Tech basketball receives punishment by NCAA

Photo by Casey Gomez Student Publications

Tech basketball received backbreaking news last week as the NCAA announced a series of sanctions against the program for violations of NCAA policy from the past two years. The sanctions included a post-season ban for the upcoming 2019-2020 season, a reduction in scholarships and probation for the program for the next five years.

The infractions stem from two incidents from 2017. In one incident, a highly-touted recruit under the supervision of assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie, Wendell Carter Jr., was given $300 for use at a strip club by a booster of the program, later revealed to be former Tech basketball standout Jarrett Jack, violating NCAA guidelines on compensating athletes during visits. LaBarrie later lied to investigators regarding the incident and encouraged a Tech player to lie as well, according to the NCAA’s incident report.

In another incident, Ron Bell — at the time a close friend of Tech head coach Josh Pastner — flew two Tech basketball players to his home in Arizona and paid for gifts and groceries for the players, again, violating NCAA guidelines. Bell later reported his actions to the NCAA, evidently as a means of revenge against Pastner whom Bell felt had betrayed him as a friend. Bell’s girlfriend would later accuse Pastner of sexual assault, but charges have been brought against the couple for fraud and lying to law enforcement stemming from the allegations. Bell is also currently involved in numerous civil and criminal suits relating to his actions. When the NCAA initially attempted to investigate Bell’s allegations, they ruled that he was too dangerous to interview in person. The NCAA cleared Pastner of wrongdoing in both incidents.

Tech claimed to have self-reported both violations as soon as they were discovered, in addition to suspending athletes involved in the incidents and separating with LaBarrie upon discovering his actions.

Tech also complied with the NCAA’s investigation and imposed their own penalties upon the program, but the NCAA cited Tech’s history of major violations as well as the severity of the above violations as aggravating factors in their decision to lay down such harsh penalties for the program.

The move comes as the NCAA has sought to crack down even more upon programs in violation of NCAA rules.

Following a national corruption scandal that implicated some of the biggest programs in men’s college basketball — schools like Arizona, Louisville and Kentucky — the NCAA has begun building up greater measures for investigating and punishing non-compliance and corruption, including the creation of a commission headed by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to ensure compliance by member schools.

The measures were viewed by some members of the media as overly harsh, a message sent by the NCAA to other programs to resolve compliance issues or face serious penalties. Jeff Goodman, an analyst for sports site Stadium, called Tech’s infractions “small potatoes” compared to the levied penalties on Twitter, noting that the “NCAA [is] swinging a big stick these days.” For Tech, a rebuilding program struggling with both attracting talent and keeping resources, the loss of a scholarship as well as a reduction in budget further harm and already hurting NCAA program that has yet to find its feet in the most competitive basketball conference in all of college athletics.

Tech athletics agreed that the measures went too far. In a statement, Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury said that “[We] are disappointed with the severity of the penalties imposed, some of which will have a direct and unfair impact on current student-athletes,” and promised that Tech would be “exploring [their] options and giving serious consideration on whether to appeal some aspects of the decision.”