NCAA sanctions a necessary response to Syracuse University’s sloppy management of Athletics Department

Orange’s not-so-golden era of carelessness and arrogance, ended at last

When the NCAA announced its harsh penalties on Syracuse University’s basketball program in response to long-term infractions, the organization devastated fans of the Orange – but, ultimately, their decision protects universities’ integrity and athletes’ academic careers.

Despite Syracuse’s rather tepid season this year, the program is highly respected and a consistent post-season competitor, and long-time Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim was on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats.

But SU’s reputation couldn’t – and shouldn’t – shield the program from investigation and disciplinary action.

Over the course of an eight-year investigation, the NCAA found the university’s athletic program violated a wide range of policies, with the infractions dating back as far as 2001.

Student athletes reportedly received disallowed extra benefits, were not tested properly for marijuana use and several counts of academic misconduct went unchecked.

On top of these violations, the NCAA claims Boeheim did not encourage compliance with NCAA policies and that the university did not maintain sufficient control over its athletics programs.

Although the university has disagreed with some of the NCAA findings, the institution largely acknowledges its errors and has chosen to accept the sanctions imposed on the program.

The NCAA’s penalties reflect how seriously the organization views these sorts of infractions.

Syracuse will endure a five-year probation, removal of 12 scholarships over a four-year period, vacation of 108 wins, a nine-game suspension for Boeheim and the previously established, self-imposed post-season ban this year.

With this disciplinary action, the NCAA has sent a message, loud and clear, to Syracuse and its compatriots – athletics programs cannot disregard the rules.

SU’s basketball program will suffer, but only after enjoying what was essentially a golden age, when the team racked up victories and post-season appearances, all the while flouting the rules.

This crackdown is critical in ensuring that universities do not grow lax in their supervision and control of athletic programs. Popularity and success cannot translate into influence and arrogance among athletics programs.

Scholarly institutions must not sacrifice academic integrity for athletic success, or allow disciplinary infractions to go unchecked.

As the NCAA has reminded the college sports community, it’s up to university officials – not individuals involved in the athletics programs – to ensure that.

College athletes may justifiably prioritize their sports over their roles as students, but it’s not acceptable for any individuals attending a university to discard their athletic pursuits entirely. It’s the responsibility of schools to ensure that this isn’t allowed to occur.

Syracuse did allow this to happen, and now they must pay the price. But it’s already apparent that this event is going to improve the relationship between Syracuse’s athletics programs and the institution as a whole, as the university has already announced a series of changes to its policies.

Student athletes now work solely with Academic Affairs when they seek academic support, rather than with athletics’ employees, and additional academic support staff have been hired. The university’s anti-drug program has been redesigned and steps to increase oversight of athletics programs have already been established.

These changes, and the positive results they will generate, indicate the necessity of the NCAA’s sanctions.

Syracuse athletics will not make the same mistakes again – policies will prevent that – and ultimately, student athletes will be more effectively protected and supervised. That sort of victory is worth a losing record.