Green sold his jersey from last season’s Independence Bowl. The junior, who sat out the season-opening 55-7 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, must miss three more games before regaining his eligibility, according to the ruling from the NCAA.
No. 22 Georgia (1-0) is heading into a key Southeastern Conference game against No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday without Green, who’s also banished from SEC games against No. 14 Arkansas and Mississippi State. He will be eligible to return for an Oct. 2 contest at Colorado.
“Every team in America would love to have A.J. Green out there. But he’s not out there. We have to deal with it,” tight end Aron White said after practice. “We’re still Georgia. We’re still going to come to play. One guy doesn’t make or break this team.”
Still, the harshness of the penalty appeared to catch the Bulldogs off guard. The school plans to appeal, but the case is unlikely to be heard until next week at the earliest.
“It’s pretty shocking,” said receiver Tavarres King, one of the players who’ll have to pick up the slack. “Everybody really thought he was going to be back.”
Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus was declared ineligible for two games for accepting nearly $2,000 in improper benefits during two trips to Miami.
South Carolina is awaiting its own NCAA ruling on the eligibility of two players: starting offensive tackle Jarriel King and first-team cornerback Chris Culliver, who sat out the Gamecocks’ opening game.
Green issued an apology to Georgia coaches, his teammates and fans “for the mistake in judgment” in a statement released by the school.
“I very much regret all that has taken place and the distraction that’s been caused,” Green said. “I’ve learned a valuable lesson and hope others can learn from my mistake. I can only focus my attention now on practicing and looking ahead to getting back with my teammates as quickly as possible.”
The 6-foot-4 Green is rated as one of the top receivers in the nation. He is projected as a possible top-five pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Last season, the junior had 53 catches for 808 yards and six touchdowns despite missing all or part of five games due to injuries.
The NCAA ruling is a blow to Georgia’s hopes in the SEC’s Eastern Division. Coach Mark Richt said he was “disappointed with the outcome” but stressed to his team that they played well last year when Green was out.
“Right now, what’s most important for me is to focus on this game. That’s what I’m going to do. We have a big game this weekend,” Richt said. “We are going to play whoever is eligible to play.”