Georgia Tech true freshman quarterback Vad Lee, according to his tweet, was so excited for his first team meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday that he arrived 30 minutes early.
It wasn’t quite the introduction to Georgia Tech football he or any of the other freshmen were probably expecting:
Vacate the 2009 ACC title game.
Following a 20-month investigation, which was kept quieter than the Duke library, Georgia Tech on Thursday was slapped with its second major violation in five years. The Yellow Jackets apologetically joined North Carolina, Tennessee, Boise State, USC, Auburn, Oregon and Ohio State on the NCAA’s naughty list. Long story short: What could have been a secondary violation for impermissible benefits and preferential treatment (a player received $312 worth of clothing from a friend of a sports agency employee) turned into a major violation and public relations nightmare because of a few poor decisions made along the way. Because there were no scholarship reductions, though, Georgia Tech will pay its hefty fine, cherish its memories of the 39-34 win over Clemson in the 2009 ACC title game and move on.
In Georgia Tech’s case, been there, done that.
“In 2005, when they had the issues, coach [Paul] Johnson came in in 2008, while we were still on probation, and it was not something we talked about each and every day,” said athletic director Dan Radakovich, who was in the team meeting Thursday afternoon. “Part of what we need to do going forward is to continue to have a positive air of compliance, and make sure that we’re doing the right things each and every day.
“They are very resilient,” he said of the players. “There were a number of people in that room today who watched that game on television like millions of others. The ones who were there certainly were disappointed, but the lesson moving forward is how the actions of a few can affect many. That’s something coach Johnson really stressed to that group. We need to utilize this not only with our football team and our men’s basketball team, but also all of our teams as a learning experience moving forward and how important it is to when you’re a part of a team, to put that team ahead of anything that comes your way and be up front and open with our compliance process.”
Part of the sanctions stemmed from a conversation Radakovich had with Johnson. Radakovich wanted to inform his coach that the NCAA wanted to interview one of his players, but the NCAA was operating under a need-to-know basis and thought the coach didn’t need to know (no wonder Butch Davis is safe). In retrospect, Radakovich said he should have contacted the NCAA directly and explained his rationale for informing Johnson.
The NCAA, though, should explain exactly how these sanctions are going to be a deterrent for other programs. If this can happen at Georgia Tech, it can happen anywhere. And it’s happening all over the country.
Dennis Thomas, the NCAA’s chair of the Committee on Infractions, insisted that the NCAA was not using Georgia Tech as an example to the rest of the college football world.
Georgia Tech officials insisted nobody did anything to intentionally mislead anyone along the way.
“I believe that we could have been more aggressive in our investigation,” president G.P. “Bud” Peterson said. “Had we known then what we know now, we might have acted differently. But given the information we had at the time, I believe we took reasonable, and appropriate steps to determine a proper course of action regarding the eligibility of the two student-athletes in question, and most importantly we acted in good faith. At no time prior to or since the 20-month long investigation do I believe anyone at Georgia Tech did anything or took any actions with the deliberate intent to hinder or impede this investigation.”
And the NCAA, save for some money and a trophy, hasn’t done anything to hinder Georgia Tech from moving on.