ATHENS, Ga. -- Even if they earn SEC championship rings this
weekend, nine Georgia players won't automatically get them.
They'll have to buy them this time.
No. 5 Georgia (10-2) will meet third-ranked LSU (11-1) in the
Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday night. If the
Bulldogs win, they'll hand out rings to the players, coaches and
With one caveat: Nine players who sold their 10-karat gold rings
after winning the title last season would have to pay the school to
get another one.
Coach Mark Richt decided on the punishment during a
clearing-the-air meeting over the summer, but details of the
arrangement didn't come out until Tuesday.
The players would have to pay up to $300 -- the maximum allotted
by NCAA rules -- to receive another championship ring.
"Maybe we'll cherish it a little bit more," said cornerback
Tim Jennings, one of those caught in the ring-selling scandal.
"Now, I know how much it means to me. I want another chance."
The others who sold their rings: receivers Fred Gibson and
Michael Johnson, linebacker Tony Taylor, defensive linemen Kedric
Golston and Darrius Swain, cornerbacks Bruce Thornton and Kenny
Bailey and walk-on Trey Young.
"At the time, I wasn't really thinking," Gibson said. "Once I
sat down and thought about it, I knew I did something wrong."
"Ringgate" came to light after the items showed up for auction
on eBay, tarnishing the school's first SEC championship in 20
Initially, Gibson defended his actions, saying he needed the
money -- $2,000, in his case -- and should be entitled to do whatever
he wanted with the ring.
The school reacted differently. University president Michael
Adams expressed outrage. Athletic director Vince Dooley vowed to
punish those involved. Richt said "it cheapens what we did."
Initially, the nine players were declared ineligible for
violating NCAA rules. The school wanted to recover the rings and
demand reimbursement from the players as a condition for being
reinstated to the team.
As it turned out, the NCAA decided that its rules were unclear
on the sale of championship rings and other memorabilia. The
Georgia players were cleared of any wrongdoing and didn't have to
repay the money they received.
Georgia did manage to recover about half the rings, which are
stored in an athletic department safe, said Amy Chisholm, the
school's director of compliance.
Meanwhile, the NCAA altered its rules, making it crystal clear
that no one can peddle a championship ring.
A June memorandum stated: "A student-athlete shall not sell any
item received for intercollegiate athletics participation or
exchange such item for another item of value."
Jennings said he tried to recover his ring, but it had already
been sold. He regrets his actions now.
"I didn't realize how important the ring was until it was
gone," he said. "I wish I had mine. It hurts the most when you go
out guys who have their rings on and I don't have mine."
Golston also peddled a Sugar Bowl ring and game jersey -- drawing
a winning bid of $3,500 on eBay. While embarrassed by his actions,
he doesn't consider a ring to be the ultimate symbol of Georgia's
"The ring is all fine and good," he said. "But it's a
material thing. The memories far outweigh any kind of gift."
Golston was taken aback by all the attention raised by the
"I didn't know it would be that big a deal," he said. "But I
can't sit here and harp on it. What do you want me to do: Cut off
my ring finger?"
If Georgia wins its second straight title, all players receiving
a ring would have to sign a statement acknowledging that it can't
be sold, Chisholm said.
That wouldn't be necessary with Gibson.
I'll tell you one thing: I wouldn't sell it again," Gibson
said. "I'm going to give it to my grandmother."