NCAA Sanctions Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech men's basketball team is banned from participating in postseason play in 2019-20 and placed on four-year probation for multiple recruitment violations.

September 27, 2019
 
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Josh Pastner, head coach of Georgia Tech men's basketball

Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team is banned from postseason competition this year and will be on probation for four years for several recruitment violations during 2016 and 2017, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Thursday.

According to a report by the NCAA Division I infractions committee, Josh Pastner, head coach of the Yellow Jackets, and Darryl LaBarrie, the former assistant coach, permitted boosters from outside the organization to participate in "impermissible recruitment efforts." The infractions included LaBarrie organizing a night out at an Atlanta strip club for a high school recruit, and booster who was a friend of Pastner’s giving more than $2,000 in gifts to a potential transfer recruit and other Yellow Jacket team members, the report states. The NCAA started investigating the allegations against Georgia Tech in 2017.

"We took swift action when we learned of these rules violations and cooperated fully with the NCAA investigation," Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech's athletics director, said in a statement. "As part of this two-year process, we have reiterated throughout our organization that violations of NCAA rules will not be tolerated and have implemented a series of additional educational measures and reviews within our standard processes that emphasize our commitment to complying with NCAA rules."

Still, Stansbury said the sanctions were too harsh and that the university would consider appealing parts of the decision.

“While we regret that these violations have occurred and appreciate the NCAA Committee on Infractions’ work on this case, we are disappointed with the severity of the penalties imposed, some of which will have a direct and unfair impact on current student-athletes,” he said.

Georgia Tech terminated LaBarrie in December 2017, and Pastner was given "verbal and written admonishment," according to an official statement from Georgia Tech. The institution imposed its own sanctions on some members of the men's basketball team involved in the violations during the 2017-18 season, requiring them to sit out 11 games, Mike Flynn, assistant athletic director for communications and public relations, wrote in an email.

LaBarrie was sanctioned for lying about his knowledge of the violations to the NCAA during initial interviews that were part of the NCAA investigation. The committee also found that he instructed a student athlete who was hosting the recruit to lie to investigators about the November 2016 strip club visit. Georgia Tech must cut all association with LaBarrie for three years, and he is prohibited from being involved in athletics at any NCAA member institution for three years unless the institution successfully appeals this sanction.

The recruit who was taken to the strip club was identified in news reports as current NBA rookie Wendell Carter Jr., who plays for the Chicago Bulls. When he was being recruited, he was taken to the home of Jarrett Jack, a former star player at Georgia Tech who played for the Atlanta Hawks at the time. Jack, a Yellow Jackets booster, gave $600 in cash to Carter, who was 17, and took him to an "adult entertainment club," the report states.

Carter did not end up attending Georgia Tech. Instead, he played for Duke University’s men’s basketball team for one year before entering the NBA in 2018, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The NCAA committee said it found the actions of Georgia Tech Athletics representatives especially egregious.

“It is particularly abhorrent in the recruiting process where coaches and others in a position of trust are responsible for the well-being of high school students visiting their campus,” the report states.

The NCAA labeled the strip club visit a Level I violation -- the highest of three infraction levels the organization can file. This was not the first time that a college sports team attempted to entice a recruit with adult entertainers. The committee referenced cases at the University of Louisville, the University of Miami and the University of Alabama where university officials hired strippers and sex workers for recruits during visits, in some cases even inviting the adult entertainers to university campuses and dorms. All three of these infractions also led to Level I violations, according to the report.

The violations involving Pastner's friend Ron Bell occurred in 2017. The NCAA reports states that Bell gave a recruit shoes and clothes and paid for a trip to Bell’s home in Arizona -- actions labeled by the NCAA as Level II violations. The recruit was on the men’s basketball team at the University of Memphis, where Pastner had previously coached. Bell "overextended his personal relationship with the transfer student-athlete … by regularly attempting to recruit him to Georgia Tech," the report states. Pastner knew of Bell’s communication with the transfer recruit -- which is also a violation of NCAA rules for boosters -- but did not report it to the association because he did not consider Bell a booster at the time, the committee’s investigation found.

Once Pastner learned of the gifts and trip Bell arranged for the Memphis recruit and two Yellow Jacket student athletes, he reported the conduct to the NCAA. None of the NCAA’s nine sanctions against the men’s basketball program were directed specifically at Pastner, and he remains the head coach.

In addition to the four-year probation period, postseason ban and other sanctions related to LaBarrie’s employment, Georgia Tech’s recruitment for the men's basketball team will be limited for the upcoming season, and the university will be charged $5,000, plus 2 percent of the men’s basketball program budget. The program will also lose one scholarship, and official recruitment visits will be reduced by three. Additionally, team coaches will have 111 days instead of 130 to meet with recruits off-campus.

The three student athletes involved in the recruitment violations were found to be ineligible to play during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the report states. Georgia Tech must determine and submit a record of the games that the athletes played while ineligible by Oct. 10. The institution must also disassociate with Jack and LaBarrie for three years and with Bell indefinitely.

The four-year probation period will put the entire athletics department “under a microscope,” said Benjamin Buchanan, a lecturer at Ohio State University and a former OSU football player, who analyzed the impact of NCAA sanctions against athletics departments in a 2018 dissertation.

He argued that while the NCAA sanctions are designed to send a strong message and deter similar rule violations, the sanctions can also hurt student athletes who were not involved in the violations.

“Rules are good and we should have rules,” Buchanan said. “But it’s who are you punishing -- it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all policy. It should be a tailored policy.”

Joel Maturi, the chief hearing officer for the NCAA committee, emphasized during a telephone press conference that the organization looks at every infraction on a case-by-case basis. Five other athletics department and university officials from across the NCAA’s membership were on the panel that ruled on Georgia Tech’s violations.

“Quite frankly, if you’ve looked at the penalties we’ve prescribed to the institution, they’re actually at the lower level,” Maturi said.

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