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The Five Most Damning Things in the NCAA's Syracuse Sanction Report

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There's a lot of damning stuff in the NCAA's report into findings of Syracuse Athletics violations. Here's the most damning.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot, and I mean A LOT, to unpack from the NCAA's report into the Syracuse Orange Athletics program and it's many violations and issues. We've tried out best to suss out the most critical and damning so we can get a real sense of what we're talking about.

If there's anything I learned while going through all of this, it's that while you can hate the NCAA, Syracuse absolutely brought this on itself. Also, if you ran a company like this, you'd go out of business.

H/T to Lisa for doing the legwork of sorting through the report.

The YMCA Booster Club

Back in November we first heard about a shady connection between Syracuse Athletics and a local YMCA, specifically, an employee who may have been giving money and benefits to players. The report seems to confirm all of that.

Beginning in 2005, student-athletes 2 and 3 were enrolled in a course at the institution that required an internship...The part-time tutor had been promoted to CEO of the YMCA based in the Rome branch in 2000. He was in a position to agree to facilitate internships for the institution's student-athletes. Like the community service activities, the institution approved but took very few steps to investigate or confirm the terms of the internship opportunities at the Oneida YMCA. The part-time tutor admitted that he had limited personal knowledge regarding the hours that student-athletes worked. Instead, he relied upon his personal observations, as well as the statements from student-athletes and their supervisors assigned to monitor the internship. By the end of the fall 2005 semester, the professor advised the part-time tutor that the two football student-athletes had not completed the internship.

The part-time tutor certified the 180-service hour requirement and submitted evaluations on behalf of student-athletes 2 and 3 to the professor. The professor relied on the part- time tutor's certification in assigning the student-athletes passing grades in the course. During interviews, the student-athletes' recollection of their internship experience did not match the part-time tutor's representations.

To a large extent, the institution's multi-year relationship with the Tri-Valley YMCA, particularly the Oneida branch, the representative and the part-time tutor resulted in numerous self-reported potential violations of NCAA legislation that involved violations of the institution's academic integrity policy, cash payments and benefits. The institution knew or should have known through its staff that the representative was more than a "nice guy who would talk to players and try to give them the right advice."

The institution repeatedly described instances in which it sought assurances from the representative that he would not provide extra benefits or special treatment. However, the institution, specifically the compliance office, did not provide examples of instances in which it provided NCAA rules education to either the representative or the part-time tutor during the decade-long relationship. Rather, those responsible for ensuring compliance encouraged these relationships and assumed they operated within NCAA requirements.

At the same time the representative launched the "Back on Track" program, he also opened and operated a checking account that he used to pay student-athletes and athletics staff. The representative named the account "AAU-DCCT" and used the Tri-Valley YMCA's tax identification number. Both the identity of the account and the nature of the transactions would connect back to the institution's student-athletes and its men's basketball program. The account served as a source of payments provided to student-athletes, men's basketball staff members and registration payments for local youth to attend coaching staff members' basketball camps. From May 2004 to July 2005, the representative used the AAU-DCCT account to write checks to student-athletes, compensate athletics staff members for their assistance or appearance at YMCA events and to supplement the income of a men's basketball staff member by paying his rent for a month. During this period, the representative deposited more than $300,000 into that account.

Director of Basketball Operations Stan Kissel's Overzealous Academic Efforts

According to the report, Jim Boeheim was so concerned about the state of SU basketball academics that he went out and hired Stan Kissel as his new Director of Basketball Operations to fix the problem. Only... Kissel became allegedly became an even bigger problem. I'll let the report take it from there:

..the head basketball coach identified the director of basketball operations as the "academic point man" for men's basketball, to work with athletics compliance and assist in coordinating with community activities...At the hearing, the head basketball coach acknowledged that he recruited some student-athletes that needed "additional academic support". The head basketball coach entrusted the director of basketball operations to handle all academic matters in his program. During the 2010-11 academic year, the institution designated tutors and mentors as resources to student-athletes. Tutors provided subject-specific assistance. Mentors, in contrast, provided more general assistance such as organization and time- management skills.

The director of basketball operations, whose job primarily consisted of monitoring academic performance of basketball student-athletes, became overly involved in men's basketball student-athletes' academic matters. For example, he collected and maintained student-athletes' usernames and passwords and provided them to others, including student-athlete support services. The director of basketball operations and members of student-athlete support services commonly accessed student-athletes' network and email accounts in an effort to monitor student-athletes' academic progress...Accessing student-athletes' accounts, however, was not limited to monitoring academic progress. Rather, access was a piece of a larger effort led by the director of basketball operations to manage student-athletes' academics.

As part of this practice, the director of basketball operations and student-athlete support services employees accessed and sent emails from student-athletes' accounts and corresponded directly with professors. Numerous emails included attached academic coursework, which was necessary to maintain the required grades for student-athletes to remain eligible. Recipients of the emails included student-athletes and the director of basketball operations. There is no indication that the director of basketball operations questioned or reported concerns. To the contrary, the email and related data suggest the common practice of the director of basketball operations monitoring, identifying and then remedying academic concerns through email correspondence, which purportedly was being sent directly by the student-athletes to their professors.

Stan Kissel left Syracuse in December 2012 to "spend more time with his family." The James Southerland academic issues dropped a month later.

Tutors Doing A Lot More Than Just Tutoring

Of course, if the person charge of player academics is shady, the people working under him will be shady as well.

In the spring of 2011 and while accessing a student-athlete's email account, the director of student-athlete support services discovered troubling emails from a student-athlete support services mentor, ("the support services mentor") and the student-athlete support services tutor, ("the support services tutor") to basketball student-athletes...In an email to colleagues, the director of student-athlete support services expressed concern, specifically noting that it "looks as though work might have been done for these students." Although concerned, the director of student-athlete support services did not report his discoveries to the provost or compliance offices. Rather, he permitted the support services mentor and tutor to continue working with student-athletes and even assigned the support services mentor to a new student-athlete. The director of student-athlete support services did check the coursework for plagiarism. But at the hearing, he admitted that he did not alert anyone in either athletics or academics about his concerns. In his November 6, 2012, interview, he indicated that he did not report his concerns because he feared he would not be taken seriously. He had a sense that men's basketball might have "a little bit of special treatment."

...the support services mentor worked under the direction of, or closely with, the director of basketball operations. During this time, she assisted two men's basketball student-athletes in academic coursework...In each instance, the student-athlete had a coursework assignment(s), received assistance from the support services mentor and turned in coursework for academic credit. Additionally, during their academic careers, both student-athletes 8 and 9 fell behind in their course responsibilities. Through their integral involvement, both the director of basketball operations and the support services mentor were aware of their academic standing, sometimes before the student-athletes themselves.

Based on the institution's forensic investigation and metadata analysis, the institution reported that in connection with a fall 2010 course student-athlete 8 received an assignment, had access to multiple versions of that assignment through email and received a grade in the course. Specifically, student-athlete 8 was assigned a five-page paper that included at least five peer-reviewed scholarly papers and a bibliography. Two versions of the paper existed. One, a four-page paper, was saved on student-athlete 8's network user profile. Another, a six-page paper that included scholarly articles and a bibliography, was saved under the support services mentor's name and on the same type of computer she had at home. The support services mentor emailed student-athlete 8 a copy of the second paper. Subsequently, student-athlete 8's email account forwarded the paper to the director of basketball operations. The same day, the support services mentor informed the director of basketball operations that the paper had been completed and submitted. Student-athlete 8 received a "B" in the course.

Finally, the institution self-reported that during the spring 2012 semester the support services tutor assisted a men's basketball student-athlete, ("student-athlete 10"), by writing a portion of a midterm paper.

As was suggested earlier, the record clearly suggests a pattern of behavior. The director of basketball operations (whom the head basketball coach hired to "fix" the academic problems) and the men's basketball facility receptionist would monitor the email accounts of the student-athletes, would identify potential academic situations and deficiencies in coursework completion that might create eligibility problems, and then proceed to work in concert to remedy the problem. The result was the academic performance of the basketball student-athletes improved and fewer student-athletes were ineligible. However, the extreme level of academic assistance not only violated the institution's own policies for tutors and support service providers but also NCAA rules that preclude student-athletes from being provided academic benefits that are not available to the general population.

Just Say No To Following The Drug Policy

Syracuse had a drug policy in place, which is great. They didn't really follow it, which isn't great. We knew about this a while back and, on it's own, it's not the worst thing ever. But, with everything else, just another lack of control or accountability.

In the institution's 2014 self-report, it reported only that it did not follow its written drug testing policy and provided none of the details that had been previously provided. The institution redacted information relating to the number of affected student-athletes and the involved sport program it detailed in its October 2010 self-report. At the hearing and in their interviews, both the head basketball coach and the director of athletics admitted that they did not strictly follow the written policy. Specifically, in his interview the head basketball coach acknowledged that he had student-athletes test positive and rather than call the student-athletes' parents, he brought the student-athletes in and talked to them. When questioned why he did not call the parents, the head basketball coach responded that the director of athletics did not require him to follow the policy and, in at least in some instances, "it would have been fruitless." At the hearing, the head basketball coach also admitted that he did not call the parents because his director of athletics told him he did not have to and he did not know that failing to follow the policy violated NCAA rules.

Similarly, at the hearing the director of athletics defended the head basketball coach's decision not to call parents, claiming that the policy was confusing. The director of athletics indicated that there was an "unwritten policy" whereby it was known that coaches were not going to call parents.

Finally, based on information developed in interviews with the assistant director of athletics for sports medicine, student-athletes tested positive on more than one occasion and were not typically withheld from practice and/or competition in accordance with the written policy. And he could not recall a time where a student-athlete was withheld from competition since 2000.

Other Academic Violations, Eligibility Violations & Just A General Lack Of Common Sense

There's so many instances of academic violations, it's hard to keep track. A lot of which is thanks to a stunning lack of common sense and double-checking. The whole Bowie jersey fiasco makes a lot sense now, doesn't it?

Specifically, on various dates from the 2003-04 through 2006-07 academic years, there were approximately 12 instances when student-athletes participated in a promotional activity without fully completing the promotional activity approval process. Some of the student-athletes participated in events without first submitting a signed promotional activity form and receiving institutional approval. Others participated without fully completing the promotional activity form or without executing a release. Finally, one men's basketball student-athlete, working with the representative, raised funds purportedly for a charitable organization; however, the funds were used to promote the representative's upcoming basketball tournament, a commercial venture.

The representative and the part-time tutor developed "Back on Track," a formal mentoring program for student- athletes. The program was a four-step program for student-athletes who were in serious need of help. The program's purpose was to (1) provide a place for student-athletes "to work out their issues when there is difficulty either at home at school or athletically" and (2) provide a place for student-athletes to perform "meaningful service to kids and families."

After several email exchanges with the part-time tutor and the representative, the former director of compliance sought and received assurances from the part-time tutor and the representative that NCAA legislation would be followed under the program. Mainly, the former director of compliance wanted to confirm that the part-time tutor and the representative had not taken into account student-athlete 1's athletics ability for involvement with the program and that student-athlete 1 would not be provided preferential treatment or additional benefits. The compliance office instructed the representative and the part-time tutor to obtain written approval prior to providing student-athlete 1 with any benefits or special arrangements. The institution did not report ever receiving approval requests.

The institution claimed that the representative provided benefits "without [its] awareness or acquiescence" – particularly, where student-athletes were concerned. But institutional employees were undeniably involved. Further, there were additional instances in which it appeared that the representative operated in plain view of institutional staff. Between the academic years 2002-03 and 2006-07, the representative provided local ground transportation to three student-athletes. He also provided meals to one of those student- athletes. The meals were not at the representative's home. In its response and repeatedly at the hearing, the institution tried to assert that the representative was not the "typical booster." Ultimately, the institution self-reported the representative's activities as potential NCAA violations.

Similarly, on at least five occasions, institutional staff provided two student-athletes with automobile transportation that the institution concluded did not fit the definition of "local." On one occasion in 2004, an assistant men's basketball coach drove student-athlete 1 45 miles. Similarly, on four occasions in spring 2005, an employee in the institution's football academic support unit provided a football student- athlete with round-trip transportation totally 128 miles. The institution discovered and self-reported all of these instances as potential violations of NCAA legislation.

SBNation just posted their own version of this as well. Go see if they caught anything we didn't.