Chancellor Syverud’s Message Regarding NCAA Report
March 6, 2015
Dear Members of the University Community:
I am writing to update you on the outcome of Syracuse University’s case before the NCAA.
The University initially self-reported potential violations to the NCAA in May 2007 and submitted its written self-report in October 2010–after conducting an internal investigation for three years and five months. The NCAA conducted its own review and 11 months later in 2011 issued a Notice of Allegations, essentially confirming the self-report. While the University was in the process of responding to the Notice of Allegations, a subsequent violation occurred prompting a joint investigation beginning in February 2012. That investigation lasted more than 24 months and concluded with an amended Notice of Allegations in May 2014.
Today the University received the NCAA Committee on Infractions report.
We believe the NCAA’s investigation of Syracuse University has taken longer than any other investigation in NCAA history. The entire process has taken close to eight years and involved a review of conduct dating back to 2001. By comparison, the investigation into the fixing of the 1919 World Series took two months and the 2007 investigation of steroid use in baseball took 21 months.
The University and the NCAA devoted massive resources to this process. Hundreds of thousands of documents were reviewed, hundreds of interviews were conducted, and thousands of hours of human capital were expended.
Syracuse University cooperated throughout the investigation, and its length is a product of decisions we made separately and together. Nevertheless, when I became Chancellor in 2014, I concluded that the process had gone on long enough, and it needed to reach a prompt conclusion. We have worked hard with the NCAA during the last year to complete this matter, and we have done so.
Syracuse University did not and does not agree with all the conclusions reached by the NCAA, including some of the findings and penalties included in today’s report. However, we take the report and the issues it identifies very seriously, particularly those that involve academic integrity and the overall well-being of student-athletes. Syracuse University regrets, and does not dispute, that the following significant violations cited by the NCAA occurred:
The University discovered that in 2004-2005, two men’s basketball and three football student-athletes received a combined total of $8,335, provided by a part-time Rome, New York YMCA employee who qualified under NCAA rules as a University athletics “booster.” These monies were purportedly for work done at the YMCA, such as refereeing youth basketball games. Regardless, these monies were prohibited “extra benefits” under NCAA rules, and although these payments were isolated to one individual booster, they never should have occurred. In addition, three of these student-athletes received academic credit in the same course for internships at the YMCA they failed to complete. The University rescinded the credit.
Drug Education and Deterrence Program
The University’s voluntarily-adopted Drug Education and Deterrence Program has been in place for many years, distinguishing our University from those that elect to have no drug testing or rehabilitation program for their student-athletes. Although the NCAA does not require colleges and universities to have a testing program, if one is adopted, a school must follow its terms. The University reported to the NCAA that from 2001 to early 2009 it at times failed to follow the written terms of the program with respect to student-athletes who tested positive for use of marijuana. Although these failures largely were the result of an unnecessarily complicated testing policy and did not involve performance-enhancing drugs, they constitute an NCAA violation, which the University accepts.
Academic Integrity Matters
The University reported that in January 2012, a men’s basketball student-athlete committed academic misconduct. The misconduct occurred when the student-athlete submitted a paper in a course he already passed in an effort to improve his course grade and restore NCAA eligibility. The ability to improve a previous grade is open to all Syracuse University students. The paper was prepared with assistance from two (now former) athletics employees, both of whom were aware their actions were improper and wrong. Their actions, done in secret, went against clear instructions that the student-athlete needed to complete the assignment on his own, and constituted a clear violation of both University academic integrity policy and NCAA rules. The University has acknowledged the now-former staff members’ wrongful conduct and accepts responsibility for their actions. While reviewing this matter, the University found information suggesting these same two individuals, and one tutor, may have assisted three other student-athletes with some academic assignments. Detailed information was submitted through the University’s faculty-led academic integrity process. In each case, faculty failed to find evidence supporting a violation. NCAA bylaws dictate that they must accept an institution’s academic integrity determinations. Notwithstanding, the NCAA determined the same conduct constituted an “extra benefit” to these student-athletes. The University disagrees with the NCAA’s position.
These mistakes must never happen again. That is why beginning in 2009, the University strengthened its policies and reformed a range of student-athlete support services. These proactive steps include:
• Fundamentally restructuring the entire student-athlete academic support office, which now reports solely to Academic Affairs, in lieu of jointly to the Athletics Department;
• Creating a new Assistant Provost for Student-Athlete Development and more than doubling the number of full-time academic support staff for our student-athletes;
• Redesigning the University’s voluntary Drug Education and Deterrence Program for student-athletes, consistent with best practices and peer institutions;
• Establishing an Athletics Committee of the University’s Board of Trustees, that oversees the athletics department and receives reports of athletics issues, including compliance matters;
• Creating an Athletics Compliance Oversight Committee that includes the University’s Faculty Athletics Representative and a representative from Academic Affairs. This committee reviews the status of athletic compliance initiatives and monitors compliance;
• Assigning oversight of the Office of Athletics Compliance to the University General Counsel;
• Implementing new and wide-ranging enhanced compliance training programs for all student-athletes and coaches focused on NCAA, ACC and University rules and policies;
• Taking action to separate employment with two former athletics staff members found to have been involved in academic misconduct; and
• Disassociating non-SU affiliated persons responsible for, or involved in, violations.
In addition to these important changes, the University already self-imposed a series of significant penalties that include:
• A one-year ban from 2014-15 post-season competition for men’s basketball;
• A voluntary, two-year term of probation for the Department of Athletics;
• Elimination of one scholarship for men’s basketball for the 2015-2016 season;
• Elimination of a men’s basketball off-campus recruiter for six months during 2015-2016;
• Vacation of 24 men’s basketball wins (15 in 2004-05 and 9 in 2011-12); and
• Vacation of 11 football wins: (6 in 2004-05; 1 in 2005-06; 4 in 2006-07).
To learn more about the NCAA Investigation, visit http://www.ncaaupdatesyr.com.
Although the University recognizes the seriousness of the violations it has acknowledged, it respectfully disagrees with certain findings of the Committee. Specifically, the University strongly disagrees that it failed to maintain institutional control over its athletics programs, or that Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Boeheim has taken actions that justify a finding that he was responsible for the rules violations.
The University is considering whether it will appeal certain portions of the decision. Coach Boeheim may choose to appeal the portions of the decision that impact him personally. Should he decide to do so, we would support him in this step.
Some may not agree with Syracuse University’s positions on these important issues. However, we hope everyone will agree that eight years is too long for an investigation and that a more expeditious and less costly process would be beneficial to student-athletes, public confidence in the NCAA enforcement process, and major intercollegiate athletics in general.
As we move forward, we can celebrate the many positive changes we have made, the academic success of our student-athletes, and the scholarly achievements of each one of our 21,000 students. As we do, I am confident every part of our University will continue to flourish in the years ahead.
Chancellor Kent Syverud