we have in this regard.”
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Smart said he “won’t blame NIL for Georgia’s problems off the field.”
The NIL funds have also done a lot of good for the players, Smart said, such as allowing them to let their parents play games or helping family members in need.
“(But) did it also give you the opportunity to have a car with more horsepower? Definitely,” Smart said. “It’s a microcosm of our society and the age group we’re talking about does that.”
In fact, younger Georgia players have very little driving experience, let alone the controls of a supercharged car.
“It’s a difficult situation when you have 18- to 22-year-old males, many of whom are driving for the first time,” Smart said. “Every fall we have 25 new people. On average, five people as young as 18 come here without a license and we’re still working on that.
“I don’t have an exact answer. I wish I had. But we will keep working on it.
Smart agreed that there is a certain amount of human nature at work, as young men sometimes feel a sense of invincibility.
“That’s always a concern for the football coach… I worry about that every year and I worry about that all the time,” Smart said.
“For example, how do we make sure they understand that this is real life, that you are not above the law and that you have to abide by the organization’s principles and values?
“We’ve had people thrown out because they didn’t live up to the organization’s principles and values.
The football offseason in Georgia is quickly coming to an end, and the annual SEC Media Days will serve as an unofficial restart of the football talk season next Monday in Nashville.
Smart is being asked more questions, some about off-field issues, others about the prospect of this team becoming Minnesota’s first team to score three goals since 1936.
Smart’s answers and approach are no more likely to change than his determination.
“I don’t know that we can ever eliminate speeding; I don’t know that’s possible,” Smart said. “But I’ll definitely try. I’ll do my best because I don’t think what we’re doing now was effective enough.”