ATHENS, Ga. | Georgia star receiver A.J. Green was suspended by the NCAA for four games on Wednesday for selling a bowl jersey for $1,000 to someone who qualifies as an agent.
Green sold his jersey from last seasons Independence Bowl. The junior, who sat out the season-opening 55-7 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, must miss three more games before regaining his eligibility, according to the ruling from the NCAA.
No. 22 Georgia (1-0) is heading into a key SEC game against No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday without Green, whos also banished from SEC games against No. 14 Arkansas and Mississippi State. He will be eligible to return Oct. 2 at Colorado.
Every team in America would love to have A.J. Green out there. But hes not out there. We have to deal with it, tight end Aron White said after practice. Were still Georgia. Were still going to come to play. One guy doesnt make or break this team.
Still, the harshness of the penalty appeared to catch the Bulldogs off guard. The school plans to appeal, but the case is unlikely to be heard until next week at the earliest. The school said Green has repaid the $1,000 to a charity.
Its pretty shocking, said receiver Tavarres King, one of the players who will have to pick up the slack. Everybody really thought he was going to be back.
USC downplayed the absence of Green for Saturdays game.
What I know from experience is it doesnt matter who we line up against, said punter-kicker Spencer Lanning, one of the Gamecocks captains. Were not going to take it any easier if hes not out there.
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, a former high school quarterback, suggested Greens absence could impact the play of Georgia redshirt freshman signal-caller Aaron Murray.
Everybody has their comfort zone as a quarterback, Mangus said. You have guys you are comfortable with, comfortable throwing to when you get in a tight spot. I think every quarterback is that way. I always tried to find him on third down (when I played). He got hurt one time and I wasnt real comfortable. Well see how all that works out.
Green was caught up in a wide-ranging NCAA probe of the relationship between agents and players from several SEC and ACC schools.
Green issued an apology to Georgia coaches, his teammates and fans for the mistake in judgment in a statement released by the school.
I very much regret all that has taken place and the distraction thats been caused, Green said. Ive learned a valuable lesson and hope others can learn from my mistake. I can only focus my attention now on practicing and looking ahead to getting back with my teammates as quickly as possible.
The 6-foot-4 Green is rated as one of the top receivers in the nation. He is projected as a possible top-five pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Last season, the junior had 53 catches for 808 yards and six touchdowns despite missing all or part of five games due to injuries.
The NCAA ruling is a blow to Georgias hopes in the SECs Eastern Division. Coach Mark Richt said he was disappointed with the outcome but stressed to his team that it played well last season when Green was out.
Josh Kendall of GoGamecocks and Pete Iacobelli of The Associated Press contributed.