ATLANTA (AP) — The NCAA placed Georgia Tech's women's basketball program on probation for three years Tuesday, citing violations committed under former coach MaChelle Joseph that included players being forced to practice longer than the rules allow and on scheduled off days.
The investigation also found that players feared reprisals from Joseph if they spoke out, and cited “a tense and strained relationship” between the coaching staff and the school's compliance office.
The NCAA finding means both the men's and women's programs at Georgia Tech have landed on probation, a situation that prompted the governing body to also order a comprehensive compliance review of Georgia Tech’s athletics department by an outside agency.
The probationary period for the women's team does not include a ban on participating in the NCAA Tournament, but an infractions committee headed by former Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi did impose a $5,000 fine plus 1% of the program's annual budget.
The probationary period will be tacked on to a four-year sanction against the men's program, which is set to end in 2023. The women's team will then go on probation through 2026.
“We had concerns,” Maturi said. “We wanted to make sure the institution continued to improve its compliance program and the thoroughness of its compliance program to help them minimize any further infractions. Probation can be a positive thing if you approach it the right way."
The report said the violations in the women's program occurred over three academic years from 2016 through February 2019, when Joseph was placed on leave late in the season. She was fired a month later by the school, which cited alleged mistreatment of players and staff, as well as possible NCAA violations.
A former assistant also was cited for NCAA violations. While no one was identified in the report, the school’s earlier response to a notice of allegations made it clear that Rob Norris was that assistant coach.
The NCAA found that Georgia Tech routinely violated limits on practice time as well as required days off.
“Each week, the director of women’s basketball operations provided student-athletes with the practice schedule,” the NCAA said. “However, a former women’s basketball assistant coach would notify student-athletes on the day before or day of practice that the schedule had changed, frequently requiring the team to report to practice early. Additionally, according to multiple student-athletes, the team was regularly required to practice an hour or more longer than scheduled.”
On required days off, the Yellow Jackets often practiced with assistant coaches or graduate managers overseeing the sessions.
“Student-athletes believed the workouts were mandatory,” the NCAA said. “This perception was furthered by the team’s use of shot-tracking technology during workouts on scheduled days off, which identified who participated in shooting sessions. Those tracking data were printed and provided to the former head coach at her request.”
Maturi said the infractions committee was especially troubled by the lack of cooperation with those overseeing compliance.
“The panel observed that there was a tense and strained relationship between the former head coach and the compliance office, with student-athletes reporting that they were told not to trust or communicate with compliance and the senior woman administrator,” the report said.
Joseph said she was a victim of a hostile work environment and sex discrimination, with her attorney noting that men's coach Josh Pastner kept his job after major recruiting violations were found in his program. Pastner recently received a contract extension after leading Georgia Tech to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years.
Joseph has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Tech athletic association and school officials, including athletic director Todd Stansbury.
The infractions committee did not find enough evidence to back up allegations that Joseph had provided a total of $200 in cash to two players, saying information they provided “was not consistent and sometimes contradictory.”
Joseph's attorney, Lisa J. Banks, issued a statement on the former coach's behalf noting that she was cleared of providing impermissible benefits to her players.
“This was a patently false allegation, brought to the NCAA only after I had accused Georgia Tech of discriminating and retaliating against me,” Joseph said.
She acknowledged “technical” errors in the way practice hours were logged, but pointed out that no one suggested any violations until the end of her tenure. Joseph also took issue with the NCAA questioning the way players were treated, noting that many returned to work on her staff.
“I am extremely proud of my record of compliance at Georgia Tech and also of the culture in my program,” Joseph said.
However, the NCAA ruled that Joseph would have to serve a suspension from 15% of regular-season games at any school that hires her over the next year.
Norris received a five-year restriction on future employment, with the infractions committee saying he “declined multiple requests from the school and NCAA enforcement staff to participate in interviews."
Georgia Tech said it cooperated fully with the investigation and noted that the NCAA “did not find any institutional violations."
“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," Stansbury said.
Joseph coached at Georgia Tech for nearly 16 seasons, compiling a record of 311-204 that included seven NCAA Tournament appearances.
After she was fired, Nell Fortner took over the Yellow Jackets and led them to the NCAA Sweet 16 this past season — matching the best performance in school history.
“All of us at Georgia Tech are grateful to have this matter behind us and look forward to another great season for Coach Fortner and her outstanding student-athletes.” Stansbury said.
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