Chief hearing officer of NCAA’s Committee on Infractions discusses Syracuse’s sanctions

first_img Published on March 6, 2015 at 5:51 pm Editor’s note: the following is a transcription of the teleconference held Friday by Britton Banowsky, the chief hearing officer on the case for the NCAA Committee on Infractions and Commissioner of Conference USA, and reporters to discuss the NCAA’s sanctions against Syracuse.Banowsky: “It’s important to know at the outset that there were few facts in dispute and most of the allegations were also not disputed with some exception obviously. This case is characterized as Level I, meaning it involves a severe breach of conduct, that is to say there were several violations that seriously undermined or threatened the integrity of the collegiate model of athletics. Because the case had some violations that occurred prior to the recent penalty reform, the institution was entitled to the application of the less severe penalty structure. The case spans a considerable length of time and primarily involves the sport of men’s basketball. Key findings in the case include impermissible payments to students athletes via (a) booster involved with AAU basketball from an AAU account, ongoing failure to adhere to the university’s drug testing policies, and multiple episodes of academic misconduct in most cases designed to ensure that the student-athletes remained eligible for the basketball team.In addition it is now concluded that the head men’s basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to monitor the activities of the individuals in his program. Under bylaw 11.1.2.1, the head coach is presumed to be aware of the violation and  responsible for the violations committed by those he supervises. Finally the committee found that over the course of a 10-year period, the institution failed to exercise control and monitor the conduct and administration of its athletics program.We were fortunate to have on the panel Dr. Michael Adams, president emeritus from the University of Georgia, as well as Dr. Thomas Hill, vice president of academic services from Iowa State and Joel Maturi. Each brought decades of experience on campus and a solid perspective on  issues in this case which really go to the core values of NCAA and higher education. As outlined in more detail in the report, the penalties include five years of probation from March 6, 2015 through March 5, 2020. Vacates of all wins in which ineligible men’s basketball student-athletes played in 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2010-11, 2011-12, and ineligible football students played in 2004-06 and 2007. The public decision contains additional details about the vacation of wins. There are fines, including a requirement that the university return to the NCAA all funds it received from it’s appearances in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The suspension of the head basketball coach from the first nine conference games of 2015-16, the reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by three in each of the following years: 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. Reduction in the number of permissible off-campus recruiters from four to two during June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2017. The committee and the panel also noted and accepted school’s self-imposed postseason ban for the 2014-15 season. One more point to share, the investigations in this case went on for an extreme and excessive period of time. I think there’s a timeline available for those who want to see it, and the panel noted this fact and hopefully this case will trigger a process reform to require more timely resolution of cases in the future.”Could you speak to the Syracuse Athletic Director’s exertion that the hearing on the school’s unwritten drug policy was “too confusing” to follow and was that a reason Syracuse challenged some of the drug test allegations later on?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBanowsky: “Relative to drug testing, as you know there’s no requirement that institutions have a drug testing policy but if they do, they are required to follow it. In this case there was a policy that required actions if the student-athletes test positive, and numerous student-athletes tested positive on numerous occasions without being withheld from competition. So the written policy was simply not followed and I think the panel felt like if there is a written policy, the very purpose of a written policy is to create some level of clarity.”In the new (penalty) structure, would the head coach have been eligible for that one-year suspension that coaches are being held to in the new structure?Banowsky: “Yeah, the answer is I believe so. We’re 18 months into the new reforms processes and for the most part they seem to be working. The penalties in the new system are very severe and I think that was intended by the NCAA Board of Directors when they adopted it. But important consideration is when in fact a case predates the reform, the institution is not subject to the more severe penalties. But had that not been the case, this is a Level I case, a serious breach, aggravated circumstances, so you’d be looking at a minimum of six years probation, minimum two years postseason ban, minimum of 25 percent scholarship cuts which can go up to much more, and I think it’s a minimum of 50 percent of a season in terms of suspension. So I think everyone needs to be noting that we’re moving into a new place relative to the severity of penalties going forward.”The report says the drug testing policy was failing to be adhered to starting in 2001, there’s no games vacated until 2004-05, can you explain why games were not vacated earlier than that?Banowsky: “There wasn’t any allegation in the case at all that there was ineligibility prior to I think 2004. In fact I think there was a statue of limitations agreement between the staff and the university that triggered off of May 2003.”What is the committee’s reaction when they get word that there is a self-imposed ban prior to the announcement of any sanctions? As a followup to that, what is your personal reaction to how necessary that is to penalize mid-year, students that are not even involved in the case, rather than starting it out fresh the following fall as all these penalties are?Banowsky: “If an institution, through it’s responsibilities to investigate violations on its own campus wants to self-impose a penalty, there’s nothing to prevent that from happening. So as you know in previous cases, even in the Miami case, it was a long, protracted investigation and case. There were two postseason bans, self-imposed immediately on the football program. It becomes more problematic when it’s in the middle of football season or the middle of basketball season. It also obviously becomes more problematic post-hearing but ultimately it’s the university’s call if they want to do that.”The report says the institution identified 24 basketball victories, 11 football victories, but if I’m reading this correctly it sounds like the panel expected that there would be more, and has directed them to come back at the report in 45 days. Can you give any indication precisely how many victories for both sports you’re expecting to be vacated, or at least some indication on how much you expect those to increase?Banowsky: “I think we just want to make sure we get it right. I think it’s more or less a clerical matter that the university and the staff have to get together and make sure the math is done correctly, up or down.”You said that the coach would probably be facing at least a half-season ban under the new guidelines, was the nine-game ban the maximum ban he could get under the old standards?Banowsky: “The current system, there really aren’t brackets around it. And the new system going forward there’s more prescribed penalties that in cases that are Level I, severe and with aggravation, the panel will be required to impose. So going forward it’s going to be more prescribed than it is right now.The university has kind of come out and disputed Jim Boeheim’s responsibility for the violations, how do you factually support the contention that he’s personally responsible for any of them?Banowsky: “The rule’s pretty clear that the head coach has a duty to monitor the activities of those in the program and is also presumed to be accountable for their violations. And the presumption in the case was not effectively rebuttled at all, I mean in fact the coach hires the director of basketball operations to improve the legitimate performance of the players, he did it by logging into their email accounts and exchanging communication with professors with what the student needs to do. And then in concert with the basketball receptionist, (they) assisted in the preparation of coursework for the players. So in this case the panel felt the head coach should be responsible for the people who report directly to him, most certainly.You said most of the allegations were not disputed but in the report it says that Jim Boeheim did in fact dispute that he should be held accountable, correct?Banowsky: “You know that’s an exception. There were the controversy over that as well as whether the institution should be held accountable for a lack of institutional control.”What kind of effect did Syracuse’s postseason ban have on the penalties?Banowsky: “I mean, we noted it and accepted it. That’s it.”What were the chances had they not done that, that you would have imposed a postseason ban for next season?Banowsky: “I don’t want to speculate about that.”You said that a statute of limitations was reached between the staff and the university for May 2003. What constitutes staff? Is that NCAA enforcement staff or Committee on Infractions staff?Banowsky: “I asked that question this morning, because I thought it might be asked on this call. The enforcement staff in its reply indicated that the parties agreed the pertinent date in May 4, 2003.”Related to coach Boeheim, he is the one name that stretches throughout this investigation. Just how important should the NCAA treat the matter of coaches not making sure that the rules are being followed?Banowsky: “It’s very serious. The rule has been around for a while that holds head coaches responsible in all sports for the violations that take place in their program and it’s not enough to say I thought they knew the rules and thought they were following the rules. There’s a higher level of responsibility that attaches to the head coach, because ultimately he or she is responsible.”Can you speak more to how and what contributed to the “extreme and excessive” (time) period (of the investigation) and how you could see that being rectified going forward?Banowsky: “From my perspective having been on the membership side of the NCAA for quite a while, I think it’s really harmful for these processes to go on for too long. I think the reputation of the university gets unnecessarily put out there in the public, pre-hearing. So I’m a big advocate for figuring out a way to expedite these things and move them along and do it in a way that’s more thoughtful from a timing perspective. In this case I think the NCAA enforcement staff has to take some responsibility here. They ultimately were managing an investigation on their side. I think the processing of some of the academic misconduct issues on campus obviously added to the delay, certainly they weren’t expedited because it took some time. And even in the last couple of months, issues were being appealed to the NCAA’s governance groups on interpretive issues. The bottom line is that it’s unacceptable I think for our membership to have cases that drag on this long.”I was calling in regards to how many wins were being docked from coach Boeheim, do you guys have a number on that?Banowsky: “We’ve encouraged the staff of the NCAA and the staff of the university to get together and make sure they do the math well, so I really don’t have a number right now.”There’s been this broader effort to crack down on academic fraud. We keep hearing some numbers being thrown out regarding how many schools are being investigated, and you mentioned this case…So I’m wondering how do you and the NCAA kind of view the relation to this broader effort and is that going anywhere?Banowsky: “One of the elements of this case was a NCAA decision to defer to institutions because the academy is really a better place to have matters of academic fraud resolved. So that certainly took place in this case, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have violations in terms of providing academic extra benefits and support that go clearly beyond what the other students on campus get. So I think step one is to be deferential to the university’s systems and processes, but ultimately if you have a situation where the desire to achieve success on the basketball court overrides academic integrity, it really demonstrated clearly misplaced priorities. So that’s where the NCAA processes come in.”I know there’s been some efforts to sort of revamp what the NCAA can do in terms of academic fraud issues, have committee members talked about where you all stand on this moving forward?Banowsky: “The committee is one place for that conversation, but really it’s a conversation for the broader membership in all of higher education. Academic misconduct is something that isn’t isolated to student-athletes and sports, it’s across the board. I think you’ll see more so the next several months and even longer, a more focused dialogue about where the lines are drawn here and what expectations are placed on the NCAA enforcement program to pursue these matters.”Why did the committee settle on nine games and was there any thought of a longer suspension?Banowsky: “The committee discussed it, an appropriate penalty, and did some review of prior cases in terms of the discussion. But ultimately it just felt like nine games was the right place, it actually represents 50 percent of the conference season, I think the conference season is an 18-game season. The group just felt like that was the right place to be.”Compiled by Connor Grossman, asst. copy editor, [email protected] Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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