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Statement form Georgia Tech on the Athletic Board Investigation

Feb. 2, 2002

ATLANTA – It has been a difficult week at Georgia Tech. It’s been difficult from an institutional perspective, and it’s been very difficult from a personal perspective. Waiting in limbo while your future is discussed on the front page of the paper and on primetime news is something very few of us would ever want to endure. There are no winners here.

The world of college athletics has changed notably as a result of Coach O’Leary’s experience. As an academic institution competing at the highest levels of Division I sports, Georgia Tech – and the rest of our colleagues – will forever more have to approach the hiring and publicizing of coaches and staff in a much more strict, structured, and controlled fashion. Some may find all of the attention given to every aspect of one’s life to be ridiculous. Others may applaud it. Regardless of how anyone feels, howeer, we have to adjust to this new environment.

We’re here today, because – quite frankly – Georgia Tech didn’t execute our adjustment to this reality well enough in the aftermath of the O’Leary revelations. We had policies and measures in place to prevent just this type of thing from happening. We followed those procedures very well in hiring head coach Chan Gailey. We also followed them in reviewing all of the biographical information for our current coaches. But, sadly, for all involved, we did not follow them in the cases of Robinson and Smith.

We’re here today to discuss why, to announce decisions on processes and people, and to move forward.

In response to the questions surrounding the bios of Wide Receivers Coach Tommie Robinson and Defensive Coordinator Rick Smith, President Clough-as the chair of the Georgia Tech Athletic Board-appointed a sub-committee of that Board to work with Athletic Director Dave Braine. Their assignment was to assess our policies and procedures for verifying bios, and to evaluate the circumstances surrounding these hires and our public pronouncements about them. Their charge was simple, but substantive: 1. help us understand what happened and why, 2. advise Dave Braine on what, if any, personnel actions should result, and 3. make recommendations for preventing this from ever happening again.

While we are undertaking this in the glare of the media, ahtletic departments from coast to coast are going thorugh this very same exercise in order to prevent these types of problems from surfacing in their own programs. Hopefully our work, and the publicity surrounding it, will be helpful to Georgia Tech and our peers around the country.

This sub-committee-consisting of Bill Wepfer, Turner Warmack, and Trey Childress-has worked diligently since Wednesday to ferret out fact from fiction, right from rumor. They have reached their conclusions and presented them to our Athletic Director Dave Braine. Dave has consulted with Dr. Clough and they’ve both agreed on the following course of action:

1. RESCIND THE OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT TO COACH RICK SMITH It is very important for everyone to understand a fact that has been somewhat lost in all of this. Coach Rick Smith never submitted any incorrect biographical information to Georgia Tech. The problems with his bios have their roots 25 years ago. Unfortunately, the sub-committee believed that the errors persisted long enough and were not dealt with aggressively enough in light of Coach O’Leary’s problems. Coach Smith has offered his resignation and we have, quite reluctantly, accepted it.

2. RETAIN COACH TOMMIE ROBINSON A thorough review of Coach Robinson’s situation reveals someone who tried diligently to correct errors that we not of his making. The sub-committee report goes into extensive detail on the events. After multiple interviews with those involved, they came to the conclusion that Coach Robinson never misrepresented himself to anyone and was consistently diligent in attempting to correct the errors about his education. Both Tech and Oklahoma State erred in our descriptions of his educational background and have unfortunately placed him in a difficult light. To quote the subcommittee report, “…we believe his efforts to correct the inaccuracies at OSU and his submission to Georgia Tech of accurate employment and educational background information indicate that Coach Robinson never intended to mislead Georgia Tech.”

3. IMPROVE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR VERIFYING BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION AND DISSEMINATING IT PUBLICLY In the aftermath of Coach O’Leary’s resignation, the Athletic Association discussed and executed new policies and procedures in the hiring of Coach Gailey and in the verification of existing coaches’ information. The new procedures were not, however, uniformly applied in the rush to disseminate information about Coach Gailey’s appointment of assistant coaches. That lack of adherence to the new procedures has been very costly to Georgia Tech and to the individuals involved. As of Friday, the Georgia Tech Athletic Association has new, written guidelines for checking credentials and background information and all background will be double-checked before it is publicly released. Both the Assistant Athletic Director for Business and the Sports Information Director will be responsible to ensure that this policy is followed to the letter. The sub-committee will follow up with both parties in the coming weeks to ensure that this process is being followed.

That concludes the summary of the sub-committee recommendations. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Bill Wepfer, Turner Warmack, and Trey Childress for their time, their diligence, and their professionalism in assembling this. They worked long hours under difficult circumstances to provide us with the best set of recommendations possible. All of us at Georgia Tech are deeply grateful.

I would also like to commend everyone in the Athletic Association for their cooperation and assistance with this review. This has not been a pleasant experience. Yet they have been uniformly professional in assisting the sub-committee and the President’s Office. They too deserve our sincere thanks.

This has not been an easy process for anyone involved. While the scrutiny and attention are somewhat understandable, we remind everyone that we are dealing with living, breathing, and feeling people here. They are not figureheads or automatons. They have friends, families, and relatives. And they are fundamentally good people. Please be respectful of them and their personal privacy through this very, very difficult time.


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