When you analyzed each element of Georgia and Alabama before Monday’s national championship game, the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide appeared even in just about every category.
And that includes number of players arrested in 2017.
Georgia and Alabama, with five arrests each, were co-champions of the seventh annual Golden Handcuffs, an unofficial honor given since 2011 to the SEC football program with the most player arrests in a calendar year.
The Higgins Institute for Athletically Arrested Development, administrator of the Golden Handcuffs, bases the award on arrests tracked by arrestnation.com.
Each year is divided into three periods – January through April 30 which is winter training and spring practice, May 1 through July 31 known as “Arrest Season” when NCAA rules limit coaches’ contact with their players, and then August 1 through December 31 which is the preseason, regular season and most of the postseason.
Even with 20 arrests since Aug. 1 at the start of preseason training camp through Dec. 31, the 2017 total of 32 arrests of SEC football players is the lowest in the seven-year history of the awards.
While this is a positive for the image of the SEC, it also forced layoffs at bail bonds companies across the league’s 11-state footprint.
Marijuana possession was the most popular charge among SEC players with 11 arrests or citations, followed by DUI and public intoxication with five.
Georgia and Alabama edged Tennessee, which had four arrests closing fast late in the season before head coach Butch Jones was fired.
Combined with Georgia tying Mississippi State a year ago for the 2016 Golden Handcuffs title, Georgia’s Kirby Smart became the first coach to lead his to two consecutive Golden Handcuffs titles.
There were a couple of what ifs in this year’s Golden Handcuffs race.
Georgia would have won the title outright if starting inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, who already served a four-game suspension this season for an October marijuana possession arrest, had charges dropped on a December marijuana possession arrest.
If he would have been charged, it would have been a third violation of Georgia’s drug policy which subjects him to dismissal from the team. He was sent to drug rehab and hasn’t played in the postseason.
Two-time Golden Handcuffs champs Florida would have run away from this year’s title if the seven players that committed felony credit card use been officially charged with the crime. Instead, they were placed in a pretrial intervention program.
This year for the first time, the Higgins Institute for Athletically Arrested Development is honoring individuals with special awards noting their unusual arrests.
Here are the honorees:
The “He. . .Could. . .Go. . .All. . .The. . .Way” award goes to Mississippi State freshman running back Kylin Hill. He was arrested for reckless driving near Starkville for allegedly driving a 2015 blue Dodge Challenger 120 miles per hour. Just the week before, MSU running backs coach Greg Knox noted Hill’s speed.
The “You Mean We Can’t Smoke Weed in the Dorm?” award goes to Florida freshmen James Robinson and Ventrell Miller, who apparently thought it was perfectly legal to fire it up in their on-campus dorm room. After a residential assistant was outside of the Keys Residential Complex smelled “burnt cannabis emanating in the air” at 12:30 in the morning, he called campus police. When police entered the room, the officers found a cloud of smoke and a styrofoam cup that appeared to have been used as an ashtray.
“I Should Have Been the Defensive MVP winner and Now Everyone Will Pay” award goes to Texas A&M senior defensive lineman Zaycoven Henderson. Just a few hours after he was honored at A&M’s football banquet, he was charged with multiple felonies after allegedly pointing a gun at people and threatening to kill them at the Campus Village Apartments.
“This Looks Like a Good Place to Pass Out” award to Kentucky football punter Matt Panton, who drowned his sorrows a few hours after the Wildcats loss to Ole Miss. Police found the thoroughly intoxicated Panton passed out at almost 1 a.m. lying on the sidewalk near the intersection of South Upper and Bolivar streets near UK’s campus.
“That’s the Last Time I’ll Illegally Park” award to Georgia outside linebacker Natrez Patrick. He unlawfully parked his car with the flashers on at a convenience store in Downtown Athens. When Patrick came out of the store, police were waiting told him to retrieve his identification from his wallet inside the vehicle. Upon opening the car door, the smell of marijuana was so obvious that the officer asked Patrick there was marijuana in the vehicle.
Patrick said there wasn’t, which didn’t fly when the officer looked inside the car and numerous small pieces of marijuana. The officer began to search the vehicle. Patrick was charged with possession when he finally told the officer there was marijuana in the center console.
This year’s final Golden Handcuffs standings through Dec. 31:
Alabama and Georgia 5 each, Tennessee 4, Florida and Mississippi State 3 each, LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss and Texas A&M 2 each, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky 1 each, South Carolina 0. Total: 32 (Western Division 16, Eastern Division 16)
The all-time Golden Handcuffs standings through 2017: Georgia 35, Florida 34, Alabama 31, Ole Miss and Texas A&M 27 each, Tennessee 26, Mississippi State 25, Missouri 24, LSU 23, Kentucky and Auburn 19 each, Arkansas 18, SC 11, Vanderbilt 5. Total: 324 (170 Western Division, 154 Eastern Division).