Punishment severe, but Georgia Tech made its own mess

Georgia Tech's athletic director Dan Radakovich (right) and president G.P."Bud" Peterson were upset with NCAA's findings but realized they erred. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Georgia Tech's athletic director Dan Radakovich (right) and president G.P."Bud" Peterson were upset with NCAA's findings and language, but admitted errors. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

There are a number of disturbing words that can be found in an NCAA news release. Booster. Agent.  Academic fraud. The dreaded string: Lack of institutional control.

But this one ranks as one of the most troublesome: Manipulate.

If you believe the NCAA, Georgia Tech officials not only failed to cooperate with an investigation into possible impermissible benefits, they impeded, obstructed and tossed up road blocks.

The public infractions report reads like it was crafted by a performance-enhanced novelist. Claims that Tech attempted to “manipulate the information surrounding potential violations.” Claims that the school “hindered efforts to get to the truth.” Claims that former general counsel Randy Nordin, “adopted an obstructionist approach” to the investigation and referred to an NCAA staff member as “demonstratively untruthful.”

Maybe some of that is blather. But too much of it is truth.

Tech and its athletic department were slapped Thursday. They deserved to be.

While a case certainly can be made that the punishment is excessive – the Yellow Jackets effectively were stripped of their only ACC football championship in 2009 because one player received $312 worth of merchandise more than 20 months ago – a better case can be made that they had it coming.

Sorry. But a school whose title includes the words “Institute of Technology” should know how to read a manual.

Jackets coach Paul Johnson just lost his 2009 ACC title. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Jackets coach Paul Johnson lost his ACC title. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

In 2005, Tech went on two years’ probation because it used 17 athletes in four sports (11 in football) that it should have ruled academically ineligible. It lost scholarships and was forced to vacate rules. Now it has been hit with four years’ probation in football and basketball, fined $100,000 and must vacate records from the last three games of the 2009 football season (including the ACC title-game win over Clemson) because it acted stupidly when confronted with charges of using an ineligible player (Demaryius Thomas) and having a former basketball grad assistant involved with an on-campus AAU tournament.

Tech president G.P. “Bud” Peterson and athletic director Dan Radakovich both largely disputed the findings of the NCAA. (Tech had an official 53-page response to a 26-page infractions report.) But they were remorseful and Radakovich even apologized to the football team for the lost ACC title.

Paul Parker, the Jackets’ compliance officer at the time of the infractions, left the school in April to take a job at (ironically) Auburn. Radakovich did not publicly place any blame on Parker. But neither he nor Peterson were as kind to the school’s former counsel, Nordin, who has since retired.

“Perhaps we should’ve done some things differently,” Peterson said. “He didn’t have a great deal of experience in issues like this, and I believe if we had to do this all over again we would’ve hired an outside consultant to advise us and serve as legal counsel.”

He also cited the NCAA report saying that Nordin failed to inform the players of the consequences for lying. “Someone who had the experience working with the NCAA would know that’s their expectation,” Peterson said.

Actually, that seems more like common sense.

So is this: When the NCAA told Peterson and Radakovich not to inform anybody in the football program that an investigation was coming, that wasn’t merely a suggestion. But Radakovich told coach Paul Johnson. It trickled down from there. Radakovich said he never intended to influence the investigation, but he admitted it was a mistake.

Tech’s hearing took place at the worst possible time: the off week before the Georgia game, two weeks before the ACC championship. Thomas, a wide receiver, and safety Morgan Burnett both were the focus of the investigation into the football team. The Jackets rolled the dice. That was a mistake. (Georgia, in a similar situation last year, held out A.J. Green in the season opener before the NCAA suspended him four games for “Jerseygate.”)

Peterson was led to believe the players were innocent. He now says the school should have at least declared Thomas ineligible and then appeal for his immediate reinstatement. (Thomas denied the clothes were given to him by former Tech player Calvin Booker, whom the NCAA considers a runner for an agent. There were no findings with Burnett, but the NCAA blames Tech for letting the players know that investigators were going to ask them questions.)

It all may seem way too convoluted and the punishment too severe for what the NCAA admits ultimately could be a secondary infraction. But the mess is Tech’s doing.

“We could’ve done better,” Peterson said.

A tough lesson to learn.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

431 comments Add your comment

Glenn

July 14th, 2011
7:23 pm

You, sir, have no idea what you’re talking about and I’d suggest you get all the facts before you pass judgement. For example, would it matter to you if the facts showed that as soon as the players discovered the items were provided by a friend of an agent, they were immediately returned?

B

July 14th, 2011
7:24 pm

Attaboy, ole Jacket Shultz. About time you saw the light. Cheaters.

scott

July 14th, 2011
7:24 pm

Could this be the bigger fish paul had to fry Tech football what ajoke.

Stephen

July 14th, 2011
7:24 pm

Oh my. Clothes! The horror. The ncaa is a joke

collegeballfan

July 14th, 2011
7:31 pm

Sounds like Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman trying to explain away the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

But when you only have big winning seasons every decade or so, I guess the prospect of sitting down your top player is just to much to handle.

GTPhenom

July 14th, 2011
7:32 pm

I normally agree with you Schultzie, but this time you are a little bit off. Did GT make a mistake? Yeah, possibly. But even that is in debate. Nothing seems right in this, and to say the punishment we took is not fair

Just One Thing

July 14th, 2011
7:32 pm

It seems that the NCAA is busy destroying its own brand and integrity. How many champions are being “stripped” of their title? How many programs have had some sanction or broken some rule in the past decade? Most, likely. The state of the NCAA is rotten. And, it starts from within.

They either have rules that are not enforceable, members that view compliance as a barrier or players who don’t care. Either way it is out of control. And the NCAA is determined to maintain control. Even if they continue to erode the integrity of the games.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
7:33 pm

From ESPN:

“A source told ESPN’s Joe Schad that as part of the case, the NCAA investigated the relationship between former Georgia Tech quarterback Calvin Booker, who is alleged to have worked for a sports agent, and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, now of the Denver Broncos.

“The source said Thomas received $312 worth of clothing from the friend of a sports agency employee. Thomas was used in the final three games of that season, including the ACC title game and the Orange Bowl.”

mtn. dawg

July 14th, 2011
7:35 pm

i thought by the way all tech fans were crying that some one had stolen BUZZ`s stinger.
what a joke. tech finally gets caught with” there pants down.” no pun intended
now all you have to do is wait and auburn will be next. go gators

GDBurdell

July 14th, 2011
7:36 pm

Wait until people see the light about their engineering program too

What's the Good Word? To H-ll With Drad!

July 14th, 2011
7:39 pm

School gets fined $100k and suffers public humiliation. And Radakovich basically gets off with saying “my bad”? Unbelievable. Most lines of work, you get fired for screwing the pooch like this.

JacketFan535

July 14th, 2011
7:39 pm

I’m about to cancel my subscription to the AJC after Bradley’s and Schultz’s commentaries. There is a huge difference between deciding to sit out a player for the first game and having to decide whether to sit out players during the three biggest games of the season. The NCAA is ridiculous.

JacketFan535

July 14th, 2011
7:40 pm

GDBurdell…I think you mean GPBurdell. And as far as engineering programs go, I think U(sic)GA’s future program is the one that’s most suspect.

dobearsbare

July 14th, 2011
7:41 pm

So an AD is not allowed to inform members of his department that an investigation is coming? Why tell him at all?

collegeballfan

July 14th, 2011
7:41 pm

Glenn

The clothes being returned or not is not the point of the NCAA punishment. The point is Tech obstructed the investigation.

See my earlier post re the Nixon administration: the big crime there was not the break-in but obstruction of justice during the cover-up.

UGA did the correct thing with A J Green last year. Tech should have done the same with their player.

Colleges are today recruiting players who take “free stuff” without hesitation. See Green at UGA (sold jersey to agent type) Ohio State (free stuff) and now Tech (free stuff). Stop recruiting the players or suspend the players that break/bend the rules.

Innocent Bystander

July 14th, 2011
7:42 pm

Someone allegedly received some clothes from perhaps his cousin or his cousin’s friend. The punishment will be reduced upon appeal, as the NCAA has little evidence to back up its own case. Then again, the same NCAA that got PO’ed at how Tech handled the investigation is the same NCAA that will ultimately decide the merit of any appeal. Must be nice to have your cake and eat it too.

BigDawg

July 14th, 2011
7:42 pm

Ahhh, the Bugs love to laugh at UGA athletes in trouble, but what school is constantly on probation?! The North Avenue Trade School, hahahaha!!

Bull Meacham

July 14th, 2011
7:44 pm

Tech admin and fans are so arrogant they refuse to take responsibility. “It isn’t fair”. Sounds like some grade school kid. It was that attitude that got them in trouble and they still refuse to be accountable. As bad as UGA has been, at least they take their medicine.

SPIDER

July 14th, 2011
7:44 pm

mean while BYU who had their alum and workers hold back a replay from the replay official in the booth got a way with cheating in a game where the replay clearly showed they fumbled in last 2 minutes of the game and let them score the winning touchdown which helped them to a 6-6 record and put them in a bowl game.

dobearsbare

July 14th, 2011
7:44 pm

Georgia sits A.J. Green and the NCAA, in effect, trashes its season. I’ve often wondered why Edward Tolley didn’t tell A.J. to plead the fifth when they asked for his bank records. I guess that would have landed the Dawgs in the NCAA doghouse. Tech rolls the dice with Thomas and Burnett and gets a lost trophy that everybody knows it won and a $100,000 fine. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

sam

July 14th, 2011
7:44 pm

Seems pretty weak: vacating wins (can the player’s sell their rings from the ACC championship since they really should not have them?), no postseason ban and no loss of scholarships? Sounds pretty weak.

kb

July 14th, 2011
7:47 pm

So tech was put on probation for being tech, stupid and arrogant.

BigDawg

July 14th, 2011
7:47 pm

Hey Man B’s Johnson, punch a Bulldawg in the face and the NCAA too?? I hope you enjoy the “State Championship” rings you gave your players for a game that you say didn’t matter anymore the next two years. I guess those will be sold too, I hear the value is plummeting! I am sure the ACC Champ rings will bring even less. Too bad for you, rofl!!

Max Sizemore

July 14th, 2011
7:50 pm

Just One Thing: well said. Very well said.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
7:51 pm

“Runner for an agent.” With the UNC and AJ Green situations, this has gotten to the point where “agents” are essentially criminals, paying people to bribe other people for them. Why can’t they be prosecuted?

If the best the NCAA can do to solve this problem is to take it out on their constituent schools and their players, it is doomed to failure.

ATLER (ramblin wreck)

July 14th, 2011
7:54 pm

Schultz you are a bigger loser then the ugag fan base. It just made your day for bt his to happen to Tech huh? We’ll show losers like you when this season starts. To hell with (ugay) and schultz!!!!!!

1eyedJack

July 14th, 2011
7:55 pm

Well…well…WELL!! If the shoe fits, you can’t aquit.

JB

July 14th, 2011
7:56 pm

You can’t spell CHEaT without TECH.

eddie mCshan

July 14th, 2011
7:58 pm

this should be cpj last year anyway, he should go now, while the doors open.

Vain Jangling

July 14th, 2011
7:59 pm

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. They should have employed the Sergeant Schultz [no relation] defense: “I know nothing . . . nothing!”

The Braves, they...

July 14th, 2011
7:59 pm

Get over it. Take the punishment, tough it out and don’t look back. Tech is much more than athletics. Heck, most serious EE majors probably aren’t even paying attention.

eddie mCshan

July 14th, 2011
8:01 pm

Is DR. fever out there , charley king………..

1eyedJack

July 14th, 2011
8:01 pm

This time Coach Fishfry outsmarted himself. ;)

Gordon

July 14th, 2011
8:02 pm

You would think with the punishment handed down that the NCAA believes Tech intentionally cheated. There is no evidence that is true, or even a suggestion of it. Tech was sloppy, just like they were 10 years ago. This is ridiculous. They should be punished, but it shouldn’t even approach this level. This is a football factory punishment, and Tech clearly isn’t a football factory.

Paul in RDU

July 14th, 2011
8:03 pm

Jeff – I can’t disagree with the basic premise of your post. GT took a situation with a minor problem and converted it into a disaster. It sounds like a bad case of “institutional arrogance” to me. Faced with NCAA questions, other schools (UNC for one) have hired people with experience in dealing with NCAA investigations. GT (or at least people in high up positions) seem to have thought that they knew it all.
As a grad I am completely embarrassed.

CHAMPS

July 14th, 2011
8:04 pm

Its too bad Jeff has such a personal vendetta against Tech. Maybe people would take his blather more seriously if he could ever be objective.

The easy thing to do is ‘pile on.’ And Jeff is known for doing whatever is easist.

Never mind the inconsistency and hypocracy of the NCAA. No story there I guess…Unless of course the mutts get in trouble.

JB

July 14th, 2011
8:06 pm

Johnson kinda like Obama,,,,,,,lot’s of of tough talk. little results. I really don;t think Johnson is the man Tech thinks he is. After losing to Georgia with that now Titleless ACC team, he was classless. He lost, tip your hat. I will Say Richt has a lot more class in defeat, and I know he never called a player a MF coming off the field. ( his lips are easy to read) . Tech will be very average this year, and the taste in the mouth of the Tech people who count went get more sour.

Paul in RDU

July 14th, 2011
8:06 pm

@Delbert,

Funny you should mention prosecuting agents. The State of North Carolina was investigating Gary Wichard, the agent involved in the NCAA infractions (there is a state law against what he was alleged to have done), but the investigation is now moot. It is tough to prosecute a dead man.

JB

July 14th, 2011
8:07 pm

Personal vendetta………………..It;s just what happened today………….If it was Georgia, you would be toasting him

MC

July 14th, 2011
8:08 pm

Bite me Glenn you dumbazz. The dirtiest program in the ACC strikes again.

Mack

July 14th, 2011
8:08 pm

You can’t spell CHEaT without tech or ThuG without GT

JB

July 14th, 2011
8:09 pm

I don’t think Johnson last/survives after this season.

1eyedJack

July 14th, 2011
8:13 pm

No wonder Bay Bay couldn’t catch a cold in the Georgia game.

Rick

July 14th, 2011
8:13 pm

Darn.. Tech does lie and cheat… I wonder what Bill Curry thinks of this?

techfan

July 14th, 2011
8:17 pm

DRad was specifically told that no one can know about the NCAA inquiry except the compliance coordinator, the president, and the AD. Then for some reason he tells the head football coach. Chaos ensues afterwards. Honestly, this alone in my opinion might be enough reason to fire DRad. Nobody cares about trust DRad. Follow the freaking rules.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
8:17 pm

Paul in RDU – Organized crime hit?

William Satterwhite

July 14th, 2011
8:18 pm

“the Yellow Jackets effectively were stripped of their only ACC football championship in 2009″

Did 1990 never happen?

There’s no denying that Tech screwed up but it’s pretty clear to me that the NCAA is using this case as an example so when they give Ohio St a comparative slap on the wrist (for much more egregious acts) they can point at it and say “this is what happens when you cooperate and this is what happens when you don’t cooperate”. It’s telling that the NCAA goes out of their way to say that the actual player-related violations were only secondary.

mtraininjax

July 14th, 2011
8:19 pm

Schultz, there is a reason Peterson and Raddy are where they are just as there is a reason you are where you are. I can assure you they have more of a handle on these matters than you do on your writings!

Rick

July 14th, 2011
8:19 pm

It’s sooo fitting that the coverup guy went to Allbarn, the real chaeters and liars.

kiss and tell

July 14th, 2011
8:24 pm

I often wonder how such transactions (giving away a garment) ever came to the attention of the ncaa. Who blabbed?