A few random thoughts while Georgia Tech fans try to wrap themselves around the fact the Yellow Jackets officially never won the 2009 ACC championship. (Yeah, whatever.)
1. Damage for the future should be limited.
It’s going to be painful when Tech returns the ACC championship trophy to the conference. But really, what does it mean? The problem with the NCAA forcing a team to vacate victories as a penalty is it’s just a symbolic gesture. The games have been played. The revenue has been generated (and spent). Tech beat Clemson 39-34 for the title and moved on to the Orange Bowl. Done. The NCAA put Tech on four years probation but is not stripping the football program of any scholarships, limiting recruiting or banning bowl appearances. Coach Paul Johnson can’t advertise his conference championship but it doesn’t lessen him as a coach to recruits.
2. More fallout isn’t likely
A few readers have asked if I believe athletic director Dan Radakovich is in trouble because of this and whether he may lose his job. I don’t think so. Radakovich fell on the sword on a little Thursday but he also denied that he or anybody at the school intentionally tried to obstruct the NCAA’s investigation, which is what led to most of the penalties. There was a strange mix of remorse and anger in the room at Thursday’s news conference. But I never got a sense that there was a division between Radakovich and Tech president G.P “Bud” Peterson, who ultimately signed off on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas playing the last three games of 2009. Tech’s general counsel (retired) and compliance officer (left) at the time of the infractions and investigation are gone. Peterson also alluded to a changes in the athletic department’s structure. I sense that will be the extent of the fallout.
3. Did the punishment fit the crime?
Repeating: It’s an oversimplification to say Tech lost the ACC title because one player allegedly received $312 worth of clothing. Dennis Thomas, who chairs the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, conceded it might’ve been a secondary infraction if school representatives had acted more professional during the investigation. That said, there obviously are MUCH worse things going on in college athletics right now, and if the NCAA doesn’t slam programs Ohio State, Oregon and North Carolina for infractions far more blatant than what Tech did, something is wrong.
4. Something we’ll never know …
Radakovich is a competitive guy. Johnson is a competitive guy. The 2009 season was shaping up as one of Tech’s biggest in years. The Jackets maintain that they would’ve declared Thomas ineligible if they believed he might’ve committed an infraction but were convinced otherwise. Here’s the issue: At the time of the interviews with the NCAA, Tech had its three biggest games coming up: Georgia, the ACC championship and potentially a BCS bowl game. It’s reasonable to speculate they might’ve been more cautious if the stakes weren’t so high. Peterson only admitted that, in hindsight, Tech should’ve declared Thomas ineligible and immediately sought reinstatement from the NCAA, hoping for a quick resolution.
5. What next for basketball?
Could things possibly get worse for the basketball program? New coach Brian Gregory inherits a program that not only slipped under Paul Hewitt, it’s on probation. Again, the violation was minor: A grad assistant helped run an AAU tournament on campus. The sanctions: Two fewer recruiting days during the summer period; a limit of 10 official visits for two seasons; no complimentary tickets for high school coaches and individuals associated with recruits for the first home game of next season (self-imposed). The penalties are minor. But it’s not exactly the morale boost the program was hoping for.
By Jeff Schultz
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