NCAA punishes Tech for violations

A 20-month NCAA investigation into Tech’s athletic program culminated last week on Thursday, July 14, when the NCAA announced that Tech had committed major violations related to its football and men’s basketball programs. As a result of the infractions, the NCAA fined Tech $100,000, forced the football team to vacate its victory in the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) title game, imposed various men’s basketball recruiting restrictions and put the Institute’s athletic program on four years of probation.

This incident marks the third time Tech has been cited for major NCAA violations and the first time since 2005.

“This is not a good day for Georgia Tech. It is not a proud day for me…This institution should not be placed in a position where its integrity is challenged,” said Athletic Director Dan Radakovich.

The NCAA’s primary reason for citing Tech for major violations was that they felt that the Institute had deliberately tried to impede the investigation. This led to charges of failing to cooperate with the NCAA investigation and failing to meet the conditions of NCAA membership in what the report by the NCAA Committee on Infractions called a “cautionary tale” for other schools under investigation.

“Tech officials disobeyed direct instructions from the enforcement staff…These actions impeded the enforcement staff’s investigation and hindered the committee in getting to the truth in this case,” said Dennis Thomas, chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Both Radakovich and Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson were adamant that Tech had never intended to obstruct the NCAA inquiry.

“At no time prior to or since the 20-month investigation do I believe that anyone at Georgia Tech did anything or took any actions with the deliberate intent to either hinder or impede this investigation,” Peterson said.

The football infractions stemmed from an incident in late 2009 when then-Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas reportedly received clothing and other items that were perceived to be impermissible benefits. Another football player, safety Morgan Burnett, allegedly accepted benefits but denied any wrongdoing.

When the NCAA informed then-Compliance Director Paul Parker that there were investigating allegations of impermissible benefits in early Nov. 2009, the NCAA indicated that only Peterson and Radakovich were permitted to know that Burnett was going to be interviewed.

Radakovich chose to inform Head Coach Paul Johnson of the situation, and Johnson, who was unaware that the information was classified, discussed it with Burnett prior to Burnett’s interview with the NCAA.

On Nov. 16, 2009, two days before he was set to be interviewed, Burnett met with Radakovich, Johnson and Parker. Two days later, on Nov. 18, Burnett denied any wrongdoing when speaking with NCAA investigators.

The NCAA deemed the decision to inform Burnett about the interview to be a failure to protect the integrity of the investigation, as it caused Burnett’s interview to be “tainted,” according to the infractions committee’s report.

Thomas was interviewed on Nov. 19, 2009. He told an NCAA investigator that he and Burnett had gone to the home of Thomas’s cousin, where they met with former Tech quarterback Calvin Booker, who reportedly was tied to an Atlanta sports agency, and the cousin’s roommate. While there, Thomas received various clothing items that had a total value of $312.

Thomas initially told NCAA investigators that his cousin’s roommate had provided the clothing, but in a Nov. 24 interview with Tech general counsel Randy Nordin, Thomas said it was his cousin who provided the clothing.

It was based on this information that Peterson—acting on the advice of Nordin and Radakovich—made the decision to allow Thomas and Burnett to continue to play despite repeated indications from the NCAA that each player’s eligibility was in question.

“The information…was steadfast that this clothing came from a relative, which is a permissible benefit. That’s the direction…which I passed on to President Peterson, and the decision was made to allow these young men to participate,” Radakovich said.

The NCAA presented formal allegations on Dec. 21, 2010. Included in the allegations were charges related to a non-scholastic basketball tournament held on campus in 2009 and 2010, in which a then-graduate assistant evaluated potential recruits who were participating.

At a nine-hour hearing on April 15, 2011, key figures from Tech defended their case before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Here, Peterson admitted that Tech had made mistakes during the investigation.
Notably, Peterson said Tech should have sought outside legal counsel instead of relying on the now-retired Nordin, who had little experience in NCAA-related matters and whom the NCAA perceived to have obstructed the investigation at times.

Tech’s representatives at the hearing argued that the infractions should be considered secondary violations, but the NCAA determined that the violations in both sports were major in nature. Three months later, on July 14, the punishments were handed down.

Along with the probation period and the $100,000 fine, Tech was stripped of all football wins from Nov. 24, 2009, to the end of that season, so Tech’s 2009 ACC title has been vacated. Aside from probation, no long-term penalties were assessed to the football team.

The men’s basketball team will be limited to 10 official visits for recruits over the next two seasons and self-imposed other recruiting restrictions.

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