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Post How controversies get started

Tuesday May 6, 2008

Consider the news that has come out of Georgia Tech in the past two days:

  • First, the cause of the tragic death of baseball pitcher Michael Hutts was determined to be “accidental morphine toxicity.” In other words he overdosed, though the exact drug is not known yet.
  • Former star quarterback Joe Hamilton was hired by the football program less than two weeks ago as assistant director of player personnel. Monday night he was arrested for “marijuana possession, driving under the influence of alcohol and hit-and-run” near the Tech campus.
  • The AJC contrasts Tech’s drug testing policy with Georgia’s. Though there is no reason to doubt the integrity of Tech’s testing program, it looks weak next to Georgia’s.

    Punishment is quick and sure for athletes who fail a drug test at the University of Georgia. They’re suspended from competition. They’re ordered to perform 20 hours of community service. They’re required to pass two more drug screens before playing again.

    A third failed test? Permanent banishment.

    At Georgia Tech, a failed drug test sends an athlete to counseling. Three failures warrant a one-year suspension, but with the chance of returning — even, conceivably, for an athlete who fails more drug tests in the meantime.

Add three stories of such magnitude in such a short time frame, and Dan Radakovich has a certified headache on his hands. Whether any of the incidents were isolated won’t matter much. There will be editorials and increased scrutiny on Tech’s testing and hiring policies. That’s just the way the media works. Trust us. Some high-profile student deaths and arrests in Athens led to a campus-wide crackdown on student drinking and institutionalized penalties for student-athletes arrested for alcohol-related incidents.

Radakovich will likely feel some pressure to take action as the athletic program is hit with its biggest black eye since the academic scandal of 2005. Georgia’s president spearheaded its reaction, but Tech’s outstanding president Wayne Clough will be stepping down at the end of June. I expect Tech’s athletic director to be in the spotlight during this ongoing story.

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