October 9, 2015
Dear Members of the University Community:
This past week has been difficult for all of us who love SMU. Following an NCAA investigation of potential rules violations in our men’s basketball and men’s golf programs, the NCAA Committee on Infractions notified us September 29 of its findings and the sanctions it is imposing on those programs. Naturally, our main focus of concern has been on the dedicated student-athletes who work so hard to succeed in their academic and athletic work and what these sanctions mean for them.
It is out of this concern that we have deliberated whether to file an appeal with the NCAA of the Committee’s findings and sanctions.
Let me first say that we regret that violations of NCAA bylaws occurred and we take this matter very seriously. We are committed to full compliance with NCAA and American Athletic Conference bylaws and University values and standards, and we have continually strengthened our compliance program toward that end. As we have learned, however, even the most vigilant and comprehensive compliance programs cannot prevent individual acts of misconduct. Still, this happened in our program and we take responsibility.
As noted in my email last week, when SMU first learned of the potential violations, we took immediate action to investigate the allegations, cooperated fully with the NCAA investigation, and self-imposed meaningful corrective measures and sanctions on our program.
Over the past week, we have heard from hundreds of SMU supporters offering varying perspectives and advice on what steps SMU should take regarding an appeal, and we appreciate everyone’s input and concern. At the same time, we have carefully analyzed the NCAA’s findings and sanctions and have deliberated with internal and external counsel, University and Athletics Department leadership and a special task force of the Board of Trustees.
SMU is the first institution to receive findings and sanctions under the NCAA’s new penalty structure, making it difficult to draw comparisons with previous infractions cases for both the University and the Committee on Infractions. As expected, any new system will generate areas of ambiguity that require correction or clarification. Under this new structure, we expected that the Committee on Infractions might potentially impose additional penalties on top of our self-imposed sanctions, but we also anticipated a greater acknowledgment of our proactive measures as mitigating factors moderating any additional penalties imposed.
Therefore, SMU has decided to appeal several sanctions imposed by the Committee on Infractions and will file our intent to appeal within the mandated 15-day time period, by
October 14. Our appeal will be based not only on expected mitigating factors, but also on what we believe is a misapplication and/or a misinterpretation of the NCAA’s new penalty structure, as well as some notable procedural errors in this case. The sanctions we are appealing include the following:
- The duration of scholarship losses in men’s basketball and men’s golf and the duration of recruiting restrictions in men’s basketball.
- The penalty level applied to men’s golf and resulting post-season ban both for the team and for individual competition.
- The vacating of men’s basketball victories during the 2013-14 season due to the participation of a student deemed ineligible by the Committee.
After careful consideration, however, we will not appeal the NCAA post-season ban on men’s basketball or partial season suspension of Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown. Although we regret the severe impact on our student-athletes, the simple fact is that the NCAA penalty structure mandates at minimum a one-year post-season ban for the level of misconduct that occurred, in our case, when a former staff member completed an online high school course for a prospective student-athlete, committing academic misconduct. In addition, should we appeal this matter, the lengthy process and uncertainty during this period could harm many aspects of the program. Coach Brown and his staff also agree that it is in the best interests of the program to accept these sanctions and move forward.
Despite these challenges, SMU is moving forward with optimism into our second century, with momentum bolstered by the success of our $1 billion major gifts campaign and our rising academic quality and research achievements. Our recent centennial commemoration has given us an opportunity to reaffirm our values and commitment to the ongoing success of our students. Knowing the challenges our founders faced and the leadership and sacrifices of so many over 100 years should remind us that a university endures beyond the headlines of the moment.
During this year, in particular, we will need to rally behind our Mustang student-athletes, especially our seniors on the men’s basketball and men’s golf teams. We need to show all our student-athletes our unwavering appreciation for their contributions to the vitality of SMU.
We are a strong university and look ahead to many great days. Thank you for your support of SMU.
R. Gerald Turner
Statements from SMU Director of Athletics Rick Hart, SMU Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown and SMU Head Men’s Golf Coach Jason Enloe:
“SMU Athletics is a part of the larger University community and together, we experience the highs and lows of success and adversity. In this instance, when faced with the difficult choices regarding appealing the Committee on Infractions findings and penalties, we made deliberative decisions in the best interests of our programs and our University. Regrettably, student-athletes with no involvement will be penalized for the actions of others, but violations occurred and it is time to move forward. I know that the Mustang family will come together and rally around our student-athletes and coaches."
– Rick Hart, Director of Athletics, SMU
“The fact that NCAA violations happened on my watch is something that I regret and take very seriously. I am committed to winning with integrity and we must -- and we will -- do better. While the decision to not appeal our post-season ban was made in the best interests of the program, I am truly disappointed for our student-athletes who are the most impacted by the penalties and who had nothing to do with the infractions. Our young men need your support now more than ever, and I am confident that the Mustang family will respond.”
– Larry Brown, Head Coach, SMU Men’s Basketball
“My focus remains on our student-athletes who are most impacted by the Committee's decisions. While we are all hopeful that our appeal will be successful, our program will grow stronger regardless of the outcome, and with great student-athletes on our team and a new golf facility on the horizon, I know that great days and championships are ahead for SMU men’s golf.”
– Jason Enloe, Head Coach, SMU Men’s Golf
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