Declaring two of your three best players ineligible isn’t the best way to start a season. That said, it beats what Georgia Tech did with Demaryius Thomas in November/December 2009, which was to let him play against Georgia and then against Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Tech lost the former, won the latter and – because of subsequent NCAA sanctions for having used an ineligible player – is no longer recognized as the 2009 ACC champ.
Same school, different sport, eight years later: This time Tech got it right. Once the Jackets determined there’s probable cause that the two received impermissible benefits, it notified the NCAA – self-reporting, as it’s known in the business. It plans to sit Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson until the NCAA rules on their cases.
As esteemed colleague Ken Sugiura notes, the dollar amounts on these benefits – under $750 for Okogie, under $525 for Jackson – could mean that Okogie will miss nine games and Jackson will miss six. (Provided they make restitution and say they’re really, really sorry.) Okogie broke his finger in an exhibition against Georgia State and probably wouldn’t be back before December anyway, so this is less of a big deal that it would have been.
(Also of note: Tech lost that exhibition to the Panthers, a team it refuses to schedule in a real game. This has been a remarkably cruddy preseason for Josh Pastner and Co.)
We pause here for the usual harrumphing. The Raleigh News & Observer offers a slam-dunk case regarding bogus classes and the body that oversees collegiate sports can’t find a way to penalize North Carolina, but someone – according to Tech, the same someone gifted both Okogie and Jackson – gives money/stuff to a couple of players and the NCAA gets to act all big and tough. (Georgia went down this road with A.J. Green and Todd Gurley.)
That, sad to say, is the state of the NCAA: It can prove almost nothing on its own, but if somebody self-reports something it makes like J. Edgar Hoover. It is what it is, and what it is ain’t much. But the greater point is that the school that bungled its way into a forfeited conference title did better this time. The Jackets might lose a pre-conference game or two that they wouldn’t have otherwise, but they won’t have to hand back any trophies. You live, you learn.