Syracuse Basketball Media Guide Reveals Why Orange Vacated Games, Players Involved
Terrence Roberts says he remembers doing some work at the Oneida YMCA. He doesn't remember the dates. Or exactly what the work entailed. Or whether he was paid or not.
He certainly doesn't remember knowing that he was breaking NCAA rules.
But according to the NCAA he was, and badly enough that the organization docked the Syracuse basketball team 45 wins.
"It's disheartening because I know the kind of person I am," Roberts said. "For them to say 45 games are gone because of me? Come on, man. In all honesty, I don't even know what they're talking about. I don't remember that. … But if I got paid for anything it was services rendered. If I got paid for anything, it's because I was working."
Roberts said he doesn't remember exactly what he did on his visits to the YMCA but he believes they involved mentoring.
"What did I do?" Roberts said. "Man, that was so long ago. I know I talked to kids a few times. They just reach for everything, man."
Of the 101 wins vacated by the NCAA, Syracuse lost 60 games due to payments from the YMCA that were deemed to have made players ineligible, like the ones allegedly made to Roberts. The Orange lost 41 due to academic improprieties, like the ones that involved Fab Melo.
Payments to Roberts and Billy Edelin caused 60 vacated wins from 2004 to 2007, while academic issues involving Melo, Dion Waiters and Mookie Jones cost the Orange 41 wins from 2010 to 2012.
The players and circumstances involved in the vacated wins became apparent through a copy of the school's basketball media guide provided to Syracuse.com and thanks to recent comments from Jim Boeheim on the Doug Gottlieb Show.Boeheim said on that show that none of the vacated wins involved drug violations.
"Most of them were about tutoring," Boeheim said on the radio show. "Most but not all. One was a speech for $300 where the money was re-paid but not re-instated. That one was 45 games. … The (drug policy) has nothing to do with any of the games."
While Boeheim did not mention Roberts by name, and those details were not included in the NCAA report, the situation matches the forward. Roberts played in 45 vacated wins and missed two due to a knee injury during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.
Fifteen wins were taken from the 2004-05 season, while 12 were not vacated. Edelin played in 15 wins that year and did not play in 12 victories. Edelin did not play in the 2005 Big East title game victory over West Virginia, so that win will not be vacated.
The Syracuse basketball media guide, which includes asterisks next to the players names in each year that a player was ineligible, indicated that Melo, Waiters and Jones were three of the four players involved in academic problems that the NCAA took issue with.
Jones was found to have played while ineligible in 2010-11, when Syracuse vacated seven wins. All three players played while ineligible in 2011-12, when Syracuse vacated all 34 wins. A fourth player who was mentioned for accepting an academic benefit in the NCAA's report was not involved in any vacated games.
While the academic fraud to keep Fab Melo eligible was well-chronicled, the other academic issues drew less attention and were termed impermissible academic benefits by the NCAA.
Based on a comparison of the vacated wins and players, along with descriptions of the violations in the NCAA's Committee on Infractions report, the NCAA believes that Jones and Waiters had portions of their schoolwork done by Debora Belanger, a mentor in SU Athletics' academic development department and later a receptionist in the basketball office.
Belanger was accused by the NCAA of doing schoolwork for the two from the Fall of 2010 to Fall of 2011.
Computer forensics indicated that school work turned in by the two players was done on her home computer. Forensics indicated she used that home computer to e-mail work to both the players and SU's former director of basketball operations Stan Kissel.
The NCAA report indicates that in Waiters' case, the work done by Belanger helped him avoid an academic suspension during the summer of 2011. Waiters remained eligible, finished second on the team in scoring with 12.6 points, and turned pro after the 2011-12 season.
While they were flagged by the school as possible academic integrity violations, the school did not pursue charges in the instances Belanger was involved, at least partially because the school could not locate the final work.
The fourth case of impermissible academic benefits involved tutor Kristie Smith. In that case the final work was found and an academic integrity charge was pursued by the school. A university panel designed for reviewing those cases overturned the charge. No wins appear to have been vacated in that instance.
In a written statement supplied to Syracuse.com, Boeheim expressed dismay that players had to be identified in the media guide, while they remained anonymous throughout the NCAA process.
"We've accepted the punishment," Boeheim said. "I just feel really bad for the individual players. I wish they didn't have to be identified."
While the academic issues seem to strike at the core of the NCAA's stated purpose, and the amount of money distributed to players is small compared to the millions made by athletic departments, it was the case of Roberts, one Roberts says is so insignificant that he doesn't remember it, that ended up striking the biggest blow to the record books.
Roberts says he remembers officials trying to contact him about the NCAA investigation shortly after he left college, but says he never spoke with them. He had no idea that 45 vacated wins were tied to him until a reporter contacted him last month.
"I didn't have an interaction with them," Roberts said. "My interaction was, mind your business and keep it moving. I didn't interact with them. I made sure they didn't interact with me. … Forty-five games? Because of me? That's insane. That is insane. Wow. This is why guys have an issue with the NCAA."
The NCAA report depicted Jeff Cornish as a bad character, a rogue booster with a previous gambling problem who was working with players with the knowledge of coaches. The report indicates that Syracuse investigated whether Cornish's gambling involved Syracuse, but found no information "to support the claim."
Roberts, though, remembers a different Cornish, one who was simply trying to help out athletes and provide a thrill to kids in Oneida, about as far from the concept of a rich booster as he could imagine.
"I remember Jeff as a good dude, plain and simple," Roberts said. "He'd bring his son to hoop with us. He'd help get us jobs. They take that and they made it something completely different. I'm only speaking on my interactions, but he was a good guy, a family guy, so I have respect for Jeff and how he handled himself."
The NCAA took issue with Syracuse's relationship with the Oneida YMCA because no proof could be found that players did work that corresponded with Cornish's payments, and few details of the time players spent at the YMCA were available.
Roberts described a scenario far different from a ploy to funnel money to players.
"I never got a check with Jeff Cornish's name on it," Roberts said. "I don't remember getting one from the YMCA. I remember going up there once with a job application. The next thing I thought was, this is way too far to be going to work. How far is that? An hour? You think I'm driving up there, making however much in that weather? What was I driving, my mom's 1994 Ford Taurus? Come on. Get real."
The largest of the payments from Cornish, according to the NCAA, was a $3,100 check written to Billy Edelin, who Syracuse coaches encouraged him to mentor. Edelin declined to comment on the details of his relationship with Cornish or the NCAA investigation.
Like most of those associated with Syracuse, Roberts says he doesn't intend to let the NCAA rules change how he remembers his career.
"They can do whatever they want with those wins," Roberts said. "It's not like we don't have video evidence of those games. It's not like we didn't play the games. It matters, but it doesn't matter, you know? We played the games, we won the games, we all know how many wins Boeheim really has. I have those memories stored in places the NCAA can't get them."