After a 20-month investigation, the NCAA fined Tech $100,000, stripped its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship win from the 2009 football season and put the school on four years of probation due to infractions from the football and men’s basketball team. The NCAA committee on the case cited the Institute’s lack of cooperation in the investigation as a factor in the decision for the punishments.
Along with violations against the football team, there were also violations against the men’s basketball team related to a nonscholastic basketball tournament held on Tech’s campus that violated NCAA rules.
Tech’s previous violation came in 2003 when the NCAA learned that the Institute was using 17 ineligible athletes, 11 in football, during the 1998-99 season. After scholarship reductions and probation were put in place in 2005, the NCAA said that the Institute would be subject to extra penalties for another major infraction before November 17, 2010.
The penalties were formed from an incident in which former Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas reportedly received $312 in clothing. In addition to the incident with Thomas, former safety Morgan Burnett allegedly took gifts as well, and lied to NCAA investigators during interviews.
The investigation began when Tech officials were informed that Thomas had received clothing from a friend. Burnett and former player Calvin Booker were with Thomas when he received the improper benefits. According to both Burnett and Thomas, Burnett only helped Thomas carry the items of clothing and did not receive any of the gifts. The information came during a bye week for the football team in Nov. 2009, stemming confusion as to whether or not the players would be cleared to play.
Head Coach Paul Johnson was informed about the case by Athletics Director Dan Radakovich despite the NCAA asking for the investigation to be kept under wraps. Radakovich failed to tell Johnson not to speak to the players about the case, which was a major reason why the NCAA felt their investigation was hindered.
According to the NCAA, Tech continued to allow Thomas to play through the final three games of the 2009-10 season, regardless of the fact that the NCAA had informed the school about its investigation into the eligibility of both players. After Tech internally gathered information, the Infractions Committee decided that there was not enough information to warrant ineligibility.
Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson made the decision to let both players play in the contest against the University of Georgia on Nov. 24, 2009, and the rest of the season. This proved to be a mistake, as one of the athletes was found to be ineligible; as a result, all wins after Nov. 24 would have to be vacated. Tech was forced to vacate its ACC Championship win, the only win of those final three games. According to a statement released by ACC Commissioner John Swofford, Tech’s ACC Championship trophy will have to be returned and there will be no conference champion for the 2009 season.
Along with the four-year probation from July 14, 2011, to July 13, 2015, the school self-imposed a reduction of two men’s basketball recruiting days for the 2011 summer evaluation period, and the NCAA set a limit of 10 official visits for men’s basketball in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
Tech has an opportunity to appeal the infractions by the NCAA if enough evidence is in place to overturn the decision. According to Peterson, the Institute will make a decision about whether or not to appeal the case within the next few weeks.