In 2005, Georgia Tech was put on probation by the NCAA because seventeen
“ineligible” student athletes participated in four sports. Eleven of those players
were on the football team and when Tech self reported the infractions, the Jackets
volunteered to reduce their 2005 recruiting class by six scholarships and accept
one year of probation. Several of the players in question graduated before the
situation was discovered and brought to the NCAA’s attention.
The root of the problem appeared to be that Tech’s registrars and academic advisers
were inadequately trained in NCAA regulations. In essence…a clerical error brought
about by a lack of understanding of how to qualify passing grades and eligibility in
classes that pertained to the players academic major.
Despite the fact that there was no conscious breaking of rules or willfull cheating,
the NCAA dropped the hammer on the Jackets to the tune of six additional lost
scholarships in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years. The Jackets were
forced to play with a roster of 79 players against teams with a roster of 85 and
the lack of depth was very evident this past season when Paul Johnson was forced
to play walk ons and true freshmen in crucial games and situations. The NCAA
also tried to void several seasons worth of winning records and even some bowl
games but Tech was able to appeal and avoid that punishment.
This should all be a simple recap for Tech fans who have followed the program the
last few years.
What people may not be aware of is the relative lack of punishment that was dealt
to South Carolina and Florida State teams that appeared to have been caught in
much worse transgressions…
South Carolina got busted for 11 NCAA violations. Five of them were considered
major and ranged from illegal benefits to academic shenanigans. The Cocks
suggested three years of probation, the loss of two scholarships in 2005-2006
and 2006-2007, and the loss of some paid recruiting trips. The NCAA basically
said, “Ok” and agreed with the suggested penalties.
Apparently, their “lack of institutional control” warranted a mere four scholarships
over two years compared to Tech’s 12 scholarships over two years…on top of the
2005 self restriction of six. And one might think that Tech’s honest mistakes were
worse than South Carolina’s conscious and willfull rule breaking.
And then we get to Florida State. The Seminoles athletic department found that
sixty one (61!) student athletes participated in a cheating scandal related to an
online test during 2006 and 2007. So far it looks like the football program will
be required to give up two scholarships this year and one scholarship next year.
If you do the simple math there…the Noles are giving up three scholarships over
two years in comparison to Tech giving up 12!
The NCAA is also threatening to void some FSU wins but I fully expect the Noles
to appeal. Tech did the same thing. The threat of having records and wins voided
is something that the NCAA appears to use as a scare tactic. They threaten to do
it and then roll over on the appeal…so that they can look merciful.
My FSU wife will be upset when she reads this but its not really me taking a shot
at FSU. The FSU administration stepped up and suspended all the involved players
for the 2007 bowl game and a good portion of the 2008 season. My gripe is focused
at the NCAA and their apparent inability to deliver equitable and consistent punishment.
How else can you explain GT’s registrar errors resulting in worse punishment than 11
infractions at South Carolina and a widespread cheating scandal at FSU?
Perhaps the administration at Tech simply didn’t know how to handle the NCAA when
they were up against the wall. It makes one wonder if President Clough delaying the
NCAA review so that he could take a vacation cruise might not have backfired in GT’s
All in all its painfully obvious that the more experience a program has in dealing with
NCAA investigations…they better they fare in the end…