NCAA hands down penalties to MaChelle Joseph, Georgia Tech

Former Georgia Tech women's basketball coach MaChelle Joseph. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Caption
Former Georgia Tech women's basketball coach MaChelle Joseph. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Credit: Robert Franklin

Credit: Robert Franklin

The NCAA ruled that former Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph committed Level II violations for requiring team members to exceed daily and weekly time limitations for countable athletics activities. The NCAA released its findings from the committee on infractions in a report Tuesday.

“During this time (2016-17 school year through February 2019), the head coach consistently required student-athletes to practice in excess of permissible limitations for CARA (countable athletically related activities) and did not provide them with a required day off,” the NCAA’s infractions decision report read. “Relatedly, for over seven months, the head coach permitted graduate student managers to provide impermissible instruction, which caused the program to exceed the limit on countable coaches.”

Joseph was given a one-year show-cause order, beginning Tuesday. A show-cause penalty essentially serves as a suspension. Were she hired again at an NCAA school after that one-year period, she would be required to serve a suspension for 15% of her team’s games.

The NCAA’s CARA rules govern the hourly and weekly limitations on required activities for athletes, such as practices, games, individual workouts and video sessions.

The infractions panel also found that Joseph permitted two graduate managers (as opposed to graduate assistant coaches) to provide tactical or technical instruction from the summer of 2018 until February 2019, when she was suspended before ultimately being fired a month later. (By NCAA rules, only staff designated as coaches or graduate assistant coaches are permitted to provide tactical or technical instruction.)

The panel also expressed concern “with the student-athletes’ statements related to the tense and toxic culture between the women’s basketball program and the Georgia Tech compliance office that was exacerbated by the head coach’s insistence that her student-athletes should not trust or speak to compliance.”

Level II violations are considered significant breaches of conduct, where Level I violations are deemed severe breaches of conduct. Joseph was fired in March 2019 at the end of her 16th season after an independent investigation authorized by Tech found that team members said that she bullied and manipulated them and was mentally, emotionally and verbally abusive.

The infractions panel found that another significant violation alleged by the NCAA enforcement staff, that Joseph had provided a total of $200 in cash to two team members on three separate occasions, once 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, did not occur.

Joseph gave a statement through her law firm expressing her gratitude that the infractions committee cleared her of allegations of providing impermissible benefits to players, calling it a “patently false allegation, brought to the NCAA only after I had accused Georgia Tech of discriminating and retaliating against me.

“I understand the Committee’s finding that technical CARA violations occurred involving how practice hours were recorded and how managers gave coaching tips to players,” the statement continued. “However, I must note that in my 16 years at Georgia Tech, no one had ever questioned my CARA log practices or suggested any violations. I am extremely proud of my record of compliance at Georgia Tech and also of the culture in my program. The NCAA’s seemingly gratuitous reference to that culture is belied by the large number of my players who returned to Georgia Tech to work for me as staff members. I stand by my program’s record of on-court success, academic success, and rules compliance at Georgia Tech.”

Part of the problem regarding players exceeding athletics-activity time limits stemmed from the fact that the director of basketball operations did not attend practice, and thus did not account for changes in the length of practice times when submitting logs of team members’ hours of team-related athletic activity.

“It is inexplicable that the compliance office did not identify any red flags with respect to the women’s basketball program submitting identical CARA forms over more than a two-year period or that compliance did not identify excessive CARA, required day-off practices or non-coaching staff members participating in coaching activity through spot checks or other monitoring functions,” the panel wrote in its infractions report.

The NCAA placed Tech on three years of probation. The penalty will be added to the probation that the school already is serving for recruiting violations committed within the men’s basketball team and be completed in September 2026. Tech also will pay a $5,000 fine and 1% of the budget for the women’s basketball team and conduct an external audit of its NCAA rules-compliance program.

According to the NCAA’s major-infractions database, this is the sixth instance that Tech has been found guilty of a major violation, the second most in the ACC after Florida State. Five have occurred starting in 2005. Former Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, the chief hearing officer for the infractions panel, said the history of violations was the impetus for the NCAA to tack the probation for this case onto the end of the existing probation.

“It was our feeling that we had concerns, and that we wanted to make certain that the institution would continue to improve its compliance program and its thoroughness and help them minimize any further infractions,” Maturi said. “Many of us, including myself, feel strongly that probation can be a positive thing if you approach it the right way, and I’m convinced Georgia Tech will do just that.”

An unidentified former assistant coach of Joseph’s – matching details in the NCAA report and the school’s earlier response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations make clear that it is Rob Norris – was cited for a Level I violation for refusing interview requests regarding the investigation from the NCAA and refusing to disclose bank records. He was given a five-year show-cause order.

In a statement, athletic director Todd Stansbury said he was grateful to have the matter in the past and looked forward to the coming season with coach Nell Fortner, Joseph’s successor.

“We remain pleased that the Committee on Infractions did not find any institutional violations in this matter,” Stansbury said in the statement. “While we do not necessarily agree with all of the conclusions that the Committee came to, we are pleased that this case has come to a resolution and that our current student-athletes and coaching staff can move on knowing that they will not have to serve any punishment for infractions that they had no part in and have not provided them with any competitive advantage.”

Joseph has an ongoing lawsuit against the University System of Georgia, the Tech athletic association and current and former Tech officials, including Stansbury, alleging sex discrimination against her and her team, a retaliatory and hostile work environment and breach of contract.

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