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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Friday, November 18, 2005

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Just days after extending perennial seven-game winner Chan Gailey's contract, Georgia Tech will have to wipe a bunch of those games out of the "W" column due to the participation of unnamed academically ineligible individuals:
Georgia Tech has received the first NCAA probation in its history and must wipe years of football wins and losses off its record books because of the school's failure to declare 17 athletes in four sports academically ineligible, the NCAA announced Thursday.

The NCAA accepted Tech's self-imposed scholarship cuts, including the loss of six potential signees in the 2005 and 2006 football recruiting classes. The infractions committee added a limit of 79 total football scholarships for the 2006 and 2007 teams, six below the normal Division I-A maximum. The probation is two years.
In its ruling, the NCAA stated that the "institution shall vacate the performance of its football team for all contests in which the 11 ineligible athletes competed."

And further clarification:
Officially, at least, Georgia Tech's Jan. 1, 1999, Gator Bowl victory over Notre Dame never happened, nor did the Jan. 1, 2000 Gator Bowl loss to Miami, or the 2000 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl loss to LSU, or the 2001 Seattle Bowl victory over Stanford, or the 2002 Silicon Valley Classic loss to Fresno State.

Those games all have been "vacated," the NCAA infractions committee announced Thursday, because the school played academically ineligible players.

Vacating isn't the same as forfeiting. Instead, it's as if those games never happened. Tech must alter its records accordingly, but the teams Tech beat don't get victories, and the standings don't change. The school will have to take down signs commemorating games in which ineligible players participated.

Ineligible players competed in 72 football games, including the entire 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 seasons, 12 of the 13 games in 2001 and the first 11 games in 2004. It wasn't immediately known which game in 2001 did not include an ineligible player, and it might not make a difference.

That's because the infractions report says Tech "shall vacate the performance of its football team for all contests during the football seasons in which" the ineligible players "competed while ineligible." That doesn't say "all contests in which" the ineligible players "competed while ineligible." It says all contests during those seasons.

Tech officials were still trying to figure out exactly what it all means.

"I don't know what to tell you on that," sports publicist Allison George said when asked if Tech will still be allowed to claim its 1998 ACC title.

Infractions committee chairman Gene Marsh said conference standings aren't realigned because of vacated games, but he didn't specifically address conference championships and admitted that the details surrounding the meaning of "vacate" usually require several conversations between the school and NCAA staffers.

Tech must vacate at least 47 victories and 24 losses.

Chan Gailey, who used to be 27-20 at Tech, is now officially 14-9 or 13-9.

George O'Leary, who used to be 52-33 at Tech, now officially won 18 or 19 games and lost 13 or 14.

And Mac McWhorter, interim head coach for the 2001 Seattle Bowl victory, might now officially never have coached at all.

The infractions committee doesn't automatically force schools to vacate games in which ineligible players participate but chose to do so in Tech's case partly because of the "significant competitive advantage" the Yellow Jackets received from those players, Marsh said.

"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 in a statement.

Tech and the NCAA have withheld the players' identities, citing academic privacy laws. The records of players who participated in vacated games won't be affected, even for the players who should have been ruled ineligible. Marsh said that was because the school, rather than the players, was at fault.
"How many games did you play in at Georgia Tech, daddy?"

"Well, uh, technically, son, zero."

SMQ thinks the offending players should be cited here, for G-Tech has had many "prominent members of the team, including multiple-year starters who had received conference and national recognition for their athletic performances," and it's not fair that the innocent here will be presumed guilty. Who are we talking about? Calvin Johnson? Eric Henderson? Reggie Ball? Dawan Landry? Tony Hollings? Who? By not saying who should have been inelgible, the NCAA's casting doubt on the performance of every player - especially the good ones, by specifically saying some of the players were good - and that's not fair to the guys who have met their academic obligations.

Anyway, the idea that a game can just be voided, as if it never happened, is a fairly insane one. This going to be the official record? Will Georgia Tech's future media guides merely skip over results of the years in which offending individuals participated? SMQ has never liked the idea of forfeiting, but it makes a bit more sense - the record at least then says 'Here's what happened, but one team cheated so, even though it probably didn't affect the outcome, they still lost, even though they really won.' That makes sense, though in a kind of uneasy way. The record of an official game that was played with great effort and fanfare completely vanishing doesn't make sense.

A forfeit is insulting, but completely outlawing a game's official existence is a real slap in the face to a bunch of people who put a lot of honest effort into those contests. Scholarships and bowl bans, even forfeits, seem very much preferrable. Just tell us: who screwed up?
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1:52 PM

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