I was willing to let the Tech infractions story come and go last week. After all, I’m sympathetic to the gripes. The initial violation (on the football side anyway) was sketchy. As the institute’s president admitted, it’s likely that the eligibility issue would have been resolved quickly had Tech done things the right way and acted immediately and honestly when the possible violation was brought to their attention.
I was also willing to let the players have their say. Having an accomplishment like a conference title removed from the record naturally provokes an emotional response from those who worked to make it happen. Relax, guys. No one is coming for your rings.
But it’s becoming evident that the program just can’t let it go. And it’s evident that this attitude starts at the top. Paul Johnson right in this respect: no one can take the memories of the accomplishment away, demonstrating how toothless the concept of vacating wins really is. And no one is coming for his ring either (again with this strawman). We pointed out that going forward Tech is in as good of a position as they could expect to be. They don’t face any kind of operational restrictions going forward other than the probation which simply requires them to do things by the book – the same requirement any school has. There is no bowl ban, no restrictions on recruiting, and no loss of scholarships. LSU – a school lauded by the NCAA for their cooperation – could only hope to be positioned as well after hearing their own sanctions.
Johnson’s subsequent tantrum directed at the NCAA though is something I’d expect from an irrational blind-loyalist fan and not from someone charged with teaching his players larger lessons about accountability. Tyler does a good job of dealing with one of Johnson’s most absurd points. Of course Tech gained an advantage by playing Thomas at the end of the year. The ACC championship win, in which Thomas’s long touchdown played a big part, meant millions of dollars for the school. Put another way, is there any way the absence of the team’s best (and only effective) receiver wouldn’t have been a disadvantage?
There’s a common theme in Johnson’s and Sean Bedford’s gripe: the verdict is not fair to everyone who worked so hard and did things the right way. Bedford states:
I have a hard time grasping the notion that one of the proudest moments in my life (and the lives of every other individual that was a part of the team and program in 2009) is apparently worth $312 in your eyes. If that truly is the case, I’d be happy to provide you with that same amount of money (cash or check, your choice) in exchange for the reinstatement of the title my teammates and I earned through our blood, sweat and tears.
It’s understandable why Bedford would lash out at the guys meting out justice at the end of this investigation. But his questions shouldn’t stop with the “pencil pushers” he belittles in his response. He’s right that this all started over a mere $312. Evidently one of his teammates thought so little of everyone’s “blood, sweat and tears” that he was willing to throw it all away over $312 in clothing. Evidently those responsible for the stewardship of his program would put such a promising season at risk by sweeping such a small violation under the rug with the season’s three biggest games looming.
Heather Dinich sums it up: “instead of accepting the penalties and moving on, Georgia Tech has taken the Bedford approach – win as a team, lose as individuals.” Be mad at the NCAA if you like, but your anger should really be directed at the teammates and administrators who let you down.