The silence has broken for Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim regarding the NCAA violations and penalties. He spoke at length on Thursday about his perspective on the specifics of the NCAA report and his future. Boeheim routinely blasted the NCAA for their findings and the investigation.
Boeheim on Head Coach Responsibility
”I believe in the NCAA head coaching bylaws and what it stands for,” Boeheim said. “The head coach should be presumed responsible for NCAA violations that occur within their program. I agree fully with that responsibility. That is why as a member of the board of directors of the national association of basketball coaches, I voted for the implementation of the head coach responsibility bylaw in 2005. However, I also believe that a head coach should have the opportunity to rebut the presumption of responsibility stated in the head coach responsibility bylaw by demonstrating that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance within the program and that he monitored the activities regarding compliance of those within the program. The head coach responsibility bylaw was not and was never intended to be strict liability. In our case, however, the committee imposed penalties on me personally without giving credence to my efforts to promote compliance within the men’s basketball program, which is contrary to the head coach responsibility bylaw.
”In fact, in 2011, when the NCAA enforcement staff issued their first notice of allegations to Syracuse University, I was not charged with a violation of the head coach responsibility bylaw because of my non-involvement of the underlying violation and because of my dedication to promoting compliance within the men’s basketball program. It was not until the second notice of allegations that I was charged with a violation of the head coach responsibility bylaw. In the intervening years, the charges against the university did not change. There were still no direct violations of NCAA bylaws alleged against me. Nevertheless, at that time that I even offered to make myself available to NCAA enforcement staff for an interview to discuss the atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program, something the NCAA enforcement staff did not specifically ask me about in my prior interviews. But the enforcement staff declined to listen to the additional information that I had. Let me stress again, that I take responsibility for violations of NCAA rules that occurred within the basketball program.
”However, I believe that my effort to promote an atmosphere of compliance with the men’s basketball program was disregarded by the enforcement staff and the committee on infractions. That ultimately led to my suspension for the first nine ACC games of the 2015-16 season. What reasons do I have for these assertions? Since 1992, I along with the other members of the men’s basketball staff, have participated in monthly meetings with the department of athletic compliance. My staff and I are in constant communication on matters relating to compliance and I ensured open lines of communication exist within the program with respect to compliance matters. I meet with my staff on an almost daily basis on compliance matters. My assistant coaches and staff know the NCAA rules and know that we must follow them.”
Boeheim on Academic Fraud
”While I’m frustrated with the committee on infractions’ finding that I did not promote and atmosphere of academic compliance within the men’s basketball program, I am most disappointed with the committee’s suggestion that academic improprieties were promoted and encouraged within the men’s basketball program,” Boeheim said. “While I take full responsibility for what has happened, I could not disagree more with this assessment and I believe that the facts support my view. Many players come to Syracuse with the goal of playing in the NBA. We demand that our players do their required work in the classroom. This is why I have been a longtime proponent of the Academic Progress Report (APR). Since the 2008-09 season, when we had three student-athletes withdraw in the spring semester to prepare for the NBA Draft, the men’s basketball program has consistently earned an APR well in excess of the minimum required by the NCAA to compete in NCAA championships. Even before the implementation of the APR, however, I worked closely with student-athlete support services to ensure that our student-athletes are appropriately focused on their academic responsibility and that they have the resources necessary to excel off the court. I meet every day with the academic coordinator to discuss the academic success of our student athletes. Between 2008 and 2014, 11 of 13 seniors graduated. We have an APR of 1,000, a perfect score, in each of the last two years. Simply, this shows that we are paying attention to the academic welfare of our student-athletes.
”Academic violations occurred because our former director of basketball operations took it upon himself to provide impermissible academic assistance. The committee of infractions suggested that somehow I did not do enough to promote compliance or monitor the activities regarding the former director of basketball operations. This is not true. I engaged in daily meetings with this individual regarding the academic standing of all of our student-athletes and in particular the student-athlete identified in the NCAA infractions report. When I learned that this individual was permitted to seek a grade change, open to all students at his college, all students not student-athletes, seeking a grade change to restore his eligibility. I made it abundantly clear that the grade change should be done in accordance with university policies that apply to all students. I’m as concerned with the welfare of all student-athletes. I never expected and certainly never encouraged these individuals to cheat. This is not my way.
”The committee on infractions assumes that because a violation occurred, it must have occurred because of my failure to promote compliance. This is an interpretation of strict liability that is contrary to NCAA legislation and to my decades long commitment to compliance and academic success. The committee of infractions suggests that over a ten year period, I failed to promote compliance and that during that time that members of the men’s basketball program freely committed academic fraud. In fact, during that ten year period, after an extensive investigation, there was one case of academic fraud in the men’s basketball program. This involved the former director of basketball operation and a receptionist in the basketball facility improperly inserting citations into the student-athlete’s paper. Three other student-athletes were charged by the enforcement staff of receiving impermissible extra benefits. These student-athletes had their cases reviewed by the university academic integrity office and the university ultimately determined that no academic integrity violation had been established.”
”During this same time period, the committee found that three student-athletes within the football program did commit academic fraud. These infractions did not go unnoticed but the penalties on the football program were far less than what was imposed on the basketball program. Does the head coach responsibility apply only to the basketball program? This illustrates the arbitrary manner in which the NCAA issued these penalties. Not just from school to school, but within a single institution.”
Boeheim on the YMCA
”I knew this individual to be a marketing employee of the YMCA,” Boeheim said. “He showed interest in working with troubled youth, both student-athletes and non-student-athletes. There was no reason to believe that this man would provide impermissible benefits to student-athletes. In fact, before student-athletes were permitted to spend time volunteering at the Y, this man was vetted by the office of athletic compliance and was given strict instructions on what he was and was not permitted to do under NCAA rules. It was not until after the NCAA investigation began that I learned that this man provided impermissible benefits to student-athletes. I did not, as the committee of infractions suggests, know that any violations occurred. Had I known that, I would have taken action.”
Boeheim on Drug Policy Violations
”The university implemented a drug policy for the benefit of the student-athletes,” Boeheim said. “Despite the fact that the university was not required to do so under NCAA legislation. We were among only a handful of division one schools with such a policy. Although I supported the policy, I did not write it and had no input into its development. Likewise, I did not administer the policy nor did I have any decision making authority with respect to the administration of the policy. I was told by the administrator of the drug policy whether a player could or could not practice or play in a game.
Boeheim on an Appeal
”Again, I fully accept as head coach of the men’s basketball program that I am responsible for the conduct of everyone within our program,” Boeheim said. “And I deeply regret that any violations occurred within our program because one violation is one too many. However, given the circumstance, I believe that the penalty imposed on the university as a whole and me individually are unduly harsh. I believe that the NCAA is punishing current and future student-athletes for the conduct of a few individuals who are no longer associated in any way with Syracuse University. For these reasons, I am choosing to appeal the NCAA committee on infractions’ decision. I believe in what we are doing at Syracuse University and I will continue to build on the great program that we have established.”
Boeheim on his Future
”Regarding my future, I am 70 years old,” Boeheim said. “It’s obvious that there is a timeframe for me as the head basketball coach. As the Chancellor indicated in his statement yesterday, I feel three years is right for me to be able to continue to do my job as well as I possibly can. The completion of the investigation actually clarified for me in my own mind my plans for the future and my decision to establish that timeline with Chancellor Syverud. Three years is probably longer than I was planning prior to this investigation. However, given all of these developments, it is the right time in the program. In Mike Hopkins, we have a great coach. He will be working with me every day. He has helped inform recruits regarding when I will be here. They will know exactly when I will be here and when I will leave. So all of our recruits will understand exactly what is going to happen when in most cases coaches leave and everybody is stuck.
”Everybody that’s coming in knows that I will be here for three years. They committed to coming in before they knew that and they committed to staying here before they knew that. I’ve told every recruit that I’ve recruited, ‘I’m going to coach you next year.’ After that, I can’t guarantee anything and no other coach can either. I think we are unique in being able to tell recruits they only have to listen to me for three years, or two, or one. I’ve talked to several recruits about this. If anybody is concerned about our recruiting or whether we can recruit, I don’t think that’s an issue. We are giving notice and explaining that to all our recruits. I believe the program will be in a great position when I do retire.”