The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the Georgia Institute of Technology (“GT”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The Committee heavily chastised GT for failing to meet the NCAA cooperative principal and conditions and obligations of membership and stated “this case provides a cautionary tale of conduct that member institutions should avoid while under investigation of NCAA rules. Rather than fulfilling its requirements under NCAA bylaws, Georgia Tech failed to cooperate in an apparent effort to avoid potential allegations of rules violations, thereby eliminating the need to withhold two highly talented football student-athletes from end of the season competition.”
The Committee found that GT committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Preferential Treatment in violation of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.6
A. In October 2009, a friend of an employee of a sports agency based in Atlanta, Georgia provided football student-athlete 1 with several items of clothing valued at approximately $312.00.
i. Football student-athlete 1 and football student-athlete 2 were invited to football student-athlete 1’s cousin’s apartment where student-athlete 1 was provided with Adidas clothing by football student-athlete 1’s cousin’s friend. The friend was associated with a sports agency. Football student-athlete 1 indicated he knew the friend was associated with a sports agency, but subsequently recanted the statement.
ii. The Committee heavily chastised GT’s compliance director and general counsel for skewing interviews. The Committee stated they believe they were unable to make a finding as it relates to football student-athlete 2, because GT tainted interviews and provided him with information necessary to refute the NCAA’s contentions.
2. Failure to Cooperate in violation of NCAA Bylaws 19.01.3 and 32.1.4.
A. On November 16, 2009, GT failed to protect the integrity of the investigation and violated the cooperative principle when, contrary to specific instructions from the NCAA enforcement staff, GT staff members spoke to football student-athlete 2 and told him the issues and related matters that would be the subject of his upcoming November 18, 2009 interview with the NCAA.
i. On November 11, 2009, an NCAA staff member called GT’s compliance director to inform the compliance professional that it had received information about football student-athlete 2 that may result in impermissible athlete agent activity. During the call, the NCAA staff member informed the compliance director to only tell the director of athletics and president of GT. The compliance director then told the director of athletics about the investigation who, in turn, informed the head football coach about the upcoming interview. Subsequently, the head football coach discussed the matter with football student-athlete 2. As a result of football student-athlete 2’s preparation, he denied all impermissible involvement with athlete agents.
ii. The Committee concluded by “preemptively” speaking to football student-athlete 2 about the information received by the NCAA, which was the subject of a later interview with football student-athlete 2, GT caused football student-athlete 2’s interview with the NCAA to be tainted.
3. Failure to Meet the Conditions and Obligations of Membership in violation of NCAA Constitution 220.127.116.11 and NCAA Bylaw 14.11.1
A. In late 2009, GT failed to meet the conditions and obligations of membership in that GT did not withhold football student-athlete 1 from competition when GT was made aware of information which raised serious questions about whether he was involved in violations of NCAA legislation and thus should have been declared ineligible.
i. On November 24 and December 2, 2009, GT was advised by the NCAA enforcement staff that football student-athlete 1 may have jeopardized his eligibility. GT subsequently allowed him to compete in the final three contests of its football team’s 2009-10 season. Despite being aware of information connecting the athlete agent employee with an Atlanta based sports agency and football student-athlete 1, GT did not attempt to follow up on the information. GT believed no preferential treatment occurred due to football student-athlete 1’s familial relationship with his cousin. Nonetheless, GT’s president acknowledged that the institution should have taken a different approach and sought reinstatement for football student-athlete 1.
4. Impermissible Tryouts in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.11.1 and 18.104.22.168
A. During May 2009 and May 2010, staff members of GT’s athletics department were involved in the conduct, administration, and evaluation of physical activity involving prospective student-athletes that occurred in an institutional facility in violation of the NCAA tryout legislation.
i. During May 2009 and May 2010, a then men’s basketball graduate assistant acted as an event operator and gym manager for a nonscholastic basketball tournament conducted at GT’s campus recreation center and which involved numerous prospective student-athletes. In addition to the men’s basketball graduate assistant’s involvement in the event, the participants were handed a welcome packet with a letter signed by the head men’s basketball coach and other information directing participants to the men’s basketball staff. Additionally, members of the NCAA noted that the men’s basketball graduate assistant was taking notes and evaluating prospective student-athletes in violation of NCAA legislation and the men’s basketball graduate assistant made twenty-eight telephone calls to two assistant coaches during the tournament.
ii. During May 2010, an academic advisor for the men’s basketball team observed portions of the 2010 Wallace Prather Jr. Memorial Classic, evaluated prospects, and reported his observations to the GT men’s basketball coaching staff via email. Although the academic advisor’s attendance at the event was not contrary to NCAA legislation, his evaluation of prospective student-athletes was impermissible. The stated reason for providing the email evaluation was an attempt to prove his value as a future coach at the Division I level.
5. Secondary Violations
A. On six occasions between December 20, 2009 and February 16, 2010, members of the men’s basketball staff exceeded the maximum provision of two tickets to individuals responsible for the teaching and directing of an activity in which a prospective student-athlete was involved (10 total tickets).
B. On June 13, 2010, a football student-athlete was provided admission to the Georgia Aquarium, a meal and a bag of nonperishable items by two representatives of GT’s athletics interests ($74.00).
C. A men’s basketball student-athlete was provide two additional impermissible discretionary tickets to a November 14, 2009 home intercollegiate athletics event in excess of the four permissible complimentary admissions.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized GT as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Four years of probation from July 14, 2011 through July 13, 2015.
3. A financial penalty in the amount of $100,000.00.
4. The number of “recruiting-person” days will be reduced by two during the men’s basketball summer evaluation period in 2011.
5. No complimentary tickets will be provided to all high school coaches and individuals associated with prospective student-athletes for the first men’s basketball home game of the 2011-12 basketball season.
6. A limit to ten in the number of official visits for men’s basketball for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.
7. GT shall vacate all wins by the football team after November 24, 2009 in which football student-athlete 1 competed and football student-athlete 1’s individuals accomplishments shall be vacated.
8. The directors of athletics, the head football coach, the compliance director and the academic advisor shall attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2012.