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Thursday, November 17, 2005
Georgia Tech on probation for using ineligible athletes

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The NCAA placed Georgia Tech on two years of probation Thursday for using 17 academically ineligible athletes in four sports, including 11 in football.

It is the first time Georgia Tech has been placed on probation. The school had proposed self-imposed sanctions, including one year on probation.

Georgia Tech, which argued the violations were not intentional, is considering an appeal of the penalties.

"We are disappointed by the ruling of the NCAA Committee on Infractions," said Georgia Tech athletic director Dave Braine. "Yes, mistakes were made, but they were inadvertent and confined to a small number of cases when you consider that we reviewed more than 800 transcripts."

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions accepted the school's proposed scholarship reductions in football and men's and women's track. A violation also was found in the women's swimming program, but the swimmer involved was not on scholarship, so that program was not penalized with a scholarship reduction.

There were no TV or bowl restrictions placed on the football program.

Georgia Tech already reduced its 2005 football signing class by six and also will reduce its 2006 signing class by six.

The NCAA added a limit of 79 total grants-in-aid for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years in football, down from the normal limit of 85. Georgia Tech's self-imposed reduction of scholarships this year did not include a corresponding overall limit on scholarships.

There are 83 scholarship players on this year's football team.

Also, the NCAA vacated Tech's records in the sports between the 1998-99 and 2004-05 academic years and issued a public reprimand and censure.

Gene Marsh, a law professor at Alabama who chaired the investigating committee, said Tech's registrars and academic advisers were inadequately trained in NCAA regulations.

Marsh said the committee concluded the "institutional failure" to train the employees on NCAA rules "constitutes a non-debatable lack of institutional control."

Marsh said the committee was influenced by the fact some of the 11 football players, who were not named, were stars.

"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.

"It is impossible to say what part it played, but it did play a part," Marsh said.

Marsh said the committee found six student-athletes were allowed to count grades of D for satisfactory progress even though their majors required grades of C or better. Four were allowed to continue in athletics despite lacking the necessary percentage of degree requirements.

Braine said "it can't hurt" to appeal the penalties.

"We have this weekend to sleep on it," Braine said of the decision to appeal. "We'll make a decision early next week."

Added Braine: "Anytime you have to vacate records, that's something you really have to look at closely. ... The 79 [scholarship limits] hurt also."

The school has since hired a new official in the registrar's office whose main duty is to ensure that athletes meet the proper academic requirements.

"I do disagree vehemently when they say our academic people were not educated to the rules," Braine said.

Marsh said Tech "is a great school" which has made proper adjustments to avoid future violations.

"They have reason to be proud of their academic programs and they are on the right course," Marsh said. "I have faith in the plan they've put on the table."

The NCAA accepted Tech's self-imposed reductions of 3.90 scholarships in men's track and field and two scholarships in women's track and field for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years.

Tech also paid a $5,000 fine to the NCAA for allowing ineligible student-athletes to compete in NCAA championships and bowl games.