ATLANTA -- Three Georgia players, including the Bulldogs'
top two returning scorers, were suspended Thursday for violations
of the school's new class attendance policy for student-athletes.
In an effort to boost the graduation rate of Georgia's
student-athletes, athletic director Damon Evans introduced a policy
last January that brings $10 fines and game suspensions for
unexcused absences from class and academic appointments.
Felton said the players he suspended remain academically
eligible by university, Southeastern Conference and NCAA standards.
"We are determined to raise the standard relative to
student-athletes achieving in class and earning their degrees and
not leaving Georgia empty handed," Felton said. "This policy is
toward that purpose."
Georgia ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in graduation
success rates for football and men's basketball in results released
last week by the NCAA.
Brown led the Bulldogs with 14.2 points per game last season,
while Mercer averaged 13.7.
Georgia opens practice Friday. The suspensions of Brown and
Jackson will begin with the Bulldogs' exhibition game against
Clayton State on Nov. 2.
The first game Brown could return for would be the second game
in the Rainbow Classic tournament in Hawaii, meaning he'll miss
games against Wisconsin and Wake Forest.
Mercer missed the last 10 games of the 2006-07 season due to a
knee injury, and his lengthy suspension will begin after he has
medical clearance to play.
"I understand that I violated athletic association policy and I
accept responsibility for my actions," Mercer said in a statement
released by the school. "I'm sorry for whatever negative impact my
absence might have on the team this season.
"From this point on, I just want to focus my energy on being
ready to help the team when I'm able to return."
Mercer can't come back at the earliest until after the start of
the SEC schedule and will miss games against Gonzaga, Georgia Tech
and the conference opener at Mississippi State before he can play
at home against Alabama.
"We're going to be fine," Felton said. "One good thing is
this is the first time we've had the kind of depth we have now,
going into this season with 13 good scholarship players. I remain
as excited as ever about our team."
Georgia finished 19-14 overall and 8-8 in the SEC last season
but was only 5-5 after losing Mercer to his injury. Georgia lost to
Air Force in the NIT Sweet 16.
The 6-foot-8 Brown was Georgia's most productive inside scorer
in recent years, leading the team with his average of 14.2 points.
He also led the team by making 56.6 percent of his shots while
averaging 5.6 rebounds.
Jackson, who will miss the Wisconsin game but return for Augusta
State five days before the Bulldogs face Wake Forest on Dec. 8,
averaged 2.2 points as a freshman.