UGAAA brass and Kirby Smart take ‘unprecedented step’ in asking media to ‘work to get the facts correct and accurate …’

Home >

UGAAA brass and Kirby Smart take ‘unprecedented step’ in asking media to ‘work to get the facts correct and accurate …’

What follows is the transcript of yesterday’s University of Georgia beat media briefing.


Darrice Griffin, UGA Sr. Deputy Director of Athletics





Kirby Smart, UGA Head Football Coach

Josh Brooks, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics

Qiana Wilson, UGA Director of Equal Opportunity Office/Title IX Coordinator





THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Darrice Griffin and Josh Brooks, Kirby Smart and Qiana Wilson. 

JOSH BROOKS: Thank you all for attending today as we take an unprecedented step and devote time to a very serious subject. 

On behalf of the athletics association and our football program, thank you for your attention and your sensitivity to this subject matter. 

Today, you’ll hear from myself, Coach Smart, Qiana Wilson and Darrice Griffin. With that, I’ll begin. 

Unfortunately, recent inaccurate and misleading reporting requires us to come before you to set the record straight. 

In recent months, when asked about the issue of speeding, we have never shied away from acknowledging that it’s a problem that we continue to address. 

However, the recent media suggestion that the university and our program turn a blind eye to domestic abuse and sexual assault by ignoring reports or rewarding bad behavior is absolutely wrong. It crosses a serious line, and we will not stand for this conjecture. 

The three prominent examples used are misleading and irresponsible. These reports cite examples that they call the “most egregious” and the “most significant,” yet each one is grossly mischaracterized. The reporting also conveniently minimizes the significant actions we’ve taken in direct response to address these matters. 

Of the three “most significant” examples cited by this reporter for the claim that we rally around players accused of violence against women, none of these players ever took a single snap for us after being charged with a crime. 

The first example — a recruiter at the time — was never charged. The second player was immediately suspended by the team and his career was effectively ended once he was charged. That player never competed again in a game for Georgia football. 

And the third player was suspended during an investigation period and never played again after charges for unlawful surveillance were brought. 

And as bad as this incident was, recent reporting by some does not match the facts of the case, which anyone would know upon reading the police report in full. Even though the charges were ultimately dismissed, this player never participated in a competition for Georgia football. 

We’re here to give you all the facts and insight into how we handle matters of this magnitude. 

I’ll pass it to Coach Smart, and then we’ll hear from Qiana and Darrice. 

KIRBY SMART: I’ll have more to say after we follow-up with what Qiana and Darrice have to say, but I wanted to interject here and say please listen to them carefully. We have complete alignment here in our university. We do a wonderful job of educating our student-athletes about misconduct. 

Both these two ladies help me tremendously in that department. Please listen carefully to what they have to say. 

DARRICE GRIFFIN: As our senior deputy athletic director, I also have the designation of the Athletic Department Deputy Title IX coordinator where I support our population-specific education, programming and campus compliance efforts under the auspice of Title IX. 

As you know, we are responsible for delivering annual mandatory programming and education to reinforce our shared commitment to a safe and inclusive campus community, while also satisfying the NCAA Division I Board of Governors Campus Sexual Violence Policy. 

This policy requires an annual attestation from each university president, director of athletics, and our Title IX coordinator, Qiana, that requires that we as an athletics department show are fully knowledgeable about, integrated into, and compliant with institutional policies and processes regarding sexual misconduct prevention, proper adjudication, and resolution of acts of sexual misconduct. 

On an annual basis with reinforcing messages throughout the academic year, our student-athletes, our coaches, and our staff are educated on sexual misconduct prevention, intervention and response. 

We are all required under Title IX guidelines and the law to promptly report any allegations of sexual misconduct, discrimination, and/or harassment to the appropriate authorities. 

We want to reiterate a point that I think Qiana will make: Our standard and expectation in athletics is that we overreport. Athletics does not administer either policy; therefore, we must get the information to the appropriate authorities for their review and their analysis. 

Athletics employees may not investigate on their own. Alleged criminal misconduct or violations of community standards by students are responded to by designated staff members in UGAPD, Equal Opportunity Office, and the Office of Student Conduct through the formal campus procedures, removing our athletics personnel from this process as per policy. 

In all ways it protects all parties involved and the integrity of the investigative process. 

To be clear, athletics does not conduct separate or additional investigations of alleged crimes or violations of USG policies. 

With all of this, I can unequivocally state that when substantiating information, including allegations, is shared with athletics, and most oftentimes those reports do come to my notice, we review what information we may be privy to and take appropriate action concerning internal disciplinary measures. 

To be clear, we have taken swift and decisive action regarding team participation just based on reports. With known reports, I have notified Coach Smart of the need for all parties involved, for an individual to not represent us in competition and/or to modify their access to team activities until we have additional information regarding the legal process and campus review. 

While Coach will speak for himself momentarily, from my perspective, I cannot think of a single instance when we have not been completely aligned on a need to take quick and appropriate action. 

For those who may be thinking this, why don’t they announce the specifics of individual discipline responses? Students, both complainants and respondents, have privacy interests. 

What we are at liberty to state is that our disciplinary measures may include, but are not limited to: Dismissal from the team; suspension from competition; reduction of athletic achievement awards; reduction of athletics aid; cancellation of athletics aid; and/or mandatory educational resources and counseling interventions. 

We will continue our work to increase our collective understanding of ways to strengthen our commitment to ensuring the campus environment where students and staff feel safe and respected in our environment. These are important matters that so many of us think about constantly and for good reason. 

These matters warrant our full attention, and we provide it (indiscernible). When I think about these serious issues, I want to say this, I’m not only approaching them as a university employee or a senior official in the athletic association. 

I approach these matters as a woman. I take these obligations incredibly seriously, and I would never tolerate a permissive culture that condones sexual misconduct. 

QIANA WILSON: I’m Qiana Wilson, director of the Equal Opportunity Office here. Most of you might sit here wondering what that actually means, so I’ll go into just a little bit about what my office actually does and how we interact with athletics. 

My office is responsible for civil rights compliance for the university. That civil rights compliance is in Title IX and the university system and the University of Georgia’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. 

When we use the term “sexual misconduct,” we’re referring to gender- or sex-based conduct broadly. So that could include sexual assault. That could include sexual exploitation, dating violence, domestic violence, or even stalking. 

Under the education and prevention lens of my responsibility, I’m responsible for investigation, enforcement, prevention, and training surrounding Title IX and our Sexual Misconduct Policy. 

Under our education and prevention lens, my office works frequently with athletics on annual training. We work with them multiple times a year on our annual training. 

Over the last two years we’ve worked to revamp our annual training, not because there was anything necessarily wrong with our training, just simply because we’re always considering efficacy in how effective our training is with athletes or our students in general. So we’ve been revamping our training overall. 

We collaborate with our victim advocates, or our RSVP office, which is Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention office on interpersonal awareness, in addition to general sexual misconduct. 

The reason we bring in multiple types of training each year is because we recognize that each student learns differently. That includes our student-athletes. So my office is conducting training. RSVP is conducting training. We’re bringing in external trainers every year, and those external trainers could differ, but over the last few years we’ve brought in Ms. Mac, who has worked with multiple NFL teams surrounding health relations, relationships, and just communication, interpersonal communication, and relationship communication. 

We’ve also brought in Brenda Tracy from the survivor’s perspective to offer that perspective to our student-athletes as well. 

When considering training and prevention, Darrice just mentioned how she’s our Deputy Title IX Coordinator. We’re working with Darrice on a very regular basis to walk through what’s working, what we could do better, tell us what’s working for these teams versus these teams, what are they saying, boots on the ground, talk to us about what’s going on. 

I’ll talk to just a little bit what our deputy Title IX coordinators do. Darrice is not our only deputy Title IX coordinator. We have deputy Title IX coordinators that sit on multiple of our extended campuses. So our Griffin campus, our Buckhead campus also have deputy Title IX coordinators. 

Those coordinators don’t operate in the stead of the Title IX coordinator. Those deputy Title IX coordinators actually are boots on the ground. They have the trust of their units or their extended campuses. 

And so while I can’t be in all places at all times, my team can’t be in all places at all times, we are expecting our deputy Title IX coordinators are reporting back to us those issues that are reported to them. And I must say that athletics is one of the areas that — to Darrice’s point — absolutely overreport. 

We have several units on campus that overreport, and athletics is one of those, and I appreciate that because these they things that we might never learn of in my office but for the fact that Darrice is calling to say, hey, this thing just came up. Or someone is reaching out to me saying, we have a complaint; there’s an athlete involved. 

And I can reach out to Darrice just to say, hey, walk me through what your process looks like, whether it’s how do we enter into interim measures — my office is responsible for interim measures — tell me what the team rules are or anything of that nature. And so our relationship is vital to receiving reports in athletics. 

As far as the reporting generally of the sexual misconduct incidents, my office treats those matters that come in from athletics the same way we treat all matters that come in relating to any student misconduct: We review them thoroughly. These are complex matters. 

So while you may get just sort of a headline, we’re going through the entire complaint that we’re receiving. We’re reaching out to the complainant, having conversations about what’s going on. 

We’re doing a risk assessment on what our next steps need to be, whether it’s enter into interim measures; irrespective of what athletics says related to their players and what they decide on participation, I make the determination of whether or not the individual remains with the university on an interim basis, whether or not they need to attend classes remotely, whether or not we need to remove them from housing, just those sorts of things. 

So we’re in communication in relation to all aspects of sexual misconduct with all units on campus, not just athletics. 

So the way my office is reviewing these matters would be the same regardless of whether it’s athletics, whether it’s housing, whether it’s the police department, or whether it’s an academic unit. 

I appreciate your attention today. 

KIRBY SMART: Thank you, Qiana. Appreciate Darrice and Josh, both. I hope their words have shed some context on the processes and steps we take involving around sexual misconduct. 

We take these allegations extremely serious. Me personally, I take these allegations extremely serious. We do not tolerate sexual misconduct in our organization. I’m a football coach. I’m responsible for this program, and that starts with me. 

I see this as a topic through the lens of I have a wife and I have a daughter, and I think about these situations and I think about them. It’s very personal to me. 

So I can handle a lot of talk, but what I cannot and will not tolerate is false allegations that this program or this university condones sexual misconduct. No tolerance for sexual assault or abuse — never have, never will (indiscernible). We have protocols in place. You just heard some of that protocol they both spoke about. We address allegations swiftly, quickly. 

We have two of the examples cited in recent reports that illustrate our suspension policy. He never played another game of Georgia football. How is that to be contorted as supportive of bad behavior? 

We have educational programs. Qiana hit on some of the guest speakers we have. We have real life training. I sit in these meetings twice a year, educating our student-athletes about these situations. 

She mentioned Ms. Mac. She actually did the NFL symposium. She did role play with our players, talk about what are you going to do when a situation comes up. 

I probably — in my 25 years really being around coaching — never had seen a situation that seemed more real than that one to educate our players on how are you going to react. 

One of the first things we talk about in the team meeting when we start the season is: What are you going to do when you are put in a tough situation? We’re not perfect. We don’t have a perfect program. I don’t claim to be that. 

But what I do want to separate today, make sure you understand, we talked about speeding issues and we talked about some of those problems, and if you want to ask about those later, that’s fine, but I want to be clear that this is so far beyond that. We don’t tolerate it in any way, shape, or form. 

We have high expectations and values from the players in this organization. I’ll close before we open it up for questions that each of us in the room has a job to do. Each of these jobs require honesty and integrity. 

I do appreciate what you do — although a lot of you guys probably don’t believe that — that you have an important role that you all play in sharing news about our program. And I appreciate that. I might not always like the news that gets reported. I might not always like that news. It’s not always positive and good things, but I know that it needs to be shared and it needs to be shared accurately. 

So all I ask is avoiding twisting the facts and sensationalizing serious issues is never okay. Work to get the facts correct and accurate is what we ask. 

Q. It seems like the message about, as you mentioned, high speed driving hasn’t gotten through to some of your players. What are you doing to try to tackle that? Have you taken stronger disciplinary measures for those people? 

KIRBY SMART: I’ll be the first to admit we haven’t solved that issue or problem. I don’t honestly know that anybody has. But certainly for us, it’s important to acknowledge it first. 

We’ve had a lot of intervention in terms of talking, visiting, and discipline measures have been implemented in terms of education. We’ll continue to do that. 

It’s one of the things that we want to manage, but it is a tough situation to manage when you have 18- to 22-year-old men, and a lot of them driving for the first time. 

Every fall we’ve got 25 new guys; we average five guys who come here 18 years old with no driver’s license, and we continue to work with them. I don’t have the exact answer. I wish I did. But we continue to work at it. 

I’m one of those that believes abuse brings control. We’ll continue to educate our players best we can to try to do a better job with it. 

Q. You haven’t spoken publicly that much this offseason. I don’t know if it’s less than, haven’t spoken the last couple weeks since the latest stories came out. I’m just wondering if the backdrop of all of these negative stories, would you agree that the brand of Georgia football has been damaged a little bit, and why not be more proactive in responding to allegations quickly? 

KIRBY SMART: I vehemently disagree with the brand has been damaged. When you look out there look at what we’ve done the last few years and where we are right now as a program, I don’t see it as damaged. 

I’ll go back to your question of how many times have I spoke. More than what I do in a traditional offseason. The traditional offseason, I follow the same protocol with everything we’ve done. This is in addition to, and there are probably one or two others, with Mark’s interview that I did there with ESPN. 

But I’m a firm believer that our program is a good program. We have good kids in our program. And 10 days ago, or roughly 10 days ago, I don’t know the exact number of days, an article came out that was inaccurate. I was actually stunned by the article. 

So we wanted to try to get the information and gather the information so that we could make a sound response, which is what you’re seeing today. 

And to gather that information, it takes time. Sometimes we request information and allegations of 11 things and you don’t get the information. So it’s very important that we respond to these allegations — very serious allegations — the right way, not the fastest way. 

Q. Qiana, wondered, first, if I could just, back and forth here for a second, how long have you been in your role as EOO at the University of Georgia? 

QIANA WILSON: Since January 2021. 

Q. Just the last couple of years? 


Q. Are you privy to all the information going back to 2016, you know, in your files at the EOO? 

QIANA WILSON: So in my EOO files? Yes, I have access to all EOO files. 

Q. My question is simply this: A lot of things that you are say that our information is wrong. I’m wondering, can you share with us the correct information? How many times has the EOO had to intervene with the Georgia football office since 2016 over sexual misconduct accusations? How many times has the EOO had to step in and intervene on matters such as that? I’m not asking for individuals. I’m just asking for numbers. 

QIANA WILSON: Okay. So if our records, according to record retention exists, I can look at those records, but I wouldn’t have those off the top of my head how many times — 

Q. Would you be willing to share that information? 

QIANA WILSON: In line with the open record policy. 

Q. Would that be after 90 business days or be like us talking to you now, would you have to provide that information wait six months counting holidays? 

QIANA WILSON: So you’re asking if I could provide that information now or if you have — it would be in line with open records policy. I’m not responsible for the open records policy. 

Typically open records reaches out to me, asks me whether we have information. I go through all of our files to determine — or one of our team members goes through all of our files to determine whether or not we have responsive information, and then we provide that information if we have responsive information to the individual that is in charge of the open records process, which is Bob Taylor. 

Q. I imagine Kirby knows, because you told us you (inaudible)– since 2016 would you be able to cite that? 

KIRBY SMART: I wouldn’t know the number not sitting here offhand. 

Q. 60 days out, approximately 60 days out from the season, your team comes back together. What’s been the response from the guys themselves in terms of not just the student allegations, but just in terms of kind of the like Jeff alluded to, the image of everything and how it’s gone down. Has there been any response just as far as your leadership goes? 

KIRBY SMART: Yes, we’ve addressed several things, attended meetings, and talked constantly. I mean, ironically coming back from July 4th, players had a discretionary period for July 4th, and we we’re all coming back from that. We had all the coaches call and sending out texts and reminding guys, be careful coming back. Be safe. 

And obviously we had the Sam M’Pemba speeding ticket, but when we addressed the team that day I thought it was very moving, very, I don’t know, effective as I addressed the team. We had a leader on the team that I won’t mention that stood up talked about how hurt he was and how it bothered him, because Devin was one of his closest friends and teammates, and the loss of Devin and Chandler in such a tragic accident, how much it bothered him, how personal it was. 

Very moving. Still to be determined to have an effect. I think it’s critical we improved that. I was very pleased to see the ownership of the team, because that’s the kind of kid you’ve got to try to address it to the team. 

Q. In the different reports, name that’s come up a bunch is Bryant Gantt. Can you describe the need for the role he fills, especially in situations involving law enforcement? 

JOSH BROOKS: I have had the privilege of knowing Bryant since 2008 when I first got the AG. I worked in operations, worked closely with him. I worked in administration when I worked with Coach Riggs to decide to bring him in full time. 

Bryant Gantt was one of the most kind, selfless caring people that I know, and he is the exact type of employee that we cherish in that department. He’s someone that, when I send my boys off to college, he’s the exact type of person I would want looking out and mentoring my boys as one of his roles, what he does. 

There’s so many young men. Also want to remind people all the things he does behind the scenes that have been reported maybe some, but from his gun buyback program in the community, all the work he’s done with the bond bills, he’s been a great figure in this community. 

I would say that if you talk to any law enforcement officer, or especially in the leadership position in Athens or UGA or Sherman areas, they would speak to his character and how he operates within the roles, and he’s a great person for our athletic department and he’s a great resource for our young men. 

KIRBY SMART: I’ll reiterate a couple of those points. Obvious. When you go to the leadership in this community, whether that UGA PD, Atkins Park County Police Department, they talk about the benefit he provides. The liaison for kids that are 17 years old, sometimes, to 22 years old and away from home for the first time, he provides great leadership for them. 

I’ve known him since 1994, and I’ll tell you, he stands on principle. He stands as an educator of young people. He does a tremendous job at what he does and I have a lot of appreciation for what he does and his role. 

Q. After the official visit by Jamaal Jarrett last year, in addition to being accused of a sexual assault, he also, by his own acknowledgment, was out till roughly three in the morning players in bars in downtown Athens drinking alcohol at 16 years old. Was there any consideration based on all of that of pulling back a scholarship offer? 

KIRBY SMART: Yes, there was consideration initially based on the accusations and the charges that were ultimately dropped. So there’s consideration there. And he committed and eventually signed to University of Georgia under the stipulation that if he had those charges or had issues he would not be able to. 

Unfortunately, you continued to report about the breaking of the curfew. He came in from curfew he then broke the curfew and left, and that’s something that at the time we did not know that. We weren’t aware of that until later dates. 

We couldn’t discipline him for that because he wasn’t our student-athlete at the time. But you’re asking the question, did we consider not signing him and taking him. Upon those allegations, absolutely we considered that. But once the charges were dropped… 

Q. Was there any discipline considered against the players he was with in taking him drinking in bars in downtown? 

KIRBY SMART: We didn’t know at the time, so there was not discipline then. There’s been education since then for both he and those players we do all the time. We were not aware at the time that it happened. 

Q. On the Adam Anderson case, do you feel it was appropriate for Bryant Gantt to first sit in on witness interviews with employees? Secondly, to appear in court as a character witness in a case that involved an alleged victim who was also a student of the university who also was an employee of the football program at the time? Do you feel that was a signal that the football program or the university was taking sides in a sexual assault case? 

KIRBY SMART: First of all, I’m not an expert at making that decision. That’s not my decision whether or not he sits in that. Athens-Clarke County PD obviously had no issues with that, and had no issues with that. That’s their decision. I’m not an expert whether he should or shouldn’t be allowed in there. That’s not my call. 

I do know in the case that you’re referring to, and continue to refer to, the most important thing that we — when we found out about Adam Anderson, was to be neutral in our state between both the complainant and I guess it’s the respondent. 

And the reason to speak a little deeper to that situation, but we were advised by legal to neither push anyone to go to a bond hearing to testify, nor stop anyone because they had a legal right to do that. 

As I understand it, that pertains to Bryant Gantt as well. 

DARRICE GRIFFIN: They were operating within their personal capacity, and some would argue that it was not our place to encourage nor discourage. We maintained a neutral position with our student-athletes and with our staff members given the autonomy that they have to operate within their own capacity in that situation. 

Q. Operating in their own capacity, while identifying themselves by their University of Georgia and football program affiliation. Does that not give the impression that they are operating on behalf of the program or the university? 

KIRBY SMART: (Inaudible). 

Q. Kirby, I guess, and Josh, Kirby and Josh, I think it’s important that the scrutiny that unveiled all this came from the result of two people dying on January 15th and then the AJC, which is being called out here, the AJC does what the AJC does, right, is investigate. That’s uncovered a lot of things. You’re looking at the fatal accident and some of these other instances, they involve the consorting, the fraternization, or whatever you want to call it between the professionals, employees, and student-athletes doing things together at 3:00 in the morning in university vehicles and that kind of thing. So the question is specifically to Kirby and to Josh, is there a policy or change in policy? 

JOSH BROOKS: Let me stop you right there. You said a lot of those; you referred to one. There is one incident where there’s fraternization. You said a lot, but then you’re referring to one thing. 

Q. Well, no I’m referring to two at least, if you want to get into specifics. I don’t know because you guys have kept that information at bay. But what I’m saying — you know exactly what I’m saying. I’m saying there’s relationships on the staff between employees, and whether they’re friendly or whatever they are, that have resulted in at least one felony case or two felony cases and two deaths. So that’s my question, Josh: What is your policy regarding those two incidents, professionals, athletes, and recruiters? 

KIRBY SMART: I think one was a student in one case and one was an employee in Chandler’s case, and she was not acting within her job. She was wrong. She should not have been with them, and we made that clear. We made that abundantly clear. 

She was not to be with them. 

And the other case, a student, we don’t condone that either. The actions — the accusations against Adam Anderson are awful, terrible. His removal was immediate because of it. So we don’t condone that at all. Never would we condone those actions. 

Q. I wasn’t asking if you condone it. I was asking — 

DARRICE GRIFFIN: I can weigh in here. From a technical standpoint, an administrative standpoint, we do have a professional standards and ethics policy which does speak to our standards and expectations regarding full-time staff members and their engagement with student-athletes in a capacity. 

So when coach said that the individual named were not operating within the scope of their job description, that is fact. Further to that, if I want to just reflect on the education that Qiana and I both talked about, we can stand here today and say — whether we’re standing in front of football staff or our entire athletics staff we have made that clear regarding our standards and expectations for staff when it comes to professional ethics and professional integrity. 

Now, did this issue put us in a position where we need to reevaluate and possibly strengthen our messaging and policies? Absolutely. 

KIRBY SMART: And we had a meeting in this room right here a couple years ago where she came in — every year we do it, and now we do it in the other team room — and that’s addressed and that’s sent said to the entire staff to understand that. 

DARRICE GRIFFIN: It’s a policy. 

Q. You obviously talked about the value you see in Bryant Gantt’s role. Is there anything he’s done in the last few months that help you evaluate whether he should be doing certain actions on behalf of the program as it relates to interaction with law enforcement? 

JOSH BROOKS: I would say yes, we want to be very clear, just because the optics of it. We want it very clear when he’s there, he’s only there representing student-athletes, and sometimes those things could be misconstrued, so we’ve got to be very intentional about not getting the situation where things can be misconstrued, that he’s doing anything there but supporting a student-athlete. 

We have full confidence every one of those situations prior that he’s never crossed the line, but we have to be more diligent to make sure that it’s not perceived because then things can be written that are inaccurate. We’ve been more intentional about, if anything ever comes up, to never be misconstrued that you’re not in a situation — because he needs to be there for those student-athletes, because when something happens, whether it be a ticket, those student-athletes need to know who to call, and that’s the first role he serves. 

MIKE RAEBER: I just wanted to weigh in. A question came up about legal proceedings. I’m Mike Raeber, general counsel for the university. The question about legal proceedings I’m familiar with, the question was whether players and staff identifying themselves at the bond hearing as associated with the program and noting their positions was somehow signalling the program’s weighing in on one side or the other. 

This player and staff that appeared were under oath and they were asked by the defense counsel to identify themselves, including to identify themselves by position. So unless the suggestion is that they should have declined to answer the question under oath, then I fail to see how that could possibly be construed as them or the program taking sides in that matter. 

Q. Kirby, as a coach, you always try to be in tune with this, but do you believe at all the success of the football program the last couple of years has led to any sense of player arrogance or entitlement at all, and whether they have the feeling that somehow their standards, morals, rules of law just don’t apply to them? And finally, is there anything as you look back at the last several weeks that you would have done differently or in addition to? 

KIRBY SMART: I’ll go to the second question first, the last several weeks, are you talking about since… 

Q. Since the accident. Jut everything as you reflect on how you responded, spoke publicly, didn’t speak publicly, messaging, whatever? 

KIRBY SMART: No, I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently. I wish that we could prevent the speeding issues and learn from a horrific tragic event. I’m still wrestling with that. Talking about as a staff and all the things that we could do. 

I feel really comfortable with the help that we have and the steps we have taken with sexual misconduct, and fact we don’t tolerate it and that we’ve done things with that. I kind of want to recenter and come back to what is this press conference about? What are we talking about? Accusations that aren’t true, and we want to be clear of the inaccuracies that have been said. Okay? 

With that, we’ve got issues with traffic citations and speeding issues that we have to improve on. We have to get better at those. I am constantly looking, searching for that. 

You asked — I guess it’s the invincibility question or I’m above the law. That’s always a concern for the football coach. I never sleep at night not worrying about that. It wasn’t because we won two national championships that all of a sudden, oh, I’m worried about this after year one or I’m worried about this after year two. 

I worry about that every year. I worry about that all the time. Like how do we make sure that they understand that this is real life, that you’re not above the law, that you have to adhere to the principles and values of the organization. 

We’ve had guys who have been kicked off for not adhering to the principles and values of the organization. Ultimately that’s what we want to get them close to. 

Does that answer your question? 

Q. Has it been harder the last two years? 

KIRBY SMART: I would say it’s been harder this year. I don’t know about — you know, just last year, after the first national championship; it’s been a lot tougher this year. It’s been a really tough offseason, you want to know the truth, because of the way it kicked off and got started. That’s been extremely tough for I know our staff, our players. 

It’s hard. I don’t know there’s a perfect way to really do that. I do know that we have a very cohesive group and you only grow through adversity. We’ve had our share of adversity, so we’re going to be a tight-knit group because of that. 

But explaining to these guys, making sure they understand the power of what they do, what they represent, is critical, and I don’t know a perfect way to maybe explain that better or remedy a solution for some of those. 

Q. I was going to ask you, because of last year have you changed or ratcheted up your messaging? And the other thing is I know just public discipline that was addressed, but do you feel sometimes that talking about public discipline will improve transparency, will help, again, image, perception of the program? 

KIRBY SMART: Well, I always say, to the discipline question, and the first question is what are you referring to? If we’re referring to sexual misconduct, there’s no — it’s point-blank. You’re gone. You’re out of here. 

I think you’re referring to the suspensions or whether it’s traffic-related or whatever else. Some of those are in our handbook. You know you’re going to get suspended. Others, we talk in depth about it. We talk all the time about this, that are you going to have a kid who already is embarrassed. Okay? They don’t get a speeding ticket and not have remorse. They’re embarrassed. Their name’s been out there. They’re held to a higher standard. They’re under a bigger microscope, rightfully so. They’re athletes. We accept that, not a normal student. If a normal student has something happen, they don’t get put on ESPN. They don’t get put out there for having traffic things. We’ve already done that. Right? When it comes to the punishment and discipline, I don’t know that just making it public, because the assumption is, well, they’re not doing anything. We are. Okay? 

We are doing things. We’re trying to correct it. We have to make tough decisions case-by-case basis on what that is to try to make that right. You’re asking for transparency, like to me that’s like double jeopardy for some guys where it’s, like, we’re going to come back announce this, announce this suspension or announce that, and that’s not really then where we stand but we have discipline within our organization. How do we change things not have those, I don’t know that we can ever eradicate speeding I don’t know that that’s possible but I’m going to damn sure try. I’ll try my best because I don’t think what we’re doing right now has been effective enough. 

Q. You were asked about the last two years. And obviously won a couple of national championships but that’s coincided with NIL and players having means and funds. I think there’s $100,000 cars, 0 to 60 in 3.5. Have you seen any backlash on NIL sponsors putting the money in the pockets of these players in terms of maybe players’ consequence versus the sponsor consequences that are giving the players the means to these vehicles? And what have you done in this department now that these challenges have been created, unintended consequences of the NIL? 

KIRBY SMART: The first thing we’ve done differently is try to educate the players at a deeper level in terms of these kinds of vehicles. NIL has given some of our players and players in general the capacity to get probably faster cars. I think that points to Allen’s article saying that it’s not necessarily just the volume of speeding tickets, it’s the speed of the speeding tickets. 

And that’s a bigger concern to me is the speed of the speeding tickets. Because high speeds, according to Georgia State Patrol who talked to our team, is where you get bigger accidents. And that’s the biggest concern we have in regards to that. 

I’m not sitting here today and we’re going to blame NIL for our problems. I don’t think that’s the case. NIL has done a lot of good. It allows our players’ parents to come to games. It allows our players to help family members in need. We’ve got kids that got parents that are in medical health and they’re able to give that. Has it also given them the ability to have a higher horsepower car? Absolutely. That’s a microcosm of our society and the age group that we’re talking about that does that. 

So I’m not here to blame NIL. We’ve got to get a better wrap around it. 

Q. Following up on what you said about things you worry about all the time, I know recruiting is very high on that list. Was that at all part of this decision to be here today? Have you gotten any feedback from parents or high school coaches or anything else along those lines? And if I could also ask Josh, this unusual gathering we have here, was it just a department decision, or did you get feedback from others in the university administration that led to this decision to have this gathering? 

KIRBY SMART: This had nothing to do with recruiting for us, none whatsoever. It had to do with allegations that we think are sensationalized and just inaccurate. 

When you talk about rallying around people that are accused of sexual misconduct, you don’t want to sit back and take it. Josh talked about, why now? Why now because we are adamant that this is inaccurate. And so we want to make sure we express that. It has nothing to do with recruiting. Recruiting is completely separate. 

This has been addressed in recruiting because I would rather talk to the players and their parents about it and educate them so that if their son chooses to come here they know the processes we have in place. They know what we have in place so they understand that. 

So we confront that head on because our competitors are throwing it out there left and right anyway. The guys that I work with and my fellow peers, a lot of them have the same problems and they’re throwing them to the recruit’s faces. A lot of times that just backfires. All it does is backfires. This was not a recruiting move. 

JOSH BROOKS: In regards to the second question, it was actually an early conversation with Coach Smart and his idea to say, hey, I want to set something — we want to get the record straight. So this was his idea and then we agreed quickly to move as fast as we could to put this together to simply set the record straight. 

Q. I just want to make sure I have an understanding, because I’m a little confused about Gantt’s role. Was his role always working for the university? If it’s not, when does that change in the time? Because he would be the first phone call, usually, or one of the first. Is there a time at which Gantt’s role, so to speak, departs from him working for the university, the university system, and just is the there for the individual? And when is that time? 

JOSH BROOKS: It’s always for the university. It’s no different than a nutritionist or sports medicine or mental health professional, we pride ourselves in Georgia in surrounding our student-athletes with great support from A to Z so that their parents could feel good that their sons and daughters are taken care of. So either when he’s in that role supporting our student-athletes he’s always representing the athletic department. 

Q. In a courtroom or anything like that, he would be representing the university? I want to make sure I understand it fully? 

JOSH BROOKS: I’m not sure the example you’re talking about, in the courtroom. 

Q. I don’t know if I know all the details, but like was he not at the Adam Anderson hearing or with the young man who was being recruited? Is he in the role with the university? I’m asking, because I don’t know that I understand that part. 

JOSH BROOKS: If you’re referring to the bond hearing, that was a personal decision he made. 

Q. When does it change for him? How does that all work? When does it go from he works for the university to I’m here as a person — 

JOSH BROOKS: So, he’s always there. Any of those situations you’re referring to where it may be an interview, he’s there to support the young man on the football team in that situation. 

But, again, like Coach Smart said, we’re going to defer to legal authorities, whether it’s campus PD or ACC whoever it is. They’re setting the rules and guidelines for that. Not us. 

If they say, hey, this young man who is 16, we want to let Bryant Gantt sit in the room with him as support or any other situation, that’s going to be dictated by them, not us. 

Q. Qiana, I know you talked about the revamping of the training and stuff like that. First, did you revamp that shortly after you arrived on campus in about 2021? And then specifically what were some of those revampings, changes and progressions in that training? 

QIANA WILSON: So, yes, to that first question. Shortly after I arrived, typically — well, at that time, and I don’t know if it was sort of a COVID change — but I arrived in January. We trained athletics in, I believe, April of 2021. After sitting through or conducting several of those trainings and then sitting through other trainings, I felt like there was a need for additional support. 

I started working with RSVP, which I mentioned was our Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention office. I worked with them even before coming to the University of Georgia. But I brought them in. I had conversations about are we doing enough surrounding relationship and sexual violence, not just, these are our policies, these are scenarios in which you might find yourself in. This is what you should consider. 

But really getting to the core of, hey, our students — and not just our athletes, to be clear — this is a revamping of training for all of our students — all our students coming into college with the interpersonal skills necessary to interact with others. 

So that’s what I was seeing. We worked over the last couple of years just to revamp the training and bringing RSVP in, having external trainers come in, considering other avenues for sort of diversifying our training to make sure we’re getting the information to the students, We’re meeting them where they are. 

Q. Do you believe that what you’ve done has been substantial, or do you think there’s still more work to do since you’ve only been here for a short time? 

QIANA WILSON: I think that’s a hard question. I think it’s been substantial in ways. I always feel like there’s room for improvements. It’s hard because our students change with each entering class so the needs are changing. So to stay on top of the needs as well as — I’m sure you’re all aware — we have new Title IX regulations coming out in October. So the regulations are changing. The expectations of society are changing for us. So just trying to keep up with all of that as necessary. I’ll never feel like we’re doing enough. I’ll always feel like there’s room for improvement, if that makes sense. 





share content

Author /

Greg is closing in on 15 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.