Paul Johnson: Ex-college stars should be punished for actions

Willis McGahee has long since said goodbye to Miami but if Paul Johnson had his way, players who took illegal benefits would pay a price.

Willis McGahee said goodbye to Miami years ago but if Paul Johnson had his way, players who took illegal benefits would pay a price.

If the claims of convicted felon Nevin Shapiro are to be believed,  he gave money, cars and assorted impermissible benefits to 72 Miami football players and other athletes over a nine-year period (2002-10). The Hurricanes are expected to be hit with NCAA probation as a result of this.

But what happens to all of those former Miami players? Nothing. That’s why Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson believes there needs to be some type of legislation that follows an athlete and acts as a deterrent for those taking illegal benefits.

“In my mind it’s not going to change until you do something to the people who are involved in [receiving things],” Johnson said. “You can maybe smear their name,  but what happens to them? They still get to sign big contracts. The guys who are left to get punished are the guys who didn’t know what was going on.”

This is a little bit of a sensitive topic at Tech. The Jackets were put on probation and forfeited their 2009 ACC championship (pending appeal) because the NCAA believed Tech obstructed the investigation into whether former players Demaryius Thomas and Morgan Burnett received extra benefits. It never actually was proven either player took something. But ultimately the program paid the price for an investigation stemming from the perceived actions of the two players.

The NFL recently made an example of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor for five games prior to the supplemental draft, which is believed to be a carryover from the five games he would’ve missed at OSU. But in general, getting NFL and NBA teams to sign off on disciplinary actions for illegal actions committed in college will be be difficult.

Miami has declared eight players, including quarterback Jacory Harris, ineligible for the Sept. 5 opener against Maryland. There’s a chance the NCAA may reinstate some players. But Johnson’s issue is with programs paying a price for departed players. In the case of Miami, former stars Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and Antrel Rolle were among the players Shapiro claims to have given gifts to while they were there.

Johnson again: “If I’m a guy who comes up and I didn’t have a whole lot, I didn’t have a lot of money or possessions, you can see why kids say, ‘Well, they’re going to give me $2,000 and I needed the money. I had a kid or I had this or that.’ Unless there’s some deterrent, [why not]? If this goes back to 2002, nothing’s going to happen to those players. It’s going to happen to 80 percent of the kids who were there and didn’t know anything about it.”

He also believes that any coaches or administrators aware of improper benefits should pay a price but believes that’s usually not the case.

“As a head coach you’re ultimately responsible for everything that goes on, but at the same time how realistic is that?” he said. “You can watch to see what kind of car they drive or this, that or the other. But all you can really do is teach them what’s right and what’s wrong and ultimately you just have to hope what they do is right.”

Do you agree with Johnson? Should punishments follow former college stars into the pros?

By Jeff Schultz

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

158 comments Add your comment

Am I the only one....

August 29th, 2011
2:14 pm

Dumb…..Not first

Am I the only one....

August 29th, 2011
2:16 pm

I stand corrected. I was first…..

How can you legislate this? Who enforces this and who metes out the punishment? It’s like cheating on an exam. You get tossed out of school, but should you get fined or jailed too?

jarvis

August 29th, 2011
2:21 pm

He must be a Dem. Congress has no role in the oversight of amatuer athletics. The whole idea is nonsense.

JJ

August 29th, 2011
2:23 pm

It is not illegal, it is just against the rules of the NCAA.

GT Rich

August 29th, 2011
2:25 pm

Punishment could follow, but it never does — it’s called the IRS. Unclaimed gifts = tax evasion. You’re supposed to report any and all income, even gifts.

Incremental punishment should be that the kids sign a scholarship contract that stipulates all scholarship monies must be reimbursed to that school in the event that they are proven as knowing recipients of impermissable benefits in excess of a cumulative minimum amount, i.e. $300. Schools should have to refund any bowl earnings received in the event that they played inelligible players. In that scenario, those same players could potentially be sued to pay the school’s lost bowl earnings.

jarvis

August 29th, 2011
2:27 pm

GT Rich, I’ve thought about that, but the IRS would have to come up with hard figures. Burden of proof is on them, and aren’t gifts up to a certain amount non-taxable?

techfan

August 29th, 2011
2:29 pm

I don’t agree with him on this one. The NFL and the NCAA should be independent of each other and it should be the NCAA’s job to enforce their own rules. I’m not sure how to fix this dilemma but mixing a professional organization and an amateur organization should not be the way to fix issues with the amateur organization.

matt r

August 29th, 2011
2:31 pm

Don’t see how this is possible, but he is right that with no fear of personal punishment, there really is no motivation to follow rules. And he is also right that the NCAA is usually (and randomly) punishing the wrong people. Jay Bilas’s ideas of letting kids make money on their own likenesses (not affiliated with specific college) intrigue me.

ed

August 29th, 2011
2:34 pm

hey fish fry, our lawmakers should have “bigger fish to fry”

reebok

August 29th, 2011
2:40 pm

i get the coach’s point, but i don’t see how this could be managed.

Innocent Bystander

August 29th, 2011
2:43 pm

PJ is a no-nonsense type of guy as is, so of course he’s going to take the stance of personal responsibility and having consequences to one’s actions.

The implementation of how to actually ensure those who break the rules should be punished is up for discussion, but PJ is dead on that at the end of the day, each person (be it coach, player, agent, etc) must own up to their actions.

1eyedJack

August 29th, 2011
2:43 pm

Let’s just step back and look at who is receiving all the free stuff. Hmmmm. It’s all coming clear to me now.

2HLLWGA

August 29th, 2011
2:47 pm

At least Johnson is thinking about hwo to punish the offenders, not punish “innocent” kids who knew nothing about the transgrssions. No one else seems to have any ideas on how to punish the actual offenders. Think about the kids at USC who lost out because Reggie bush was very greedy.

The NFL has the ability ot use the public embarrassment clause to punish a player that brings embarrassment to their team or the NFL. This enacted with the Reggie Bush problems.

Coach13

August 29th, 2011
2:50 pm

Absolutely they should be punished. Like he said, players like Reggie Bush go on to sign mulit million dollar contracts while players that were in the 8th grade at the time of the infraction are punished because they play for USC. Different coaching staff too.

What is the incentive to NOT take money, cars, etc. if I’m not the one who is going to get in trouble??

1eyedJack

August 29th, 2011
2:50 pm

Hang ‘em in the public square!

atlindenver

August 29th, 2011
2:50 pm

Everyone seems to assume that all these kids that are getting extra benefits are making millions in the NFL and can be punished through the NFL. For every one kid that goes on to make big bucks in the NFL, there are ten others who are driving a UPS truck or cut in training camp or working in a cubicle once their eligibility is used up.

Are you going to garnish their wages when they are making $20 an hour? Where does it all stop?

Tech '10

August 29th, 2011
2:54 pm

I like the idea but, as others have already pointed out, how are you going to enforce it?

DAWG FAN FROM DOUGLISVILLE

August 29th, 2011
2:54 pm

TEEL ME WHERE I CAN MAKE $20 AN HOUR!
I WOOD LOVE 2 MAKE THAT MUCH MOENY!

GTJohn

August 29th, 2011
3:03 pm

The only way to fix this is to recruit real student-athletes. That stopped long ago.
I do agree with CPJ, however. and the people involved should be the ones punished, not those left behind.

Frank Lane

August 29th, 2011
3:10 pm

Absolutely. Fine them millions that they have to give back to their school. At least 20 times or 50 times what they received.

bitter-wingless bee

August 29th, 2011
3:11 pm

CPJ—–STANDS FOR—CHILE—POT ROST—JAM

———————————————–yum-yum

radlydawg

August 29th, 2011
3:12 pm

And you Jarvis….must be a card carrying idiot!!! Since when do Dem’s and Rep’s have anything to do with what is right or what is wrong? Coach Johnson is a good man, great football coach, and is full of integrity! He wants to prepare his ball players for life…not prison. They should be held accountable!!! Why should those who are at the school after the thugs leave…be held accountable?? Anyone, with a shred of integrity would agree 1000%!!! Now Jarvis, you can go crawl back under your rock. If you had two brains….you other one would be lonely!!!!!!!

Radly Dawg

Mark (another one)

August 29th, 2011
3:16 pm

When these players sign the scholarship agreements (a contract), they agreed to follow the rules of the NCAA. The universities have real damages from the violations called a breach of contract. Johnson simply has to get the University legal dept. to sue the violators in civil court.

The issue is that if only one or two schools sue, the rest will use it against them in recruiting. Thus, they won’t do it and they are stuck with this mess. The NCAA could simply require all schools to sue contract violators but they won’t do that either.

MARTA Rida

August 29th, 2011
3:18 pm

Increase the stippen that college athletes recieve. How can these men live on the little bit of money NCAA gives them while they make the big-name schools millions of dollars. Its not far, many of those players grew up with nothing and want some sort of payment for filling the stands and endorsement deals.

Bohica

August 29th, 2011
3:20 pm

The only thing you can do is this. Turn the LOI/Scholarships into contracts with at stated value. Put language in them which entitles the NCAA (not the schools) to go after anyone who violates it’s provisions. If these things happen, the NCAA sues the former SAs involved.

Beast from the East

August 29th, 2011
3:22 pm

The only way to punish ex-players is to sue them for whatever lost income the university incurs. That would be almost impossible to put a dollar amount on and probably cost more in laywers fees than the actual value.
The only other way is to strike all of their stats from the record books at the school. Not much of a deterrent to a kid that obviously didn’t care too much to begin with if they put the school in harm’s way.
Flawed system.

Son of Tech

August 29th, 2011
3:29 pm

Why not spin this around and go after the people providing the benefits? I believe it should be a joint venture between the NCAA and the NFL, but put the restrictions on the agents if they are found to be providing benefits. In the case of boosters, the majority of the ones who are providing benefits to the payers are truly obsessed with the programs. It seems that the best thing they could do with those people would be to completely bar them from all events associated with that particular school. The threat of losing your passion should be enough to atleast make you think twice about it.

GatorTech

August 29th, 2011
3:32 pm

Just reinforces the REALITY that college sports are NOT amature athletics – even in the minds of the coaches and players. The NCAA serves as the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA …. and everybody knows it. How else could you possibly explain the idea that the “PRO” league will punish a player for something they did that was against the rules of the “amature” leage they played in before. Unless, of course, you acknowledge that the two leagues ARE actually connected in more than an informal way. This is Rediculous …..

GTFanForever

August 29th, 2011
3:37 pm

If Coach or Admin are involved, lose job and banned from NCAA for appropriate time. Contracts should read as such.
If player is involved, lose scholarship and banned from NCAA member schools.

Most importantly, NFL should start their own minor league system and quit using college football for such. Ever hear about NCAA violations (I’m sure some have happened) in baseball? Allow obvious pro-bound players to go on to NFL minor league and get paid. Allow players to enter college should they conclude NFL is not for them. However, they must meet academic requirements and they lose a year of college play for each year in NFL minor system. Simple, kids will find out fast if they are NFL bound. If not, then they will come to college knowing they must be serious in the classroom. Also, these kids will pick the University based on Academic offering verses what type offense the coach employees. Novel idea, huh?

1eyedJack

August 29th, 2011
3:41 pm

Start a new television show and send them before Judge Judy.

cantondawg

August 29th, 2011
3:43 pm

The NCAA punishment system is perhaps the most stupid in all of the world. An athlete breaks the rule which says you cannot receive impermissible benefit. The athlete receives the benefit and most of the time this isn’t caught until after the athlete has graduated. What does the NCAA do about this. They punish the school by reducing scholarship. This means that some player out there who may have always wanted to go to that school cannot now because of a reduction in scholarship. The NCAA punishes the innocent parties and the guilty ones get off.

ezra

August 29th, 2011
3:46 pm

First, do away with punising the entire team! You can then recruit the help of the lame stream media to attack the guilty player every day of his career–just like they do the conservatives.

tony martin

August 29th, 2011
3:46 pm

Go back to recruiting character instead of that five star recruit from poverty. Give them money for laundry,and if they don’t want to wash their clothes they can use for other things.

PMC

August 29th, 2011
3:46 pm

Kind of hard to listen to a guy who was JUST part of an NCAA investigation dealing with creating fictional stories to tell the NCAA.

PMC

August 29th, 2011
3:47 pm

……rocks and glass houses…. something to that effect.

dawg day afternoon

August 29th, 2011
3:47 pm

WANTED: Cheaters and rule breakers

REWARD: Fried fish and hushpuppies

ezra

August 29th, 2011
3:48 pm

NCAA is a joke! Punish innocent players and can never punish the guilty players. It is time to make the NCAA impotent.

DawginLex

August 29th, 2011
3:49 pm

So Johnson is saying that since Ohio state and Miami both cheated BIG TIME in 2002, that makes Georgia National champions?

We all know we would have beaten Ohio state anyway……….

Paddy

August 29th, 2011
3:50 pm

Dawg in Douglasville…….All you need to do is go to solder school at a JC. I used to work at such a place and we had 95 regular folks making $18 to $29 an hour. Probationers started at $18. Those jobs are out there it just takes a little training.

CONservative Johnson

August 29th, 2011
3:54 pm

Unless the NCAA athletes are going to be members of the NFLPA, NBPA, etc., then the leagues should have no jurisdiction on ANYTHING they do with regards to NCAA rules . . .

wxwax

August 29th, 2011
3:54 pm

Johnson doesn’t get it.

The problems will never go away until the system is overhauled.

Trying to enforce a broken system with more levels of punishment is like treating cancer with aspirin. It’s not getting at the root cause.

While Johnson makes his $100,000’s per year, other coaches make their millions and the schools make their tens of millions, the athletes go empty-handed.

As long as that inequity exists, so too will backroom deals. The system and its one-sided, corrupt notion of amateurism are the problem.

The Olympics found a solution. It’s time the universities did too.

1eyedJack

August 29th, 2011
3:55 pm

How ’bout this. Ban recruiting. Make all athletes meet the same academic requirements as other students of the Institution. Have student-athletes try out for the team and reward those that make it with an athletic scholarship.

wxwax

August 29th, 2011
3:58 pm

Innocent Bystander
PJ is a no-nonsense type of guy as is, so of course he’s going to take the stance of personal responsibility and having consequences to one’s actions.

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

That’s a laugh. Johnson was given a specific instruction by the NCAA to not discuss the investigation. He did so anyway.

When he was punished for it, he whined and complained.

How is that an example of personal responsibility? Walk the talk, Johnson.

GT

August 29th, 2011
4:00 pm

And this is EXACTLY why Paul Johnson can not recruit!! and Ultimatly why he can’t win at this level….

KZGuy

August 29th, 2011
4:02 pm

Well just stay tuned folks. Look what is happening to the OSU quarterback Pryor. How can the NFL suspend him for five games when he has not broken any NFL rules just some NCAA rules. Looks Roger Goodell is throwing the NCAA a bone in order to keep the free player pipeline open.

GT

August 29th, 2011
4:02 pm

wxwax,

You are SOOOO corect!! Most people who watch Colleg football miss this and don’t understand this..

GT GRAD

August 29th, 2011
4:06 pm

PJ is correct………..the players/coaches/boosters ACTUALLY involved in the infractions should be punished. The problem is that these are usually the guys that get away scott free!

The innocent players or coaches who follow the less-than-high-character coaches end up paying the price.

GT has a long proud history (and I truly believe always will) of making a serious and concerted effort to play by ALL of the rules, however……….GT & Coach PJ proved the NCAA commitee can and will bring down the almighty hammer if you try to live right AND state that you live right AND tell the NCAA investigators they can ask anyone anything AND deny to admit you did anything wrong when you did not do anything wrong.

GT

August 29th, 2011
4:09 pm

College football is the BIGGEST scandel…players play for FREE while coaches and institutions get Millions!!

former1990 Player

August 29th, 2011
4:10 pm

PJ wasn’t punished for Tech going on probation. Wins some games PJ and maybe we will start to listen to you

Worm

August 29th, 2011
4:13 pm

It’s called institutional control or lack thereof..If a kid has something you KNOW he can’t afford, you investigate…Cars,jewelry,electronics etc.