It has been a tough few weeks for Georgia.
A Bulldogs player and a staff member were killed in a car crash on Jan. 15, just days after Georgia won a second consecutive national title, and Jalen Carter, a potential top pick in the NFL Draft later this spring, was arrested Wednesday on a reckless driving and racing charge related to the crash. Georgia linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson was arrested last month on the same charges for a different incident.
So, does Georgia have a culture problem?
"Absolutely not. I would say we're far from it," head coach Kirby Smart told ESPN on Friday. "When you talk to people outside our program that come into it, they talk about what a great culture we do have — and we do an incredible job. Because I've got a lot of outside entities that come into our program and pour into these young men.
"Do we have perfect young men and women and players? Not necessarily. But I promise you this, that's the intent: for us to grow these guys and get them better. And I feel really good about the culture within our program."
Kirby Smart on ‘heartache’ after deadly crash
Hours after Georgia’s parade to celebrate its win over TCU in the national championship game, police said Carter was racing recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy on a street near campus early on Jan. 15.
Police said the Ford Expedition that LeCroy was driving left the road and hit two power poles and several trees. LeCroy was transported to a hospital, where she later died of her injuries. Offensive lineman Devin Willock, who was sitting behind LeCroy in the car, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.
Another female staff member and a former Georgia player were in the car, too, but survived. Police said the car was traveling 104 mph when it crashed, and that LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration level was about 2.5 times the legal limit in Georgia.
Smart said that his wife, Mary Beth, woke him up with the news after he missed several phone calls that morning.
"Heartache," Smart said, via ESPN. "Got a call at 3 or so in the morning. Went immediately to the emergency room. Probably one of the toughest moments I've ever experienced as a coach and a leader to see the pain in the faces of the players who had joined up at the emergency room that morning. [Athletics director] Josh Brooks was there. You know, [I] still remember the ER doctor telling me the news, and just one of the most painful experiences of my life."
That hasn’t gotten much easier in the weeks that have followed, either.
"Inside our building, we've got 130 football players that are hurting and have been dealing with pain. And we've emotionally supported those guys' mental health," Smart said, via ESPN. "We had several players that struggled to come back after the parade that have really dealt with this. It's been a tough, trying time for our family, our in-house family, both staff and players.
Carter was arrested Wednesday for his alleged role in the crash. He left the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, flew to Athens to turn himself in, and then returned to the combine Thursday.
Carter’s arrest came a week after Dumas-Johnson was charged with reckless driving after a separate incident just days before the deadly crash. Police said they saw Dumas-Johnson’s vehicle traveling at high speeds before fleeing the scene on Jan. 10.
"I mean, there [are] laws in place for these things, to prevent it for a reason," Smart said, via ESPN. "And we want to educate our players in every way, every part of our organization. We're constantly looking for a better way in whatever that is, health and safety included. I talked about drugs and alcohol, talked about gambling, talked about racing in cars and high speeds. You have to educate your players and you have to make sure they understand the risks and dangers of that, and that's something that we've tried to do."