The AJC story by Mike Knobler on June 8, 2005 when Tech explained their view of their NCAA trouble:
Frank Roper arrived at Georgia Tech as a student in 1956, stayed until his retirement as registrar in 2000 and still buys season tickets to football and men’s basketball games.
More than 30 years of Tech alumni have Roper’s name on their diplomas.
Now, the man a Tech provost once described as “an institution” is being described in another way – as one of the main people the school blames for rules violations that could lead to the first NCAA probation in Tech history.
As registrar, Roper certified the academic eligibility of Yellow Jackets athletes. The school says it played 17 athletes in four sports who should have been ruled academically ineligible. Although 13 of those 17 violations occurred after Roper retired, the school still blames him in its report to the NCAA infractions committee.
Its rationale: Not only did Roper make mistakes in certifying athletes’ academic eligibility, he incorrectly trained the people who followed him. Tech President Wayne Clough, athletics director Dave Braine and faculty athletics representative George Nemhauser had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong in the school’s certification process, the school said.
“It is the institution’s position that the errors in certifying student-athletes precede the current administration. The former registrar, Frank Roper, assumed his position in 1968.” So begins Tech’s official explanation of how so many rules violations could occur without anybody at the school preventing them or recognizing them.
That explanation is contained in a report the school and the NCAA enforcement staff submitted to the NCAA infractions committee. The committee could have accepted the report, handed down penalties and closed the case. Instead, it took the more unusual step of calling for a hearing, which is expected to occur in August or September.
“The committee had a number of questions regarding the case and believed that an in-person hearing would provide the best means to allow for a full airing of the issues, ” NCAA staffer James Elworth wrote to Clough after the committee discussed the case May 21.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained copies of Tech’s report and Elworth’s letter under Georgia’s open records law.
Lack of training cited
Roper said Tuesday he hasn’t heard whether the infractions committee wants him to attend the hearing. At Tech’s request, he has declined to comment on the case until after the NCAA rules on it. Jo McIver, who succeeded Roper as registrar, also declined to comment.
Tech’s report said Roper never got adequate training in NCAA rules. Tech says he got only in-house training because outside training wasn’t available to him until the early 1990s, more than two decades after he became registrar.
“Once these [ACC and NCAA eligibility seminars] became available, the certifying officer was provided training opportunities and received materials from the institution’s athletics association, ” the report said. “However, Roper did not regularly attend the educational seminars, which occurred over the last five to 10 years of his employment at the institution.”
Roper trained McIver and “also trained several of the former academic advisors, at least in part, ” the report said. “The newly hired academic advisors received their initial training from the other academic advisors within the institution’s athletics association, many of whom Roper trained. This may explain why there was the same misapplication of [NCAA satisfactory academic progress] Bylaw 220.127.116.11.5 made by Roper, McIver and the academic advisors.”
Tech learned in July 2003 that “the individuals involved in the certification process at the institution may not have been applying this bylaw correctly, ” the report said, so the school conducted an in-house review of then-current athletes’ transcripts. The review showed no problems. Only later did Tech learn the review was flawed, that some of the people checking the transcripts did it incorrectly or incompletely.
“Braine believed that he directed [then-director of academic services Jim] Stevens to conduct the review for every certification cycle of each student-athlete, ” the report said. “However, Stevens believed that he was not directed to conduct an exhaustive review of the student-athletes’ academic progress.” Academic advisor Shane Olivett and Troy Peace said advisors were told to review only the previous academic year, the report said, and “each academic advisor interpreted the assignment in a different way.”
“If I had it to do over again, I would have done it in writing, ” Braine said of his instructions to Stevens and the academic staff.
Tech’s failure to catch its problem in 2003 was one of the reasons the NCAA enforcement staff charged the school with a lack of institutional control, NCAA jargon for a school not having a good enough system in place to ensure that it follows the rules.
The enforcement staff and the school both say all of the rules violations were inadvertent.
As Braine sees it, there would have been no problem if the registrar’s office had known NCAA rules and applied them correctly.
Asked what he could have or should have done to prevent or uncover the problem, Braine said: “There’s not an easy answer to that question. The real answer is I should have checked the credentials of the people doing the certification. The responsibility stops with me because I’m the person in charge.”