Usually whenever I write a piece about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, they’re placement in last year’s ACC Championship Game is referenced at some point or another. This is necessary because the Jackets were in Charlotte playing the Florida State Seminoles by default. Paul Johnson and his crew in fact did not win the ACC Coastal Division outright. They were there because the real winners of the lackluster division were the ineligible North Carolina Tar Heels.
Although they didn’t get the chance to play for an Orange Bowl bid this past December, head coach Larry Fedora decided to reward his team anyway for their 8-4 campaign in 2012.
The coach handed out divisional championship rings to his team on Tuesday, even without being ‘officially’ recognized as the 2012 champions of the ACC Coastal. It was a move that I can completely commend Coach Fedora for.
North Carolina was ineligible last season due to sanctions placed against them after the NCAA Committee on Infractions found the school failed to monitor its athletic program properly. The infractions resulted in–among other things–the firing of head football coach Butch Davis and the resignation of athletic director Dick Baddour.
However, once again, the actions of those who came before the 2012 football team who raced to that 8-4 record shouldn’t tarnish their accomplishments. When you take into account the ‘what if’ aspect of the past, who’s to say that North Carolina wouldn’t have beaten the ‘Noles in Charlotte–something a 6-6 GT team almost pulled off–and made a trip to their first BCS game? They weren’t afforded the opportunity because of the infractions that they themselves didn’t commit.
Those players deserve a piece of history to take with them throughout the rest of their lives.