• NCAA finds high-level recruiting violations at Georgia Tech

    By: Ken Sugiura, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , Nicole Carr

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - Georgia Tech has been served by the NCAA with a notice of allegations regarding alleged recruiting violations committed by former assistant basketball coach Darryl LaBarrie and Ron Bell, the former friend of coach Josh Pastner.

    The NCAA’s enforcement staff found two of the three allegations to constitute severe breaches of conduct (Level I violations), which are the highest level of violations in the NCAA’s structure.

    Tech has until May 16 to respond to the NCAA’s allegations.

    The NCAA found that in November 2016 – six months after his hire to join Pastner’s staff – LaBarrie took a prospect on an official visit and a team member to a strip club and facilitated an improper recruiting contact with a person described in the notice as a representative of the school’s athletics interest. It also found that the prospect and team member were provided by $300 cash, though not by LaBarrie. (All names in the report but LaBarrie’s and Bell’s were redacted.)


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    Further, the NCAA alleged that LaBarrie provided false or misleading information to the NCAA and institute regarding his knowledge and involvement of the violations alleged, attempted to influence the team member to provide false or misleading information and further tried to conceal his attempt to influence the team member.

    He did so, the NCAA found, even after being told not to speak with others about the matter. LaBarrie was placed on administrative leave in November 2017 and resigned later in the season.

    The NCAA found that LaBarrie’s actions may merit a show-cause order, meaning that any penalty assessed to him will follow him for a designated period of time no matter what school hires him.

    While Tech contended that Bell was not a booster, the NCAA found that he was a representative of the school’s athletics interest, which makes the violations that he committed – paying for flights for former team members Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson to visit him in Arizona – and his attempts to influence former Memphis player Markel Crawford to transfer to Tech while Crawford was still in school – actions taken on behalf of Tech

    The notice found that Bell provided Okogie and Jackson with shoes, clothing, meals and travel expenses worth in excess of $1,400 – evidence that Bell himself made public in November 2017 after his falling out with Pastner. The notice also alleged that Bell purchased plane tickets for Crawford – whose name is redacted, but Bell has documented his attempts to influence Crawford in his ongoing legal saga with Pastner – and his brother worth $883 before cancelling them when Crawford elected to transfer to Mississippi. The notice also stated that Bell sent hundreds of text messages to Crawford beginning in Feb. 6, 2017, while Crawford was still at Memphis.

    Tech will be required to provide a response to the NCAA regarding the veracity and agreement with the allegations. The school will have until May 16 to respond.

    The notice does not place blame upon Pastner or name him in the report. It cites “prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties” as a mitigating factor.

    Tech provided a copy of the notice of allegations in response to an inquiry from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying:

    “The Georgia Institute of Technology is announcing Friday that it has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA.

    “The notice, which alleges three violations of NCAA rules within Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball program, was received following a joint review by Georgia Tech and the NCAA. A notice of allegations is a step in the NCAA’s process of investigating potential rules violations, but the process is ongoing. Georgia Tech has until May 16, 2019, to respond to the allegations. 

    “Because the NCAA process remains open, Georgia Tech will not have further comment at this time.” 

    In addition to the NCAA investigation, there’s new civil litigation tied to Bell and Pastner.

    Soon after Bell did an interview with Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr, Pastner filed a defamation suit against the Arizona man, claiming an extortion attempt.

    That snowballed into a counterclaim, with Bell’s girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, accusing Pastner of sexual assault.

    Bell, who believes Pastner’s attorneys were behind his 2018 extradition to Cobb County on decades-old misdemeanor charges, appeared to unravel in jailhouse phone calls with Pendley, suggesting the sexual assault claims were not true.

    In counterclaims, Bell’s attorneys also asked the court to review text message communications between Pastner, his wife, Bell and others to prove Pastner’s orchestration of Bell’s recruiting efforts.

    The NCAA has determined Bell was indeed acting on behalf of the basketball program and that Pastner would have been aware of this.

    That litigation is pending, while a lawsuit filed last month adds to the legal troubles. Bell is suing Pastner and his legal team, composed of Scott Palumbo and Scott Tompsett.

    It alleges abuse of power, threats to people involved in the civil litigation and an attempt to concoct a public attack against Bell.

    This week, an attorney for Palumbo and Tompsett demanded the suit be dropped within 10 days of letter receipt, calling the allegations baseless and vowing to continue representation in the civil claims.

    “The lawsuit was brought for an improper purpose and the claims are not warranted by existing, non-frivolous law,” the letter to Bell’s attorney reads. “The improper purpose which motivates the lawsuit is clearly an attempt to manufacture a conflict of interest resulting in the disqualification of Mr. Palumbo.”

    Ken Sugiura with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr contributed to this article.

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