- By Ken Sugiura
Georgia Tech basketball players Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie are being withheld from regular-season competition by the school for NCAA rules violations. The school made the decision public Thursday.
School officials determined that Jackson and Okogie, both starters and key members of the team, accepted preferential treatment, benefits or services in the form of apparel, meals and transportation. The school self-reported the violations and is awaiting the NCAA’s ruling on the length of the suspension. After the team’s exhibition game on Thursday against Faulkner, coach Josh Pastner asserted that the violations were not related to the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.
As a result, neither player will make the team’s trip to Shanghai to play UCLA in the season opener Nov. 10. The team is scheduled to fly out of Atlanta on Friday.
“While we never want to learn that NCAA rules violations have occurred, I applaud Coach (Josh) Pastner and our compliance staff for taking immediate action as soon as these violations came to light,” Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement.
“I continue to be proud of the culture of compliance within our men’s basketball program and across the board here at Georgia Tech. As a department, we will use this as an opportunity to review our protocols and our educational efforts and will continue to prioritize compliance with NCAA rules.”
According to Tech’s findings, Jackson received benefits totaling less than $525. Okogie received benefits totaling less than $750. They received the benefits from the same individual, whom Tech determined to be neither a Tech employee nor a booster. The internal investigation also concluded that the violations were isolated and took place without the knowledge of the coaching staff.
Tech found that Jackson and Okogie received a form of payment prohibited by NCAA rules in the category of “preferential treatment, benefits or services.”
The NCAA Division I manual defines that form of payment as “Preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual’s athletic reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation.”
“Nothing is more important to me than having an atmosphere of compliance,” Pastner said in a statement. “This isolated situation can and will be a learning opportunity for our entire program. We’re moving ahead and looking forward to having Tadric and Josh back in game action early this season.”
The NCAA’s guidelines for reinstatement have standards for the length of suspension based on the total value of the benefits. A benefit valued between $400 and $700 – which would appear to be where Jackson’s benefit falls – calls for a suspension of 20 percent of the regular season (six games) and repayment of the benefit.
A benefit of more than $700 – Okogie was determined to have received benefits totaling less than $750 – calls for a withholding of 30 percent of the season (nine games) and repayment.
It’s believed that, in self-reporting the violations to the NCAA, Tech provided what it believed were mitigating circumstances for the NCAA to consider that could shorten the length of the suspensions.
Pastner first became aware of the violations Oct. 2 and immediately reported them to the athletic department’s compliance office, according to the school’s news release. Four days later, the school’s compliance office determined that violations had occurred, declared them ineligible and contacted the NCAA.