Proud Georgia Tech again stands embarrassed

Georgia Tech graduates have reason to be proud. They gained admittance to one of the nation’s most prestigious technical institutions. They put in their four years and passed the dreaded calculus and emerged with a degree that leaps off a LinkedIn page.

Like all grads of all schools, Tech folks revel in their alma mater’s athletic achievements, though Techies tend to be measured in their strutting. They grasp that Tech cannot recruit the same football talent as colleges offering broader-based curriculum. They don’t demand championships every year. They can be placated, if not always pleased, in knowing that their programs are well run.

Which is why this latest round of NCAA probation — the third since 2005 — is enough to make Tech alums cry, in the words of the thespian Slim Pickens: “What in the wide, wide world of sports is goin’ on here?”

Already serving four years’ probation for bungling the investigation involving $312 of clothing, Tech itself has tacked on two more for the improper making and monitoring of phone calls and text messages from coaches to recruits. Once again, the Jackets were poorly served by administrators charged with preventing such gaffes.

According to documents obtained by the AJC’s Ken Sugiura, Tech coaches told the NCAA that they were given incorrect instruction regarding the calls/messages by compliance officer Paul Parker, who would soon leave for Auburn. (The same Sugiura broke the story tying assistant football coach Todd Spencer’s January 2012 resignation to impermissible texts.)

Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t see Tech as a school where coaches were/are willful in the effort to bend every rule. Tech’s problem has been that it didn’t know the rules. The 2005 probation was a product of having used 17 ineligible players (11 in football); Gene Marsh, head of the investigations committee, said Tech’s academic advisers hadn’t been properly schooled in NCAA bylaws.

The Demaryius Thomas case grew from $312 in clothing to a $100,000 fine, a vacated ACC championship and four years’ probation after athletic director Dan Radakovich flouted a directive not to inform coach Paul Johnson of the investigation. Those sanctions were delivered in July 2011. Not six months later, the issue of Spencer’s texts arose. In January 2012, Radakovich said: “I find it inexplicable that an employee would violate these rules.”

Surely every Tech grad finds the inability to obey the rules — and playing by the rules is Tech’s mission statement — mind-boggling. This is a school that attracts smart students and smart teachers. How can it do dumb stuff?

On Friday, AD Mike Bobinski — hired in 2013 to replace Radakovich, who left for Clemson in November 2012 — told Sugiura: “This is not something that sits well with me or any of us … It is clearly our intention that this is the last time we ever go down this road.” To this, Tech alums are surely saying: “It better be.”

The Georgia Institute of Technology produces architects and engineers and scientists. Such vocations are based on process. The same school has failed to master the process of running an athletic department. In the eyes of the NCAA, high-minded Tech is a serial violator. A proud school has again been embarrassed.