News broke Friday that the Syracuse basketball program would be punished for a number of violations of NCAA rules, including repeated instances of academic cheating, and a Syracuse.com story published Saturday lays out one such transgression in embarrassing detail: In 2012 a high-ranking basketball official and a receptionist collaborated to write a paper that kept a star player eligible. The player was a Brazilian big man named Fab Melo; he’d been academically disqualified from play by the NCAA, and an elaborate effort that involved director of basketball operations Stan Kissel was made to submit a paper to a professor who was open to changing a grade Melo received the previous semester if the paper was completed. From the Syracuse.com piece, which refers to the NCAA report released Friday:
Starting at 11:19 a.m. the paper, which was based heavily on Melo’s personal statement to the NCAA that had been saved on Kissel’s computer, was revised seven times in 27 hours. Each of the revisions was made by either Kissel or Debora Belanger, a basketball receptionist.
The pair exchanged seven e-mails and three phone calls during that time.
By the next morning, Melo had turned in four or five pages The professor ruled it “inadequate” because it did not include citations. Those changes were made by the afternoon.
“Unfortunately, the director of basketball operations and the basketball facility receptionist, not (Melo), completed and submitted the assignment,” the report said.
The grade was changed and Melo got back on the court—but only temporarily, as Syracuse itself uncovered the improper assistance in a subsequent internal investigation.
Melo ultimately earned an “F” on the paper and was suspended for academics March 14, taking him out of the NCAA tournament.
It seems like F was actually not a low enough grade for this paper.