ATLANTA — In a blow to the Georgia Tech athletics program, the NCAA has imposed a four-year probation period, recruiting restrictions, scholarship cuts and a postseason ban on the men's basketball program.
The infractions are tied to illegal recruitment efforts, including player perks, a visit to a strip club, recreational money for a top recruit and other violations.They implicate a booster, former assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie and Ron Bell, a former friend of head coach Josh Pastner.
The latter relationship has been embroiled in civil defamation lawsuit claiming that Pastner moved to settle last month, right before the case was set to go trial in Arizona.
Despite what's taken place over the past two years, Georgia Tech officials say they're standing by Pastner, and are exploring options to appeal what they've called severe penalties.
An NCAA infractions committee head said the penalties are in line with past punishments for similar offenses.
"As athletics director and an alumnus, I regret and I am embarrassed that these violations occurred at Georgia Tech and agree with the NCAA that these actions have no place in collegiate athletics,"
Georgia Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury said in a statement and during a press call Thursday.
"In the two years since I have been back as athletics director, I have been committed to NCAA rules compliance and ethical behavior as an integral part of our culture at Georgia Tech as I have throughout my entire career. We took swift action when we learned of these rules violations and cooperated fully with the NCAA investigation. As part of this two-year process, we have reiterated throughout our organization that violations of NCAA rules will not be tolerated and have implemented a series of additional educational measures and reviews within our standard processes that emphasize our commitment to complying with NCAA rules."
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In a report released Thursday afternoon, NCAA investigators found LaBarrie spearheaded a strip club visit for a top recruit, and allowed a Tech alum and local NBA player to woo him.
They are claims LaBarrie denied earlier in the year, following his resignation.
The investigation found that Pastner eventually reported Bell's recruitment efforts to them, but initially did not believe Bell rose to booster status. Pastner told investigators that's why he did not report to them earlier than the fall of 2017.
That's when Bell told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr that he'd been instructed and guided by Pastner in providing thousands of dollars worth of material and travel perks for recruits. He'd revealed the efforts because he was upset he had not landed a job with the Tech program, something Bell said Pastner had promised him.
Pastner denied knowledge of the ongoing recruitment efforts and sued Bell for defamation in early 2018. It was followed by a counter-claim by Bell's girlfriend, accusing Pastner of sexual assault.
The cases eventually fizzled. Last month, just as the case was set for trial, Pastner offered settlement in the defamation suit that he filed. His legal team cited the costly efforts.
A Channel 2/Atlanta-Journal Constitution investigation earlier this summer found Pastner did not fully disclose his relationship with Bell to NCAA investigators.
Ultimately, Pastner was not named as an offender in the NCAA investigation. Stansbury said he'd spoken the Pastner about allowing Bell access to the program and team, but no disciplinary action came out of any of it. Stansbury also told Carr he did not believe the civil litigation and press surrounding the program led to the severity of penalties.
An alum who joined the media conference call Thursday challenged Tech's decision to keep Pastner around given concerns about program reputation.
"I'm curious as to why you have not chosen to replace him because this could be devastating to our basketball program and to our overall sports," the man said.
"I guess my answer to that is both our internal investigation and the NCAA investigation both cleared Josh of any violations of NCAA rules," Stansbury replied.
Stansbury also told Carr he is concerned about program perception and future recruitment efforts amid the negative findings.
"That's obviously a major concern and that's also the reason why we, one, we want to make sure we do everything we do to work with the NCAA in cases like this, and basically make sure the NCAA and our constituents all know this is not acceptable at Georgia Tech. This is not the way we do business," Stansbury said.
Cox Media Group