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.

Northwestern remembers Randy Walker 10 years after his passing

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Ten years ago Wednesday, the college football world was rocked by the unexpected and sudden loss of Northwestern coach Randy Walker.

The athletics department produced a touching video tribute to the man who suffered a heart attack at the age of 52, seven years into his tenure in Evanston.

Walker’s death unexpectedly thrust a young former Wildcats linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald into the head coach’s chair.

“I would prefer to be toasting to his longevity right now,” Fitzgerald says in the video.

Walker posted a 37-45 mark at Northwestern, including a surprising 8-4 campaign in 2000.

That followed a successful nine-year run at Miami University, the southwest Ohio school where he was a player.

Report: Ole Miss violations laid out to NCAA by stepfather of Laremy Tunsil

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The Mississippi football program might not find out its NCAA fate very soon, but the rest of the world learned more specifics regarding the accusations the Rebels face Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated published the results of its investigation, including specific allegations levied by a man in the process of getting a divorce from the mother of star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil.

Lindsey Miller detailed several potentially serious violations involving Tunsil and his family, and SI was able to view some of the information he says he turned over to the NCAA during extensive interviews.

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations is consistent with Miller’s claims in numerous places, including 12 occasions of free lodging that totaled $2,253. Miller says he told the NCAA those nights were arranged by boosters he met through [Mississippi DL coach Chris] Kiffin, but the NCAA never found that link. Kiffin’s name appears 13 times in the Notice of Allegations, but none of those prove he set Miller up with boosters.

Tunsil was part of a surprisingly star-studded recruiting class in 2013, but head coach Hugh Freeze has consistently defended his program against accusations his recruiting success was thanks to illegal methods.

Freeze, who took over as coach in December 2011, may minimize the NCAA’s case, but nine of the 13 football allegations relate to his tenure there. (Four allegations, including fraudulent ACT scores, occurred under former coach Houston Nutt.) There are four Level I violations under Freeze and a significant Level II failure to monitor charge in which the NCAA says the athletic department and football program failed to monitor Tunsil driving three different loaner cars between August 2014 and June 2015. (That latter allegation is the one Ole Miss is disputing.)

Perhaps complicating matters is the fact Miller went to the NCAA only after having a fallout with Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo, during the summer of 2015.

Polingo denied Miller’s accusations via a statement to SI, and in another statement a lawyer for Tunsil told SI, “You have to consider the source.”

Mississippi has already admitted to 12 of the 13 allegations and self-imposed penalties, but it remains to be seen if the NCAA Committee on Infractions will find the punishment sufficient or more is added.

The full SI story goes into deeper detail about the situations facing not only Ole Miss athletics but also the NCAA enforcement model itself.

NCAA announces common-sense change to bowl selection process

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Andy Janovich #35 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers jumps over Jayon Brown #12 of the UCLA Bruins during the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NCAA Division I council announced 5-7 teams will still have a chance to make a bowl this fall.

They will have to wait until all of the 6-6 teams have been picked, though.

The common sense rule tweak was announced Wednesday.

Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State all made bowls last season despite finishing the regular season 5-7, and coincidentally they all won.

In a statement, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who serves as chair of the football oversight committee, said the postseason selection process “makes sense and is fair to the schools and the bowls.”

APR scores will continue to be used to designate which 5-7 teams are eligible to take up the bowl slots left available after all of the 6-6 teams have been selected.

After swelling to 41 games last season, the postseason is not set to expand again until at least the 2020 season as a result of a moratorium on the certification of new bowls was established by the council in April.

NCAA inquires about additional Sandusky victims from Penn State lawsuit

BELLEFONTE, PA - OCTOBER 09: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years and not more that 60 years in prison for his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including while he was the defensive coordinator for the Penn State college football team. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Penn State and Joe Paterno‘s family have already done their part to return the tragic Jerry Sandusky saga to the news this year.

Now the NCAA apparently wants to join in.

The Centre Daily Times reports the college sports governing body has requested information regarding two men allegedly victimized by Sandusky, a long-time Penn State assistant coach, in the 1970s.

Their stories came to light in a court filing from a lawsuit involving Penn State and an insurer. The school tried to collect on a policy to help pay settlements it reached with more than 30 individuals who accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them.

The university tried to recoup money for those settlements from liability insurer Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, but PMA challenged that in court. The two men’s cases were revealed in an order by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer that referenced their cases, years earlier than the 10 Sandusky was convicted of in 2012. One said he told Paterno.

The CDT story does not give any indication the NCAA might want to revisit the sanctions that were handed down in 2012.

Rather, it is looking for defense fodder in a defamation lawsuit filed by the family of Paterno, the legendary Nittany Lions head coach

The estate claims the college sports oversight group defamed the man who helmed the program from 1966 until his firing in 2011 after the Sandusky story broke.

A key point is the NCAA’s acceptance of the findings of the Freeh report, the university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal, which placed blame on four Penn State leaders, including Paterno, who died six months before it was released. The NCAA then levied historic sanctions on the university, including stripping 110 wins from the Nittany Lions, dropping Paterno from first place in the leaderboard for most wins by a Division 1 coach.

But in new documents, the NCAA says it needs the information about the two claimants to refute the estate’s defamation claims.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012, and some of the sanctions Penn State agreed to accept from the NCAA were gradually lifted in the following years.

While Sandusky reportedly continues to work on getting his convictions overturned, it’s not hard to imagine Sandusky’s victims and plenty of members of the Penn State community would prefer to move on from the tragedy — allowing both time to heal in whatever way is possible.

The same can most likely be said of current coach James Franklin, who took the job two-plus years ago after coach Bill O’Brien endured the brunt of the storm and maintained solid recruiting despite the sanctions.

During the spring, Franklin told CBSSports.com, “This is really year one for us in a lot of ways,” citing a return to having close to a full allotment of scholarships.