Mercer, Jackson, Brown to miss part of upcoming season
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.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press