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Georgia Tech clears basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexual misconduct claims

An investigation found “no credible evidence” Pastner assaulted a former friend’s girlfriend.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

A Georgia Tech investigation has cleared men’s basketball head coach Josh Pastner of any wrongdoing related to allegations of sexual assault brought by a former acquaintance. The inquest found “no credible evidence” of the claims made and concluded those accusations were “highly likely ... made in bad faith and asserted only after various other attempts to damage and/or extort Pastner were made.”

The university released this official statement Monday morning.

Georgia Tech retained the law firm Fisher Phillips to undertake an independent investigation of the allegations of sexual misconduct made against men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner. Fisher Phillips has issued a final report and found, “None of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Josh Pastner are credible.” Georgia Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury has met with Coach Pastner to discuss the results of the investigation and recommendations regarding access to the team and team activities.

What were the accusations levied against Pastner, and how did Georgia Tech get here?

The accusers, Rob Bell and his girlfriend Jennifer Pendley, were a pair of boosters who had previously made headlines for giving impermissible benefits — flights, meals, and clothing — to Tech players Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson. Pastner reported those violations to university compliance officers, who then reported them to the NCAA. Both the school and the NCAA would levy punishments on the players; Okogie would sit six games last season, while Jackson missed three.

The violations were a breaking point in the relationship between Pastner and Bell, who had previously latched on to the budding head coach while he was at Memphis. Bell and Pendley continually worked to push their way into the team’s inner circle — traveling to away games, building relationships with players and staff, and even designing T-shirts lined with Pastner quotes and the official Georgia Tech logo. They’d previously had Pastner’s blessing, but the Okogie-Jackson trip was a breaking point.

Pastner limited their access to the program in the NCAA aftermath. As a result, Bell and Pendley threatened the Georgia Tech coach with extortion. When he held strong, sexual misconduct accusations followed.

Bell first told NCAA investigators Pastner had sexually assaulted Pendley during a December phone call. He’d later make his complete set of claims in a lawsuit which detailed 13 counts of sexual misconduct, including some events that took place at team hotels or during basketball road trips while at both Memphis and Georgia Tech.

Pastner vehemently denied the claims.

“I am disgusted and devastated by the actions of two individuals to whom I showed compassion,” He said in a January statement that accompanied a defamation suit. “My family and I are victims of fraud and extortion and the extent to which these individuals have gone to harm us is truly unfathomable. I absolutely and unequivocally never assaulted or harassed Ms. Pendley and I am truly sickened by these false claims.”

Georgia Tech paid $410 per hour to investigate Bell and Pendley’s claims and found no hard evidence to back them up. It’s validation for the Yellow Jackets coach, who is now clear to continue his work with the team. Georgia Tech fell to 13-19 under his leadership in 2017-18 in a year beset by off-court distractions. With Okogie back for his junior season and this ordeal hopefully in his rear view, Pastner can expect more in 2018-19.