The penalties, some of which were self-imposed by the institution and adopted by the committee, are below. Additional details are available in the public report.
• Public reprimand and censure.
• Two years of probation (January 20, 2010, to January 19, 2012).
• Five-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach (January 20, 2010, to January 19, 2015).
• Two-year show-cause order for the former director of basketball operations (January 20, 2010, to January 19, 2012).
• Reduction of basketball scholarships by one for the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years.
• During the 2009-10 academic year, the number of official recruiting visits for men's basketball shall be reduced by four from the maximum of 12 (self-imposed by the university).
• Vacation of all wins in which the two academically ineligible student-athletes competed during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 men's basketball seasons. Details of this vacation penalty are included in the public report (self-imposed by the university).
When the National Collegiate Athletic Association presented its findings of an investigation spurring from allegations dating back to the 2007-08 Georgia Southern men's basketball season, the university was glad it was finally over.
While the NCAA found Georgia Southern guilty of “major violations,” both the report and Paul Dee, the chair of the Committee of Infractions for the NCAA, stated the NCAA's appreciation of GSU's administration for its cooperation throughout the investigation.
“I would like to thank the institution for their quick action when they discovered this information and for their cooperation during the investigation,” said Dee during a Wednesday teleconference, “and for their assistance to the enforcement staff, in particular (former) president Dr. (Bruce) Grube … for his activities and his leadership.”
The violations were academic in nature, and Georgia Southern placed self-imposed penalties on itself after discovery of facts stemming from the investigation.
Despite the self-imposed sanctions, first-year coach Charlton Young, who inherited the program after the events took place, recruited his first class - which was rated No. 1 in the Southern Conference by ESPN - under the university's self-imposed sanctions in place from the violations of the previous coaching staff.
“It comes down to trust,” Young said about his highly-touted recruits. “My coaching staff - Steve Smith, Chris Kreider, Pershin Williams - are tremendous young recruiters. They do a great job of building relationships with families. I think they trust us when we tell them, 'Listen, this situation is going to work out. We'll have postseason. We'll have stipulations, they may take one or two scholarships, but in the long run, you're going to be able to play for a championship here. We're going to take care of your son, and we're going to get him ready for life after basketball.'”
The university took away one scholarship per season for two seasons, vacated all wins from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons during which two academically ineligible players, Trumaine Pearson and Julian Allen, participated, and reduced the number of coaching visits to recruits from 12 to eight, a restriction in place for the 2009-10 season.
In addition to the self-imposed penalties, the NCAA placed GSU men's basketball on a two-year probation, in effect through January 19, 2012. During the probationary period, according to Dee, the University is on special notice and must provide the NCAA with annual reports regarding compliance. A post-season ban is not included in the probation.
The penalties also include “public reprimand and censure.”
The NCAA also added an additional year of the loss of one scholarship, reducing GSU's allotment of scholarships by one per season through the 2012 academic year.
The university also lost one scholarship due to unrelated Academic Progress Rate restrictions.
The NCAA initially became involved in the investigation when the father of former player Jared Collins sent a letter to Georgia Southern officials on Dec. 1, 2008 alleging academic misconduct among specific coaches and players. Georgia Southern notified the Southern Conference of the accusations, and Grube put together a four-person panel to take charge of the internal investigation.
The investigation implicated two basketball assistants in the violations - a former assistant coach and a former director of men's basketball operations. In an interview with the Statesboro Herald prior to the release of the investigation's findings, Collins implicated former assistant coach Nolan Myrick.
The director of men's basketball operations during the 2007-08 season was John Miller.
Former head coach Jeff Price, who resigned on March 30, 2009, was not named for violations in the report.
The report from the NCAA states that during summer and fall 2008 terms, the former assistant coach provided and in some cases completed course work for two students, including “providing short-answers, participating in required online chats for one of the student-athletes, and providing papers, essays, and tests for both student-athletes.”
The report goes on to say that the former director of operations was assigned by the assistant to handle the course work of one of the accused students. The former director recalled in the report “writing two or three papers, eight to 10 pages in length, and spending many hours in the library researching topics.”
Georgia Southern has taken steps to prevent situations like this from arising again, including stripping all coaches of study hall and tutoring duties.
The bottom line however, according to GSU athletics director Sam Baker, is that the only way to control academic misconduct at all levels is to ensure the right staff is in place.
“The situation is never going to present itself again where coaches can do this as a study hall situation,” Baker said. “If someone wants to cheat, unfortunately in life, there's opportunities where somebody can go cheat. You're never going to stop somebody if they have no integrity, that's for sure. … It doesn't matter who the person is - if you want to cheat, unfortunately, you can find a way.
“If anything, it made us all cognizant that people can go bad, no matter the situation.”
The investigation never revealed why the misconduct occurred in the first place.
“I think the advent of online classes and the pressure of APR possibly led to this,” Baker said. “We'll never know, because the individual didn't answer those questions as to why.”
On February 5, 2009, Georgia Southern suspended three basketball players - Pearson, Allen and Antoine Johnson - and Myrick was suspended and placed on administrative leave. Johnson was cleared of all allegations and reinstated to the team on March 26, 2009 after missing the final 10 games of the 2008-09 season.
“It's unfortunate,” said Baker about Johnson's suspension and subsequent reinstatement. “I've spoken to A.J. on occasion, and it was just one of those things where you wanted to err on the side of being cautious, and once we found out the truth, finally got people to tell the truth, we realized that it wasn't the case.”
The report indicates that the assistant submitted his resignation on March 25, 2009, and on March 31, his resignation was rejected and he was terminated for cause.
The report states that in addition to penalties imposed on GSU, there will be a “five-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach (January 20, 2010, to January 19, 2015)” and a “two-year show-cause order for the former director of basketball operations (January 20, 2010, to January 19, 2012).” These penalties state that “these two individuals' recruiting and other duties must be limited at their present and any future employing institutions.”
The report also found that GSU “failed to monitor the university's basketball program,” stating that the assignment of the former assistant to “oversight responsibility of academics for the men's basketball program … went beyond normal boundaries for a coach and included unfettered access to the men's basketball student-athletes' online academic accounts and contact with professors.”
The report states, “Among other factors, the committee found the evidence reflected that the university's compliance program resources were limited, resulting in a lack of time and personnel to monitor the former assistant coach.”
The first step taken by GSU was the creation of the position of a full-time director of academic services, a position formerly under director of compliance Keith Roughton's umbrella.
“I think we realized that we were trying to do a lot with too little,” said Baker. “Sometimes that does come back to haunt you. That was the one part we felt hurt us. While the enforcement staff didn't feel like there was a lack of monitoring, the committee did, and that's what they imposed upon us.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.