Vanderbilt center Logan Stewart and two Georgia players have been suspended for the first half of their teams’ next football games, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive announced on Wednesday.
The ruling comes after the league reviewed tape of Saturday’s game between the two schools. The league deemed that Stewart and Georgia defensive lineman Kwame Geathers and defensive back Shawn Williams all violated NCAA rules with flagrant or unsportsmanlike conduct.
Stewart will miss the first half of Vanderbilt’s game against Army on Saturday, while Geathers and Williams will sit out the opening half against Florida on Oct. 29.
“I understand the commissioner and the SEC needed to do what they feel is appropriate,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll keep moving forward and learn from it. Logan addressed the team about it [Wednesday] and I addressed the team. That’s it. We’re going to move onto Army.”
Stewart and Geathers both were flagged on the same play with 13:09 left in the fourth quarter of Vanderbilt’s 33-28 loss to Georgia.
Stewart, a sophomore, was penalized for an illegal block. The SEC said Stewart was in violation of Rule 9-1 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which states that a “flagrant personal foul offender shall be disqualified.”
“If you watch the tape, Logan you can see he was running and he was trying to get his hat across [on the block on Geathers’ knee],” Franklin said. “There was a point where in my opinion watching the tape he wasn’t going to be able to get his hat across and he should have pulled off and he didn’t.”
Geathers was then penalized for committing a personal foul. The SEC said he violated NCAA Football Rule 2-32-1-a for fighting.
Earlier in the game, with 2:08 left in the third quarter, Williams committed a flagrant personal foul. The league found that he violated Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which reads, “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”
Most likely replacing Stewart at center will be Wesley Johnson, who moves over from left tackle. Johnson played center the first four games of the season while Stewart recovered from a bout of mononucleosis. Redshirt-freshman Andrew Bridges has backed up Johnson and could make his first start at left tackle.
“We have been pleased with him, the reps he has gotten in,” Franklin said. “He is a big physical guy. He is getting bigger and stronger every day. He moves extremely well. This will give him an opportunity to step up and that is what this game is about. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build us some more depth. ... The experience we had earlier in the year will help us now. Then hopefully we can get to a point where we can get him in at halftime and go from there.”
No punishment was issued on an altercation between Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Video shows Franklin pointing at Williams as he walked off the field. Grantham, who afterwards said he was sticking up for his players, then walked up to Franklin, yelling and pointing in his face. The two coaches and the two teams had to be separated.
Another video surfaced earlier this week that showed Franklin talking to Georgia head coach Mark Richt afterwards.
Franklin told Richt that his players were “rubbing our face in it right after the game. And then your coach [Grantham] when I tell him about it, then he goes after me and the fight starts.”
Richt responded, “That’s what I thought happened. I apologize.”
On Tuesday, Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor of Athletics David Williams said he didn’t think his players or coaches were at fault during the postgame altercation.
“If I find fault with our kids or our coaches I will sit down and talk to them about what they did wrong,” Williams said. “I have not had to sit down and talk to our coaches or our kids about anything they did wrong.”