Paul Johnson

GaTech to vacate ’09 ACC title, placed on four years probation

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Earlier today, many an individual connected to the sport were caught off-guard when reports surfaced that the NCAA was set to announce its findings followed an investigation into the Georgia Tech football program.

First of all, there was nary a clue that Tech was even under investigation.  Secondly, there were no details provided as to what exactly the NCAA had looked into, other than rumors that football players may have been the recipients of some free clothes or something along those lines.

The NCAA, however, has spoken, and cleared up the mystery surrounding the Yellow Jackets.  Somewhat.

In its report released this afternoon, the NCAA concluded that an unnamed former Tech player received impermissible benefits from the “friend of an employee of a sports agency based in Atlanta, Georgia.”  “Student-athlete 1” as the now-former player is described in the report, received several items of clothing from the friend of the sports agency employee worth $312 according to the NCAA.

Additionally, the report reads, “in November 2009, the NCAA agent, gambling and amateurism activities (AGA) staff developed information that a former Georgia Tech football student-athlete (“agency employee”) was working for an Atlanta-based professional sports agency and that he had provided impermissible benefits to a current Georgia Tech football student-athlete (“student-athlete 2″).”  The NCAA found that, in the case of student-athlete 2 — who is a current player — Tech officials “prepped” the player prior to his questioning by the NCAA; “The committee did not make a finding that student-athlete 2 received clothing, as he consistently denied this, although his denials may have been the result of the institution failing to protect the integrity of the NCAA’s investigation.”

As a result of the impermissible benefits found to have been received by student-athlete 1, and the university’s actions pertaining to providing information to student-athlete 2 ahead of his sit-down with the NCAA, the Association found the football program guilty of three major violations (a fourth violation was attributed to the basketball program):

— Preferential treatment. [NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2.1.6]

In October 2009, a friend of an employee of a sports agency based in Atlanta, Georgia, provided a then football student-athlete (“student-athlete 1”) several items of clothing valued at approximately $312.

— Failure to cooperate. [NCAA Bylaws 19.01.3 and 32.1.4]

On November 16, 2009, the institution failed to protect the integrity of the investigation and violated the cooperative principle when, contrary to specific instructions from the NCAA enforcement staff, institution staff members spoke to 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.

— Failure to meet the conditions and obligations of membership. [NCAA Constitution 3.2.4.3 and Bylaw 14.11.1]

In late 2009, the institution failed to meet the conditions and obligations of membership in that the institution did not withhold student-athlete 1 from competition when the institution 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.

Additionally, a secondary violation was uncovered during the course of the NCAA’s investigation:

— 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 the institution’s athletics interests ($74).

As a result of those major violations, the Tech football program received the following sanctions:

— Public reprimand and censure.

— Four years of probation from July 14, 2011 through July 13, 2015. The public report further details the conditions of this probation.

— A $100,000 financial penalty.

— Head coach Paul Johnson will be required to “attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2012.”

— A vacation of all contests won by the football team during the 2009 season after November 24, which is when the university was alerted to the potential eligibility issues.

The latter penalty means that the Yellow Jackets will be forced to vacate their 2009 ACC title game win over Clemson.  If they had beaten Iowa in the Orange Bowl a month later, and if they hadn’t lost to Georgia the week prior to the ACC title game, those wins would’ve been vacated as well as the NCAA concluded they played two players whose eligibility would’ve been in doubt.

For the complete report, you can click HERE if you have a minute or sixty to kill.

The school is expected to address the NCAA’s report in a 4:30 ET press conference this afternoon.

Former Illini rushing leader announces intent to transfer from Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 3: Ke'Shawn Vaughn #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois.  Illinois defeated Nebraska 14-13. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images
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Illinois running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn is moving on from the Illini. The sophomore announced, via Twitter, he will transfer to a new school in 2017.

Vaughn rushed for a team-high 723 yards as a freshman in 2015 with a team-leading six rushing touchdowns. This past season saw Vaughn slip to third in rushing yards with 301 yards and three touchdowns behind Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin under new head coach Lovie Smith. Vaughn was slowed by some injury concerns in the 2016 season with a leg injury causing him to be taken out against Minnesota and limiting him to two rushing attempts for three yards in his final two games before not getting a rushing attempt against Iowa and not playing at all against Northwestern in the season finale.

With two years under his belt, Vaughn still has two years of eligibility to play and a redshirt season still available to use to preserve his eligibility. Should he transfer to another FBS program, NCAA transfer rules will prohibit him from playing this fall. He will be eligible to play immediately if he lands at a lower division school.

Pitt and UCF add home-and-home series for 2018 and 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 19:  James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrates his third quarter touchdown with teammates against the Duke Blue Devils at Heinz Field on November 19, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. James Conner became the ACC's all-time leader for total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Pitt Panthers have filled out their non-conference slate for the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the addition of a home-and-home series with UCF.

The scheduling deal, announced Thursday morning, confirm UCF will host Pitt on September 19, 2018. The Knights will make the trip to Pittsburgh the following season on September 21, 2019. The two schools have faced each other just once before, with the Panthers taking a blowout 52-7 victory in Orlando on October 13, 2006.

As a member of the ACC, Pitt is required to play one power conference opponent each season in its non-conference schedule. As much as the American Athletic Conference would like us to all believe the AAC is indeed a power conference, the addition of UCF does not satisfy Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement. However, Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement is met in 2018 with a home game against Penn State and a road game at Notre Dame (as part of the ACC’s rotating Notre Dame schedule) and with a road game at Penn State in 2019. The Panthers and Nittany Lions will play each other in 2017 as well in State College.

For UCF, the addition of Pitt to the future schedule continues to tack on power conference opponents in future seasons. UCF will play Georgia Tech and Maryland this coming season and will play at UNC in 2018 in addition to the newly added home game against Pitt. UCF also has Stanford and Texas on future schedules in addition to more games against UNC and Georgia Tech.

Mississippi lawmaker proposes bill to fine NCAA for extended investigation process

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2013, file photo, Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze leads his team to the field prior to their NCAA college football game against LSU  in Oxford, Miss. Mississippi has aspirations of competing for SEC titles. No. 11 Ole Miss (4-0, 1-0) plays No. 3 Alabama (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014,  in its biggest home game in more than a decade.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
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Politicians will always look for ways to play to their constituents, and that sometimes means tugging at the heartstrings of local sports fans. There is no other reason why a lawmaker in Mississippi is proposing a bill that aims to fine the NCAA for taking too long to conduct any investigation of a school within the state of Mississippi.

Representative Trey Lamar is endorsing a bill that provides a one-year limit for NCAA investigations after notifying the school of a pending investigation. A notice of allegations must then be presented within six months from the initial notice of a pending investigation.

It is worth remembering that Ole Miss remains under NCAA investigation for potential violations of NCAA rules. The investigation has been going on since last January and has cast a bit of a cloud of uncertainty over the entire Ole Miss football program. No hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions is currently scheduled for the program, leaving many following the Ole Miss program a tad frustrated.

The problem with NCAA investigations is there is no current structure for forming a definitive timeline of the investigation process, and each investigation is handled on a case-by-case basis with a different outcome and different allegations and charges in each. Because of that, investigations can drag on for extended period of times before the NCAA feels comfortable in its resolution.

How the state can actually fine the NCAA for taking longer than a year to complete an investigation is unknown, and perhaps not likely. But hey, Lamar will get the Ole Miss vote the next time he is on the ballot.

LSU dismisses nose guard Travonte Valentine

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03: Travonte Valentine #55 of the LSU Tigers awaits the snap against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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LSU has dismissed nose guard Travonte Valentine. The dismissal for a violation of team rules was announced Thursday night with an emailed release with head coach Ed Orgeron sharing a brief statement.

“At this point in time, Travonte is no longer part of our football program,” Orgeron said. “We wish him the best.”

Valentine played in five games for LSU last season as a sophomore, but he did not play in the final seven games of the season. Valentine faced some academic troubles at LSU last year that put his eligibility in question over the summer, but he worked to meet the academic requirements to play for LSU prior to the start of the 2016 season. Valentine also had to work through NCAA issues regarding academic concerns that prevented him from playing his freshman season.

LSU did not announce or confirm the reason for Valentine’s dismissal from the program other than to say it was for a violation of team rules.