A look at the story of ‘student-athlete 7,’ a key figure in Syracuse’s academic violations

A look at the story of ‘student-athlete 7,’ a key figure in Syracuse’s academic violations

first_imgIn the NCAA’s report on Syracuse University, released Friday, violations concerning academics, the university’s drug policy and a lack of institutional control are laid out.In the section outlining these violations is the case of “Student-Athlete 7,” which ranges from page 23-27 of the report. While not specifically named in the report, the timeline of events matches that of former Syracuse center Fab Melo. The Post-Standard has definitively identified student-athlete 7 as Melo.Melo was ruled ineligible twice during the 2011-12 season. He missed the 2012 NCAA Tournament because of what SU called an “eligibility issue.” It was an academic issue, according to reports at the time. Melo also missed games against Notre Dame, Cincinnati and West Virginia in late January of 2012 because of an academic issue.The report says that in January 2012, SU declared student-athlete 7 ineligible for competition because he failed to meet the NCAA’s progress-toward-degree minimum requirement. SU submitted a waiver application to the NCAA Academic and Membership Affairs explaining both medical and personal difficulties student-athlete 7 faced during his time at SU.Melo suffered a tear in his calf muscle of his right leg during the 2010-11 season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAs part of the waiver application, a personal statement was signed. It is unclear who actually wrote the personal statement. In interviews with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, the director of compliance, the director of basketball operations — who The Post-Standard has identified as Stan Kissel — and student-athlete 7 all had different accounts of the creation of the personal statement, according to the report. Their accounts are as follows:     The director of compliance said she worked primarily with the director of basketball operations on the statement.     The director of basketball operations said he worked with student-athlete 7 and coordinated with the director of compliance on the statement.     Student-athlete 7 said he worked with the director of compliance on the statement.No matter who worked with whom to write the statement, it was not impermissible for student-athlete 7 to receive assistance on the personal statement included in his waiver application, according to the NCAA report. The waiver application, including the personal statement, was submitted on Jan. 16, 2012. It was denied four days later, SU appealed, and the appeal was denied on Jan. 24, 2012, according to the report.“After the second denial, the institution initiated a series of events that it asserted were motivated by student-athlete 7’s best interests, mainly to restore student-athlete 7’s eligibility and return him to the basketball court,” according to the report.A meeting was held the next morning to discuss three options relating to a course grade for student-athlete 7, including the execution of a grade change, according to the report.While the process to change a grade can only be initiated by students, attendees of the meeting, including Director of Athletics Daryl Gross, tasked the director of basketball operations “to inform student-athlete 7 of his options and to follow up on the matter,” according to the report.During the hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, SU “also indicated that there were other motivations at play. Daryl Gross indicated that this particular student-athlete ‘needed basketball.’” Men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim “also expressed a desire for ‘the best defensive player in the country to play’ but acknowledged that he hoped it would be done within the rules,” according to the report.Melo had 88 blocks during the 2011-12 season, 16th-most in NCAA Division I men’s basketball. He was named the 2011-12 Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year.Two days after the NCAA denied SU’s appeal, student-athlete 7 met with the professor of the course to pursue a grade change, and it was decided that student-athlete 7 was to complete a 4-5 page paper with scholarly citations. The next morning the professor received an email from student-athlete 7’s account with the assignment. The paper was “inadequate” because of the lack of citations and the professor received another version of the assignment from student-athlete 7’s email account later that afternoon, according to the report.The final version, the professor decided, warranted the boost of a full letter grade. Strong efforts were made to ensure the proper forms were filled out so student-athlete 7 could play in that Saturday’s men’s basketball game. The form was not completed and student-athlete 7 sat out the game, according to the report.Melo did not play in SU’s game against West Virginia on Jan. 28, 2012.“At no time during this process did compliance, the head basketball coach or anyone that attended the January 25, 2012, meeting inquire about the validity of the work or grade change,” according to the report.The report says student-athlete 7’s first game back was Feb. 4, 2012. Melo’s first game back was Feb. 4, 2012 against St. John’s.SU concluded, the report says, that the director of basketball operations and the basketball facility receptionist — who The Post-Standard has identified as Debora Belanger — “took it upon themselves to try and restore student-athlete 7’s eligibility through the provision of obviously improper assistance with the grade change.” SU reported that both personnel provided text, research and citations in student-athlete 7’s final paper.“When tracing the origins of student-athlete 7’s assignment, the institution discovered that the personal statement from student-athlete 7’s waiver application was saved on the director of basketball operations’ computer,” according to the report. “The institution reported that the final paper submitted for credit was actually a revision of the personal statement previously included in student-athlete 7’s waiver application, which had been just recently filed with the NCAA and denied.”No data associated with any versions of the paper listed student-athlete 7 as an author, according to the report.SU concluded, the report says, that student-athlete seven received “unauthorized assistance” in completing the assignment, and issued him a failing grade. SU later fired the basketball facility receptionist and permitted the director of basketball operations to resign.“In the example of student-athlete 7, in order to keep one of their best players eligible the institution simply did not take ‘no’ from the NCAA for an answer,” the report says.SU self-reported the incident in December 2013, according to the report.Syracuse NCAA Violation: Pages 23-27 Related Stories Mysterious bank account, illegitimate internships and other takeaways from the “Findings of Fact” section of NCAA report Published on March 7, 2015 at 2:14 am Contact Justin: [email protected] | @jmattingly306 Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentslast_img

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