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Eagles to retain 2014 Sun Belt Championship
But GS must vacate 3 wins from 2013, 2014 seasons, NCAA says

Earlier this month, the NCAA handed down sanctions to Georgia Southern's football program stemming from two separate incidents of academic impropriety during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The only loose end stemming from those sanctions - an exact count on the number of wins the Eagles must vacate - was tied up Friday afternoon. Georgia Southern announced that it will be vacating wins against Savannah State and St. Francis (Pa.) from 2013, as well as the 2014 season finale against UL Monroe.

While the announcement will strike three victories off the Eagles' all-time record, the 2014 Sun Belt Conference championship - which was clinched against UL Monroe - will still stand and the championship banner will still fly at Paulson Stadium.

Another important point in the investigation and sanctions is that there will be no restriction on the Eagles in regards to bowl eligibility. As an up-and-coming FBS program in the middle of one of the most successful transitions ever into college football's top tier, the Eagles' inaugural bowl game - and win - over Bowling Green last December has been heralded as a seminal moment for the program. The ability to continue participating in the postseason is seen as essential to the program's continued journey into the FBS, making three lost wins of the past a sigh of relief compared to what could have become of the NCAA's investigation.

"While it is disappointing to vacate these three victories, we get to put this chapter behind us," Director of Athletics Tom Kleinlein said in a statement released by Georgia Southern Athletic Media Relations Friday. "The student-athletes on this year's football team, and teams moving forward, are not affected by the NCAA's ruling and our goals are still in front of us. In addition to graduating student-athletes and developing leaders, we look forward to competing for conference championships and bowl berths this season and in the future.

"Compliance and academic integrity are of the utmost importance here at Georgia Southern; we will continue to reinforce these values and ensure that our department is operating in a manner that consistently upholds the proud tradition of this University."

With a fine and restrictions on scholarships, recruiting visits and player evaluations already in place, Friday's vacating of those three victories will satisfy all punitive damages levied by the NCAA.

The incidents leading up to this resolution were perpetrated by a pair of former Georgia Southern athletic department employees, as well as three former Eagle players.

In the first incident, an assistant compliance director provided a football player with a flash drive containing previous coursework for a class in which the student-athlete was enrolled. The player then resubmitted the work already contained on the flash drive as his own.

The second incident occurred when a Student Athlete Services employee completed and submitted extra credit assignments on behalf of two players in an attempt to earn the players passing grades in a course. Despite the fact that neither player was aware of the employee's actions, the illegal academic assistance made them ineligible to compete and caused the Eagles to nullify their win over UL Monroe.

Aside from the penalties already put in place by the NCAA, Georgia Southern will also be on probation throughout the next two seasons. If no other infractions occur in that time frame, the three wins surrendered on Friday will be the final chapter in the matter.

Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.


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