NCAA alleges rules violations by ex-Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph

Georgia Tech, the subject of a sex-discrimination lawsuit brought by former women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph, is involved in an NCAA infractions case regarding alleged rules violations against her, as well.

After its investigation, the NCAA found that Joseph committed Level II violations, or significant breaches of conduct, while at Tech. In its response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations, Tech stated that the NCAA’s findings regarding Joseph were “substantially correct” and lay responsibility for the violations at the feet of the coach who was fired in March 2019 near the end of her 16th season as coach of the Yellow Jackets.

“(The NCAA enforcement staff) does not allege that Georgia Tech failed to monitor its women’s basketball program in this case, and the violations are instead directly attributable to the intentional and surreptitious actions of the former head coach and her personal failure to uphold her responsibilities as a head coach pursuant to NCAA Bylaw,” the response reads, referring to an NCAA rule stating that the head coach is presumed to be responsible for all actions of staff members who report to him or her.

The AJC obtained the notice of allegations and the institute’s response through an open-records request made in September, receiving the documents in late January.

The NCAA’s charges, which stemmed from Tech’s own reporting of the matter to the NCAA in 2019, are threefold. Perhaps most notably, the NCAA found that on three occasions in 2018 she provided about $200 in cash to two team members (a total of approximately $600), with the money in one instance to be used for movie tickets for the team as a team-building exercise, on another occasion to pay for activities for team members accompanying a prospect on an official visit and a third time for unspecified purposes. They all would constitute violations of rules regarding impermissible extra benefits. If true, this would mean that team members competed in the 2018-19 season while ineligible.

Moreover, according to the NCAA report, “Joseph provided cash to a student-athlete within approximately two weeks of the enforcement staff interviewing her and asking her questions regarding whether she provided money or other impermissible benefits to prospective student-athletes.”

The NCAA also found that Joseph, from at least the 2016-17 academic year until the time of her being placed on leave in February 2019, had exceeded mandated daily and weekly time limits, did not provide required days off during the season and also permitted graduate managers to perform coaching duties (providing “tactical or technical instruction” during practice, on scheduled off days and outside of practices in the summer). NCAA rules stipulate that only members of the staff designated as coaches can provide instruction to athletes.

ExploreOpposing views on MaChelle Joseph allegations

In its response, Tech reported that it made efforts “to thoroughly educate and monitor the women’s basketball program” but that violations occurred because of Joseph’s actions, including the circumvention of the school’s system for monitoring countable athletically related activities (CARA). (The school’s response also noted that, according to testimony provided by former staff, excesses in CARA were not a part of a consistent pattern.)

The third charge found that Joseph “did not demonstrate that she promoted an atmosphere for compliance because of her personal involvement in the violations,” according to the NCAA’s notice of allegations, a charge that Tech again did not challenge.

Stu Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney who is representing Joseph in the NCAA case, could not comment directly on the case, citing NCAA rules.

“However, I can say that the record of coach Joseph’s long coaching career shows that she has emphasized and supported the academic and social well-being of her student-athletes as well as compliance with NCAA rules,” Brown said in a statement. “Coach Joseph has fully cooperated with the NCAA’s investigation into Georgia Tech. She will continue to do so. Coach Joseph is confident that at the end of the NCAA process her commitment to rules compliance will be demonstrated.”

Similarly, athletic director Todd Stansbury had no comment on the matter other than to say that the school was waiting for the next step, which would be a meeting with the NCAA. Tech continues to also wait on the finish of the appeal, filed in the fall of 2019, of penalties levied against the men’s basketball team, including a postseason ban and recruiting restrictions. In that case, the NCAA sanctioned Tech for Level I violations (severe breaches of conduct, the highest of the three levels of violations) regarding two separate impermissible benefits cases, one occurring in November 2017 (that led to the resignation of assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie) and the other involving a former friend of coach Josh Pastner’s that spanned November 2016-September 2017.

“With COVID, a lot of this stuff has just been pushed back,” Stansbury said. “There’s quite a backlog, and so we’re pretty much in a waiting process.”

Joseph was fired in March 2019 after an independent investigation authorized by the school found that team members said that she bullied and manipulated them and was mentally, emotionally and verbally abusive. It ended a tenure in which she recorded the most wins in school history (311) and led the Jackets to seven NCAA tournament appearances. According to Tech’s response to the NCAA, the investigation also uncovered allegations of rules violations, prompting Tech to report its findings.

In July 2019, Joseph filed a lawsuit against the Tech athletic association and school and state officials, including former school president G.P. “Bud” Peterson and Stansbury, alleging sex discrimination against her and her team, a retaliatory and hostile work environment and breach of contract. The lawsuit, which asserted that Joseph’s firing was discriminatory and retaliatory and that the school’s investigation into NCAA violations was illegitimate and also a retaliatory measure, is ongoing.

“It was because of Coach Joseph’s efforts to advocate on behalf of WBB and protect her players from mistreatment – not subject them to it – that GT’s new athletic administration embarked on a campaign of retaliation and harassment that ultimately ended her career as Head Coach,” part of the lawsuit read.

In response to the NCAA’s allegations, Tech self-imposed penalties of a $5,000 fine and reductions in the time limits on CARA that have continued into this semester. With Tech agreeing with the NCAA on the substance of the findings and that they constitute Level II violations, the institution’s likely hope is that its self-imposed penalties, along with its dismissal of Joseph and other factors such as its cooperation with the NCAA, will persuade the committee on infractions to not levy any additional sanctions.

Other penalties for Level II violations include a postseason ban, scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions and probation, although Tech is already on probation for the men’s basketball violations.

Joseph, who before this case had not been found to have committed any major violations, could face game suspensions and given a show-cause penalty, meaning that any school that hired her would either have to accept any penalties attached to her or “show cause” for why they should not apply.

Counting the men’s case separately – the two were initially part of the same investigation – it is the sixth NCAA investigation at Tech in the school’s history.