July 17, 2011

Was Georgia Tech's punishment fair?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Georgia Tech was hit with four years' probation Thursday and had to vacate its 2009 ACC title, but there were no scholarship restrictions placed on the program. Your thoughts?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
I've said many times that I don't see much teeth in "vacating" wins or a championship. Are all those players going to give back championship rings? Are fans going to forget they celebrated that conference championship? Of course not. It appears Georgia Tech's violations were rather minor and there would not have been much of an issue had there been full cooperation with the investigation. If the NCAA deems there was a violation that warrants probation and "vacating" a title, then there should be scholarship reductions,. It doesn't have to be as heavy as the reductions that USC received; maybe only two scholarships taken away would suffice. It seems reduction of scholarships is the only punishment that matters. Take away a few and schools probably would be more cooperative in the future.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I have said time and again that sanctions that only include the stripping of titles or victories are hollow. Yes, those achievements may be erased from the history books, but they won't be from our collective memories. They happened and we all know it. So, in my mind, Georgia Tech always will be the 2009 ACC champ. If the NCAA thought the violations were severe, it would have taken away scholarships, banned the Jackets from a bowl or taken away TV money/exposure. Those are harsh punishments.

David Fox's answer:
Once again, we're led to believe the cover-up is worse than the crime. Presumably, the sanctions at Georgia Tech would have been lighter had Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich not warned coach Paul Johnson and, subsequently, two of his players that they would face an NCAA interview. That lapse in judgment seems serious to me, especially considering the NCAA's only real power is to question current athletes, coaches and staff. But vacating a win, even a rare ACC title for Georgia Tech, remains a hollow punishment. The $100,000 fine is a nice touch, a real punishment we probably should see levied more often. The NCAA says it's not in the business to set examples, but it really should. The NCAA continues to hand down bigger punishments - and in the case of the $100,000 fine, more effective punishments - for dodging investigators. This kind of thing should be precedent where the next fine will cut deeper. I doubt we'll see that sort of consistency or those kind of teeth, though.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
You hear "four years' probation" and the first reaction is that, man, the NCAA is ticked off. But vacating wins, even if that means vacating a league title, without also taking away scholarships is not a big deal. I think the biggest thing to take from this: The NCAA seemed especially upset with how Georgia Tech reacted to the investigation, and that adds another layer of intrigue to ongoing probes at Ohio State, North Carolina, Auburn and, presumably, Oregon.

Steve Megargee's answer:
This is the rare instance in which vacating a championship actually might serve as a stiff penalty. For one thing, Georgia Tech doesn't celebrate conference titles often. That 2009 ACC title represented the Yellow Jackets' first undisputed conference championship since 1990, when it also won a share of the national title. This penalty also should seem like a slap in the face to Yellow Jackets fans because it seemingly came out nowhere; the NCAA's investigation of Georgia Tech received little to no attention up until the sanctions were announced. That said, I still believe vacating wins or championships is a generally toothless penalty. We can't turn back time and erase our memories of Georgia Tech winning that conference title. The school won't have a banner or trophy to signify the conference title, but everyone's still going to think of Georgia Tech as the 2009 ACC champion. I still believe scholarship losses and bowl bans serve as much greater deterrents.


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