Almost two years to the day since the NCAA notified Georgia Tech officials of a possible rules violation, the school will conclude the appeal of its vacated 2009 ACC football title at an in-person hearing Sunday in Indianapolis.
Athletic director Dan Radakovich and president G.P. “Bud” Peterson, along with Tech’s retained counsel, are to represent the school at the hearing. Tech is contesting findings that it failed to meet the conditions and obligations of NCAA membership and failed to cooperate in an investigation into possible impermissible benefits violations regarding two former football players, as well as the penalty of the removal of the 2009 ACC title.
Tech conceded procedural mistakes in the investigation, but “did not act with any intent to violate NCAA Bylaws,” the school wrote in an Oct. 25 rebuttal filed with the NCAA infractions appeals committee, obtained through an open-records request. “Yet that intent is what the Committee on Infractions concluded. Simply put, Georgia Tech does not deserve the labels placed on it by the COI.”
School officials will not comment on the appeal until a verdict is returned, which may take months. Tech has retained the Birmingham law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White, which includes Gene Marsh, a former chairman of the infractions committee. The appeals committee consists of five members, four from NCAA member universities and conferences and one from the general public.
Statistically speaking, chances of a successful appeal are slim. Since the NCAA heightened standards for the appeals committee to overturn findings or penalties in 2008, only Alabama State’s 2009 appeal has been granted, a rate of less than 10 percent. The attorney in the Alabama State appeal, Michael Buckner, said that the standards are such that the appeals committee could even agree with Tech’s arguments, but still not overturn the findings or penalty.
Tech contends that the committee on infractions wrongly concluded that the school intentionally frustrated the NCAA’s investigation and sought to manipulate information regarding potential violations by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in order to justify playing him in three games, including the ACC title game.
Buckner said that Tech’s assertion that it acted in good faith and did not intend to violate NCAA bylaws may not win the day.
“That’s probably something that the appeals committee may say, ‘Look, you guys made that decision [to play Thomas], you guys have to suffer the consequences,’” Buckner said.
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