Boeheim will appeal 'unduly harsh' NCAA penalties

Syracuse, NY ( - Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim said Thursday he plans to appeal the "unduly harsh" penalties levied against him by the NCAA.

Boeheim, who on Wednesday revealed his intention to retire after three more years on the bench, spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since the NCAA Committee on Infractions released its findings from a lengthy investigation into the Syracuse program.

Nearly two weeks ago, the NCAA report said Boeheim failed to monitor the men's basketball program and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. As a result, the Hall of Fame coach was hit with a nine-game suspension for next season and the men's basketball program was slapped with penalties that included probation, a reduction of scholarships and a vacation of wins in which ineligible students participated.

The NCAA's investigation centered around academic misconduct, extra benefits, the failure to follow a school drug testing policy and impermissible booster activity.

Boeheim, in a defiant and sometimes angry tone, took responsibility for the violations and apologized to all those involved with the university, but disagreed with many of the NCAA's findings.

"I do regret that these violations happened and I apologize for any harm it has brought to my players and the university or embarrassment it has caused our alumni, our students and our fans," Boeheim said early in a statement Thursday.

Boeheim then went nearly line-by-line from the NCAA's report, saying the coach has the responsibility for the program, but that he did not have "personal involvement" in the findings outlined by the NCAA.

"You have heard this story from the NCAA's point of view. Today I want to share my perspective," he said.

Boeheim said early in the process, he was interviewed by the NCAA before the school was notified of charges against the program. Once the charges were levied, he said the NCAA "declined to listen to the information I had" regarding the allegations.

As far as compliance, Boeheim said he and his staff have compliance meetings almost daily and meet with players regarding compliance twice a year.

Boeheim also vehemently denied the NCAA's assertions about academic fraud within the basketball program.

"This is far from a program where student-athletes 'freely' committed academic fraud," he stated.

"We demand our team members and student athletes do the required work in the classroom.

"With exception of 2008-09, when we had three members withdraw from class to prepare for the NBA, the men's basketball program has maintained an APR above the requirement.

"Between 2008-14, 11 of our 13 seniors graduated. We have a perfect score in the last two years. I believe this shows we are paying attention to the academic welfare of our student-athletes."

One of the NCAA's main points of academic misconduct centered around former Syracuse center Fab Melo, who was ruled ineligible for portions of the 2011-12 season.

Boeheim stressed that he had no input into discussions of how to restore Melo's eligibility during the season and told academic counselors to make sure it was done the correct way.

Melo re-submitted a paper in a course in an effort to improve his grade, something available to all Syracuse students. The new paper was prepared with assistance from two (now former) athletics employees, both of whom were aware their actions were improper and wrong.

"I am not allowed to look at papers. I am not allowed to talk to professors and I think that's a good thing," Boeheim said about the process, adding that academic coordinator Stan Kissel is the only one who could have known about the academic issues.

Boeheim maintained that he has no power over who is admitted to the university.

"Syracuse University has never admitted anyone here that could not do the work here, that was not qualified," he said.

As for the involvement with student-athletes and the YMCA, in which a part- time employee provided extra benefits to players, Boeheim said the university had vetted the man and he only learned of the actions after the NCAA investigation had begun.

Boeheim acknowledged he should have known that a violation of the school's drug policy, for which players allegedly tested positive for marijuana, was also considered an NCAA violation.

Following the statement, Boeheim took questions and said he probably would have retired a while ago if not for the investigation.

"There was no way I was going to ever leave this university during the investigation," said Boeheim, who first arrived at Syracuse as a student in 1962 and was named the head coach in 1976.

"I had no plans to coach this long. This investigation has made it imperative. The Final Four in 2013 would have been a great time to go out, but we weren't in a position to (do that)."

Boeheim said he believed three years was probably longer than he was planning to stay and added that if he feels he's not effective after next season, he'll call it a career sooner.

The decorated coach has a record of 966-333, without the vacation of wins, and owns the second-most victories in Division I men's history.

Syracuse won the 2003 national championship and reached the Final Four three other times during Boeheim's tenure. The Orange lost the 1987 title game to Indiana and fell to Kentucky in the 1996 championship game before beating Kansas for the 2003 crown. The Orange lost to Michigan in the 2013 national semifinals.

Syracuse already has announced a successor for Boeheim, as long-time assistant Mike Hopkins has been chosen as the head coach-in-waiting.

However, Boeheim said he knows that Hopkins' status is up to the chancellor and the Board of Trustees.

"It's a myth that I run things at Syracuse University," he said.

Syracuse will be eligible to participate in postseason play next year after the NCAA accepted the school's self-imposed penalty of no postseason this year. The Orange reportedly have a strong incoming recruiting class for basketball.