Georgia Tech was fined $100,000 by the NCAA, stripped of its 2009 ACC championship in football and placed on four years of probation on Thursday for failure to cooperate with its investigation into the football and men’s basketball programs.
Those weren’t the only penalties, which stemmed from what the NCAA described as an isolated instance of former standout wide receiver Demaryius Thomas allegedly receiving $312 in impermissible gifts, and grew to Morgan Burnett allegedly taking gifts and misleading NCAA investigators. Both have denied taking improper benefits.
In addition, more penalties were self-imposed and accepted by the NCAA:
The committee stated in its report, “This case provides a cautionary tale of conduct that member institutions should avoid while under investigation for violations of NCAA rules.” It said Tech’s previous history of violations factored into its punishment decisions. After receiving penalties for the 2005 and ‘06 seasons for infractions that occurred in the 1990s, the NCAA said that if Tech committed another major infraction before Nov. 17, 2010, it would be subject to added penalties as a repeat violator.
Within the investigation, the NCAA noted the combative and confrontational attitude of general counsel, Randy Nordin. He retired in December. Paul Parker, formerly the assistant athletics director at compliance, left in April to take a job with Auburn.
The case started when Tech learned that Thomas, received clothing from a friend of someone who worked for an sports agent. Burnett and former player Calvin Booker attended the meeting when Thomas received the clothing. Burnett didn’t receive anything.
Athletics Director Dan Radakovich told coach Paul Johnson about the investigation into Thomas receiving improper benefits, but didn’t inform him that he shouldn’t talk to Burnett about the investigation. The NCAA said that conversation hindered its investigation.
The NCAA noted that Tech continued to allow one of the players to compete in the final three games of the 2009-10 football season, in which Tech won the ACC and played in the Orange Bowl, despite the NCAA notifying the school that it had questions about the eligibility of that player. Dennis Thomas, the head of the Infractions Committee, said Tech had enough information to warrant not using the player until it could investigate the players’ eligibility. Tech President Dr. G.P. “Bud” Peterson made the decision to allow both to play.
“It appeared to the committee that the institution attempted to manipulate the information surrounding potential violations involving (the student-athlete) so there would be enough doubt about its validity to justify the decision not to declare him ineligible,” the NCAA said in its report.
The committee also noted “the university took these actions despite information reported by the student-athlete, another football student-athlete and an assistant football coach regarding the potential agent involvement in preferential treatment benefits.” Tech barred Booker from the university’s training facilities and denied him access to complimentary tickets to athletic contests.
Thomas denied that he was one of the reasons for the investigation. In a text message, Thomas said he was offered things by people not affiliated with Tech, but never accepted. Burnett, a safety and third-round pick, also denied the report, texting that he “did not knowingly or unknowingly receive any gifts from any agents … These reports are baseless and false.”
Thomas and Burnett signed with Tech when Chan Gailey was the coach. Paul Johnson, who led Tech to the ACC title in 2009, was hired after Gailey was fired by Radakovich after the 2007 season after five years at the helm.
It is the second time in six years that Tech has been penalized by the NCAA. It learned in 2003 that it had been misapplying an NCAA eligibility rule and worked with the NCAA to investigate the nature and results of the error. They learned that 17 athletes, including 11 football players, who were academically ineligible were allowed to compete during the 1998 and ‘99 seasons.
As a result, Georgia Tech was on a two-year probation that resulted in self-imposed scholarship cuts (from 85 to 79) and a reduction in signing classes (from 25 to no more than 19) in 2005 and 2006. In addition to those penalties, the NCAA infractions committee added a limit of 79 total football scholarships for the 2006 and 2007 teams, six below the normal maximum.
The infractions committee also recommended that Tech vacate wins from seasons, 1998-2002, plus 2004, which were all winning seasons that ended in bowl trips. Tech appealed and the NCAA appeals committee agreed, allowing the results of those seasons to stand.
The NCAA has been in what appears to be a testy mood regarding alleged violations and lack of cooperation in wake of scandals at Ohio State, Southern California and North Carolina, among other places. The Trojans were forced by the NCAA to forfeit their 2004 national championship and the Buckeyes voluntarily forfeited 12 wins and their 2010 Sugar Bowl victory in an attempt to appease the infractions committee. Penalties against North Carolina’s program haven’t been announced. However, numerous players were suspended for all or parts of last season.
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– Doug Roberson, AJC. Follow on twitter @ajcgatech