SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — The NCAA denounced one of the country’s most decorated basketball programs Friday, suspending Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim for nine conference games next year and outlining a decade-long series of violations that included academic misconduct, improper benefits, and drug-policy failures.
The governing body, saying the school lost control of its athletic department, placed Syracuse on probation for five years for breaking with the “most fundamental core values of the NCAA.”
The bulk of the violations concerned athletic department officials interfering with academics and making sure star players stayed eligible.
The basketball team must vacate wins in which ineligible players participated. Those players competed during five seasons: 2004-2007 and 2010-2012.
“The behavior in this case, which placed the desire to achieve success on the basketball court over academic integrity, demonstrated clearly misplaced institutional priorities,” the NCAA said.
Boeheim, the second-winningest coach in Division I history with 966 victories, has coached at Syracuse for 39 years, having played at the school as well. The 70-year-old coach has been an assistant on the last two U.S. Olympic champion teams.
The punishment includes financial penalties and the reduction of three men’s basketball scholarships a year for four years. Recruiting restrictions will be enforced for two years. Boeheim’s suspension will sideline him for half of the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
The eight-year investigation also revealed violations by the football program and women’s basketball, although most were in men’s basketball.
In anticipation of the report, Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud had announced a postseason ban for this year for the men’s basketball team. The NCAA accepted the ban and indicated the school could delay the loss of scholarships for one year. Boeheim has a stellar class coming next fall, rated the best in his long tenure.
Syverud said the school does not agree with certain aspects of the ruling and is considering a possible challenge. Syverud said Boeheim may choose to appeal the part of the decision that affects him personally and said the university would support him.
The exact number of victories Boeheim will lose has not yet been determined, according to Syracuse University spokesman Kevin Quinn.
Boeheim said in a statement released by the university that he was relieved the investigation was over. He acknowledged that violations occurred, but said he was disappointed with the findings and conclusions reached by the committee.
“The committee chose to ignore the efforts which I have undertaken over the past 37 years to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program,” Boeheim said. “Instead, they chose to focus on the rogue and secretive actions of a former employee of the local YMCA and my former director of basketball operations in order to impose an unprecedented series of penalties upon the university and the men’s basketball program.”
Boeheim also said he demanded “academic excellence” from his players, but under NCAA rules is not permitted to intervene in academic matters and is not allowed to review academic work performed by student-athletes.
The NCAA said Boeheim did not promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to monitor the activities of those who reported to him regarding academics and boosters.
The NCAA said several violations involved students and staff. The report added that academic violations stemmed from the director of basketball operations, who was hand-picked by Boeheim to address academic matters.
“The rule’s pretty clear,” said Britton Banowsky, chief hearing officer for the NCAA. “The head coach has a duty to monitor activities in his program. Jim Boeheim did dispute that he should be held accountable. There was controversy over that. It (the charge) was not effectively rebutted at all.”
The report said the former director of basketball operations, whose job primarily consisted of monitoring academic performance of basketball student-athletes, became overly involved. He collected and maintained student-athletes’ usernames and passwords and provided them to others, including student-athlete support services.
The report said the director and members of the support staff regularly accessed student-athletes’ network and email accounts in an effort to monitor academic progress, tracked course responsibilities and scheduling as well as incoming communications from professors regarding course work and class status. As part of the routine, they also accessed and sent emails from student-athletes’ accounts and corresponded directly with professors and included attached course work, which was necessary to maintain the required grades for the student-athletes to remain eligible, the report said.
In 2012, former center Fab Melo was declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament days before it started. NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said the university declared Melo ineligible. Melo also missed three Big East games during the season because of an academic issue.
In the 2012-13 season, former forward James Southerland sat out six games for an academic issue related to a term paper but played in the NCAA Tournament and helped lead the Orange to the Final Four.
In its decision, the committee specifically addressed academic integrity.
“Improper institutional involvement and influence in a student’s academic work in order to gain or maintain eligibility is a violation of NCAA rules and a violation of the most fundamental core values of the NCAA and higher education,” the committee wrote.
The committee also found that from 2001-09 the school did not follow its own written policies and procedures for students who tested positive for banned substances. NCAA rules require that if schools have a drug-testing policy, it must include substances on the banned list and the school must follow its policy. Syracuse had a written policy, but both Boeheim and athletic director Daryl Gross acknowledged they did not follow it.
In addition to the one-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team, the university announced it also had self-imposed other penalties, including elimination of one scholarship for men’s basketball for the 2015-2016 season, vacating 24 men’s basketball wins (15 in 2004-05 and nine in 2011-12) and 11 football wins from 2004-07 under former coaches Paul Pasqualoni and Greg Robinson.
The school must return to the NCAA all funds it has received through the former Big East Conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The 94-page NCAA report said a booster developed relationships with men’s basketball and football players and members of the men’s basketball staff. In some instances, the report said the basketball staff encouraged students to develop relationships with the booster, which resulted in rule violations.
The investigation also found that the booster provided more than $8,000 in cash to three football and two men’s basketball students for volunteering at a local YMCA. Additionally, the booster gave money to basketball staff members for appearances or assistance at YMCA events, and those payments were not reported to the school as outside income or supplemental pay, as NCAA rules require.
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