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Williams-tech Rift Sour Grapes

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

September 17, 1999 ATLANTA – Georgia Tech's admission that it's conducting an internal investigation of an alleged improper loan made by football coach George O'Leary to former running back C.J. Williams could be a rude awakening for the Yellow Jackets. While the current investigation obviously has other motives – Williams' father blew the whistle to the NCAA after his son wasn't selected by an NFL team after turning pro a year early in 1997 – O'Leary and Georgia Tech AD Dave Braine now realize that their actions won't go unnoticed by the local media anymore. For years, Georgia Tech has been cast mainly in positive light. But a change of Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writers – to someone who's not a former Tech employee! – already has shaken up life on the Flats. In less than a month, the Journal-Constitution criticized Tech's football program for the dismissal of two football players for using banned substances and, later, O'Leary's blunder. In the current investigation, the NCAA inquiry likely will result in minor penalties, if any at all.

O'Leary admitted to lending Williams, a running back at Tech from 1993-1996, $200 to $400 to cover dorm-room damage expenses in the spring of 1996. Braine said O'Leary made the loan because Williams needed to pay a fine within two hours in order to enroll in classes for the next quarter. The loan was repaid within 10 days, Braine said. "George made a mistake, and he knows it," Braine said. "He was doing it for the benefit of a kid and not the team. It was still a mistake. ... George assured me it was the first, last and only time it's happened." The player's father, Calvin Williams, said he decided to contact the NCAA after he made efforts to re-enroll his son at Georgia Tech following his failed attempts at making the NFL. Calvin Williams claimed that O'Leary did everything he could politically to destroy his son's career. "We (contacted) the president's office and the admissions office, (but) we did not get any response," Calvin Williams said. "I just wanted to get somebody's attention. I have succeeded." C.J. Williams, now playing with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, must be held accountable for his own actions. He obviously made a big mistake, jumping into the NFL after an injury-filled junior season in which he ran for only 663 yards. At the time of the decision, O'Leary publicly called it a "big mistake." Although the NFL's college advisory board indicated to Williams that he probably would go in the third or fourth round, he went undrafted. Immediately, he questioned O'Leary and Tech's coaching staff. "Some scouts told me they heard negative things about me from the coaching staff," Williams told the Journal-Constitution in 1997. "Every one of the (Tech assistants) told me a couple of the other coaches were talking bad about me, saying I wasn't a hard worker." Williams eventually signed with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent, receiving a $1,000 signing bonus and a round-trip plane ticket to Tempe. After a lackluster training camp, the rookie used the return ticket to Atlanta.