September 21, 2021 

What NCAA penalties from the MaChelle Joseph era mean for Georgia Tech

Former coach MaChelle Joseph was given a one-year show-cause order

The NCAA has delivered bad news to Atlanta.

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An investigation found that Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball program – under the direction of former head coach MaChelle Joseph – “committed practice and coaching limit violations” and that Joseph “violated head coach responsibility rules.” Additionally, an unnamed male assistant coach under Joseph “failed to meet his obligation to participate in an investigation.”

For the programs’ past missteps, the NCAA announced Tuesday it has placed the Yellow Jackets’ women’s basketball team on three years of probation. The NCAA has also fined the program $5,000 and 1% of its budget.

Furthermore, Joseph was handed down a one-year show-cause order by the NCAA.

Also, the unnamed male assistant coach was given a five-year show-cause order. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution surmises that the assistant is Rob Norris.

What exactly is a show-cause order?

It’s sort-of a suspension and it’s sort-of not. In 2014, Nicole Auerbach explored this for USA Today. These two paragraphs sum it up as simply as possible.

A show-cause order essentially means that any NCAA penalties imposed on an individual coach will stick with (him or her) for a designated period of time and could be transferred to another school that hires the coach before the order expires.

If a school wants to avoid the NCAA penalties imposed on that particular coach, it can appear before the Committee on Infractions and “show cause” as to why it shouldn’t be penalized for hiring that coach and how it planned on monitoring (him or her) moving forward. That school would also face harsher penalties if the coach were to break NCAA rules again.

What did the NCAA’s investigation reveal?

During a three year period under Joseph, Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball program:

  • “Routinely required student-athletes to participate in countable athletically related activities that exceeded daily and weekly limits.”
  • Players were not routinely given required days off.
  • The team was regularly required to practice an hour or more longer than scheduled.
  • Additional practice time was required for some players.
  • One player was “required to attend additional morning workouts multiple times per week as a punishment for being late, but those workouts were not counted in the reports provided to compliance.”
  • Players “approved practice logs before they were sent to compliance, even though they knew the logs were incorrect, because they feared (Joseph) would retaliate if they did not.”
  • Sometimes, an assistant coach and managers “facilitated on-court practices on the scheduled days off. These workouts violated NCAA rules because coaches were present and because student-athletes believed the workouts were mandatory.”
  • Joseph allowed grad assistants to coach players during workout sessions, practices and competitions for more than seven months. “This resulted in the program exceeding the maximum number of allowable countable coaches.”
  • Joseph didn’t “promote an atmosphere of compliance” and didn’t monitor her staff’s involvement. The NCAA panel also concluded that there was “a tense and strained relationship” between Joseph and the compliance office. Players had reported that they were “told not to trust or communicate with compliance and the senior woman administrator.”

What did the NCAA’s investigation not reveal?

In outlining its initial allegations – reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution in February – the NCAA claimed that Joseph had paid two players hundreds of dollars on multiple occasions.

However, the infractions panel found no hard proof of that. On the matter, the panel’s statement says, “information provided by those student-athletes was not consistent and sometimes contradictory.”

Who was on the panel?

  • Greg Christopher, vice president for administration and director of athletics at Xavier
  • Steven Madva, private attorney
  • Joel Maturi, former director of athletics at Minnesota
  • Kay Norton, president emerita of Northern Colorado
  • Dave Roberts, special assistant to the athletics director at Southern California
  • E. Thomas Sullivan, president emeritus of Vermont

What’s next for MaChelle Joseph?

The show-cause could make it somewhat difficult for Joseph to find another job coaching women’s college basketball in the immediate future. She hasn’t coached since she was fired from Georgia Tech in 2019. And her LinkedIn says she’s a realtor in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

When Joseph was fired from Georgia Tech – a job she had held for 16 years – the school said at the time that it was because an independent investigation found that she “bullied and manipulated” players and was “mentally, emotionally and verbally abusive,” according to the AJC.

But Joseph’s attorney disputed the findings of the investigation right away. A few months later, Joseph filed a lawsuit against Georgia Tech alleging, among other things, sex discrimination against her and a “retaliatory and hostile work environment.” That lawsuit is still ongoing.

Joseph was also accused of sexual harassment by a former player.

How does this impact Georgia Tech now?

Things have been going well for the women’s basketball program at Georgia Tech since Joseph was fired.

Last season, under the direction of Nell Fortner, the Yellow Jackets finished third in the ACC, made the semifinals of the ACC tournament. And advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. It was Georgia Tech’s first tourney berth in seven seasons, and just their second-ever trip to the Sweet 16. Lorela Cubaj was named ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Lotta-Maj Lahtinen garnered the conference’s Most Improved Player Award.

Moreover, Cubaj and Maj Lahtinen are among the five starters and 10 letterwinners returning to the Yellow Jackets this year. With the addition of a few talented freshman and Syracuse transfer Digna Strautmane, many expect the Yellow Jackets to finish in the top three of the ACC again this season.

While Georgia Tech is now on probation through 2026 – this new three-year period is tacked onto one the school was already on for men’s basketball – it may be difficult to see the impact of it on the court. There’s no postseason ban or reduction in scholarship for Fortner’s side.

These penalties are not Fortner’s fault, but she’ll have to deal with them. And just 12 days ago, Georgia Tech showed its commitment to Fortner with a contract extension – a deal that now keeps her in Atlanta through 2027.

Athletic Director Todd Stansbury said in a statement: “Coach Fortner’s team has excelled academically and she and her student-athletes have been incredible representatives of Georgia Tech, on and off the court. I’m looking forward to her and her team continuing to compete at the highest levels of women’s basketball for years to come.”

Stansbury has not yet publicly commented on the penalties handed down Tuesday.

The Yellow Jackets begin their 2021-22 campaign on Nov. 9 at Central Michigan.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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