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Syracuse Basketball: Two SU Appeals Delayed NCAA Sanctions

So, about what took the NCAA so long to release its findings on Syracuse.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse University officials attended a two-day hearing in late October before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, a hearing preceded by the NCAA's eight-year investigation into the Syracuse athletic department. The NCAA then needed more than four months to announce its sanctions against the school on March 6.

Thanks to a comprehensive report from's Chris Carlson, we now know what caused that delay. Two Syracuse appeals pushed back the release of the NCAA's findings, which resulted in sanctions that included a loss of 12 scholarships and a nine-game suspension for head coach Jim Boeheim.

The appeals, which were filed after the hearing and before the NCAA's report being released, were SU's final attempt to have several academic issues removed from the NCAA investigation.

Each of the appeals dealt with whether the school or the NCAA should have authority over academic issues.

The subject of the appeals is primarily concerned with a basketball receptionist and tutor completing schoolwork for three basketball players, according to Carlson. The NCAA was investigating Fab Melo's academic issues in July 2012 when it found that Debora Belanger, the receptionist, and Kristie Smith, the tutor, had done just that.

The three players aided by Belanger and Smith were the unidentified Players 8 and 9 in the NCAA report, as well as a third player.

"The NCAA ultimately found that unidentified Player 8 had multiple pages of a paper and an oral presentation script written for them by Belanger. Player 9, who has been placed on academic probation, was found to have had a paper and the majority of a final exam done for him, allowing him to become academically eligible.

A third player was found to have had a paragraph of a midterm written by Smith."

Syracuse had previously found the three players not guilty of academic misconduct. The professors for Player 8 and Player 9 found no evidence of any wrongdoing. The third player was charged with an academic integrity violation, but that charge was later overturned by a panel of three tenured SU professors.

Apparently, the NCAA saw it differently.
"Despite being found not guilty by the school, the NCAA found the players guilty of receiving impermissible benefits, which ruled that the work supplied by athletic staff members would not have been available to normal students."
Syracuse filed its first appeal in mid-November. The appeal went to the Legislative Review and Interpretations Committee and was rejected on Dec. 4. Soon thereafter, SU submitted an appeal to the Division I Legislative Council. Syracuse was again rejected, this time on Jan. 8.

According to Carlson, a Syracuse official said the school discussed the situation with the NCAA for another week before concluding that it wouldn't submit a third appeal.

Syracuse soon decided to self-impose a 2015 postseason ban, telling the Committee on Infractions of those intentions on Jan. 30. The ban was announced to the public on Feb. 4.

Still, the fight between SU and the leading governing body of college sports might not be over just yet. Reports have already surfaced that Boeheim plans to appeal his suspension, and it is widely expected that Syracuse will appeal at least some of the other penalties handed down by the NCAA.

Meanwhile, the Daily Orange reports that during the NCAA's investigations in July 2012, Syracuse "began an overhaul of its academic services for student-athletes."

The overhaul, which began when SU hired Andira Costello Staniec as associate provost for academic programs that month, saw Syracuse increase its tutoring staff and name Tommy Powell its first-ever assistant provost for student-athlete development.

Syracuse now employs more than 120 tutors, who hold more than 800 appointments with student-athletes per week, according to the Daily Orange.