Georgia Tech Penalized for Allowing Academically Ineligible Student-Athletes to Compete, Lack of Institutional Control

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

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Kent Barrett
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INDIANAPOLIS --- The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has placed the Georgia Institute of Technology on two years probation and vacated records in several sports after the school improperly certified academically ineligible student-athletes to compete.


The violations and penalties involve the sports of football, men's and women's track and field and women's swimming between the 1998-99 and 2004-05 academic years. The committee also adopted a number of scholarship reductions self-imposed by the institution.


The case involves 17 student-athletes over a six-year period being certified as making satisfactory progress toward their degrees, even though they didn't meet the standards contained in NCAA bylaws.


The NCAA membership adopted its progress-toward-degree bylaws to ensure student-athletes make significant progress toward graduation each academic year before they're allowed to compete in sports. For example, student-athletes at schools using the semester system are required to complete 24 hours of credit toward their degree prior to their second year of enrollment.


At Georgia Tech, the annual certification process is initiated by the director of compliance, who checks the seasons of eligibility remaining and the amount of athletically related financial aid awarded for each returning student-athlete. The director then sends Certification of Eligibility forms to each student-athlete's academic advisor, who fills out the form with the number of hours each student-athlete has earned toward graduation, the percentage of degree requirements attained and eligibility status.


The forms are then sent to the registrar, who confirms their accuracy and sends them to the faculty athletics representative for final approval.


All 17 student-athletes – 11 of whom were on the football team -- were certified and received signatures from the four campus officials. However, a large number of non-degree-applicable courses were included.


In one case, 17 of a student-athlete's 24 hours did not count toward a degree. Another used 12 non-degree-applicable courses in two consecutive years. There were also several examples of nine or 10 non-degree courses being used in a single year.


In addition, six student-athletes were allowed to count courses for which they received grades of D, even though their majors required a C to count toward graduation.


"Many of these student-athletes were prominent members of the team, including multiple-year starters who had received conference and national recognition for their athletic performances,” Marsh said.


The committee pointed out that allowing these student-athletes to compete without holding them to the same academic standards as their opponents gave Georgia Tech a substantial competitive advantage.


In its public infractions report, the Committee on Infractions noted that during the hearing for this case, the compliance coordinator and faculty athletics representative indicated they signed off on the Certification of Eligibility forms without reviewing their content. That meant progress-toward-degree certification decisions were left solely in the hands of advisors and the registrar, none of whom were adequately trained to make such decisions, according to the committee.


The report also noted that the institution investigated the matter in 2003, but failed to uncover the full scope of the problem. It was only after an investigation by the NCAA enforcement staff that the full details of the case came to light.


The failure to have properly trained certification officers and the institution's inability to adequately investigate itself compelled the committee to determine that this case constituted a lack of institutional control over its athletics program.


The committee's report noted a number of corrective actions taken by the institution, including the creation of a new position in the registrar's office, improved monitoring of academic certification and better communication between academic and athletic departments.


In addition to the two-year probation, details of the vacated records, scholarship reductions and other penalties include:

  • Public reprimand and censure
  • The institution self-imposed a reduction of six initial football grants-in-aid for each of the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years. The committee added a limit of 79 total grants-in-aid for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years, after determining that the limit on initial grants-in-aid did not affect total grants-in-aid for 2005-06.
  • The institution self-imposed a grants-in-aid reduction of 3.90 in men's track and field for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years.
  • The institution self-imposed a grants-in-aid reduction of two for women's track and field for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years.
  • The institution shall vacate the performance of its football team for all contests in which the 11 ineligible student-athletes competed.
  • The points contributed to team totals by ineligible student-athletes in men’s and women’s track and field and women’s swimming shall be vacated. Team scores shall be reconfigured accordingly.
  • The institution self-imposed a $5,000 fine, payable to the NCAA, for allowing ineligible student-athletes to compete in NCAA championships/bowl games.

In addition to Marsh, the members of the Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case were Edward Leland, director of athletics, Stanford University; Andrea L. Myers, director of athletics, Indiana State University; James Park Jr., attorney, Lexington, Kentucky; Josephine R. Potuto, faculty athletics representative and professor of law, University of Nebraska; and Thomas E. Yeager, commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association.

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