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SU coach Jim Boeheim calls NCAA penalties 'unduly harsh'

Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim will appeal sanctions handed down on him from the NCAA, calling the penalties "unduly harsh."

For the first time since the NCAA released a report on the Syracuse athletic department March 6 charging the basketball program had run off the rails, Boeheim addressed the accusations. He spoke to the media for an hour Thursday at the Carrier Dome, saying he wanted to put forth his opinion on how events of academic fraud and poor oversight outlined by the NCAA took place.

  

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S.U. basketball coach Jim Boeheim.

Boeheim said he takes responsibility for the violations in his program, but disagrees with the assessment from the college sports governing body.

"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 to our alumni, students and fans," Boeheim read from prepared remarks.

The NCAA concluded after a multi-year investigation that Boeheim failed to "promote an atmosphere of compliance" within his team over the course of a decade. It alleges several instances of academic fraud, failure to follow the school's drug policy and gifts and "extra benefits" given to players, such as payment to appear at charity events at a regional YMCA.

(Read the NCAA's full report)

The most stark instance of academic misdeeds was a paper written on behalf of Fab Melo, a player for Syracuse from 2010-2012. Two athletic department employees are accused of writing the essay on behalf of Melo in order for him to regain academic eligibility.

Boeheim said while he meets regularly with university officials to discuss compliance, he had no knowledge or part in the incident.

"I certainly never encouraged these individuals to cheat," Boeheim said. "This is not my way."

All players accepted to Syracuse to player basketball are capable of doing the workload at the university, Boeheim said.

While Boeheim did take the ultimate responsibility for the infractions, he remained intractable that they were not all his fault.

"I am not allowed to look at paper and I think that’s a good thing. I am not allowed to talk to professors. And I think that’s a good thing," he said in response to a question about why didn't know athletic department staff were doing a player's homework.

He didn't write the school's drug policy, Boeheim said, even if he knowingly chose not to follow its enforcement guidelines. "It’s a myth that I somehow run things at Syracuse University," Boeheim said.

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Jim Boeheim, head coach of Syracuse basketball.

Boeheim is a Hall of Fame member, rising to become the second winningest coach in college basketball, though the NCAA has stripped Boeheim of 108 wins as a penalty, which knocks him down the list.

Boeheim was also suspended for nine ACC conference games next year and the NCAA reduced the number of scholarships available to the basketball program, levied fines and placed the program on probation.

"Given the circumstance, I believe that the penalty imposed on the university as a whole, and me individually, are unduly harsh," he said.

Boeheim is appealing parts of the penalties, as is the university.

This is not the first time the NCAA has punished Boeheim and S.U. basketball. The team was banned from the 1993 postseason because of recruitment violations.

What's next

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud announced Wednesday that Boeheim will retire after three more seasons as head coach. Boeheim just completed his 39th year as head coach.

(Reaction to Boeheim's retirement and departure of S.U.'s athletic director)

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Assistant Syracuse basketball coach Mike Hopkins.

He did call those three years a window and said he could retire sooner if he felt he is no longer affective. "I feel three years is right for me to be able to continue to do my job as well as I possibly can," he said.

The university is allowing for the three year transition in order to maintain stability within the program. The assumed heir is current assistant coach Mike Hopkins.

"I believe Mike Hopkins will be a great coach and I fervently hope that he is the coach here," Boeheim said, but he also noted he does not have the ability to hire a replacement.

Boeheim said the goal will not change for the next three years: win games. He says there will be no retirement tour, noting he's not Derek Jeter.

Towards the end of the press conference, Boeheim said college sports have always been important, "but the scale is different."