The NCAA has banned SMU's basketball team from postseason play for the 2015-16 season, and Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown will be suspended for 30 percent of the squad's games as part of sanctions handed down Tuesday for a lack of head coach control.
The NCAA confirmed the penalties Tuesday, while Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, who originally reported on the sanctions, noted the punishment includes the loss of nine scholarships across the next three years. This is the third time a Brown-led team has faced sanctions, with the previous instances occurring at Kansas and UCLA.
SMU released a statement, per Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk:
While we accept responsibility for violations, the individuals responsible for the infractions have been held accountable both by the University and by the Committee on Infractions. To punish the student-athletes in the men's basketball [program] by prohibiting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in the postseason is simply wrong. It is not what our system of governance should be about and we are considering our response.
Brown also offered a statement, per Kami Mattioli of Sporting News:
Leading the SMU men's basketball program is an honor and a responsibility that I take very seriously. That duty includes helping our young men develop into people of character and to ensuring that we pursue our goals with integrity.
I am saddened and disappointed that the Committee on Infractions believes that I did not fully fulfill my duties and I will consider my options to challenge that assertion in the coming days. I truly believe that our program has dedicated itself unwaveringly to the ideals of academic integrity and NCAA compliance. Still, there was a violation in our program and I take responsibility for that and offer my sincere apologies to the University community.
ESPN.com's Andy Katz reported on Twitter the NCAA found academic misconduct within SMU's men's basketball team and "unethical conduct on [a] former secretary" in the basketball program. He explained Brown didn't know about the issues as they happened but is suspended for not reporting promptly or clearly with the NCAA.
"I didn't even know what was going on," SMU guard Keith Frazier told Goodman on Thursday. "I didn't know she was doing that class for me. I wasn't aware of that. I know it looks that way on the outside looking in, but I didn't know."
"The team has to go through all this and I'm in the middle of it," Frazier continued. "I feel for those guys. They had nothing to do with this. I feel for them and how it's affecting their lives."
The American Athletic Conference isn't expected to comment on the matter Tuesday, but it's "highly unlikely" the Mustangs would be allowed in the conference tournament unless they win an appeal, per Katz.
Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram isn't surprised by the news, given Brown's history:
Goodman reports part of the investigation focused on Ulric Maligi, a former assistant coach, and his role in Keith Frazier becoming eligible. Maligi was cleared following the probe. No further details about the issues that led to the sanctions were immediately released.
It's a major setback for SMU. The Mustangs were set to head into the season with high expectations, ranking 21st in ESPN's early forecast and 24th in Athlon Sports' preseason Top 25. Barring a successful appeal, they won't be able to take part in March Madness.
Brown is the only coach in basketball history to capture both an NBA title and an NCAA title. However, the multiple instances of NCAA violations will also be part of the Basketball Hall of Famer's legacy.