SMU players: ‘NCAA exercised questionable judgment punishing innocent people’

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SMU’s basketball players released a statement on Wednesday afternoon criticizing the way that the NCAA punished the program in the wake of the violations committed by Keith Frazier.

“We believe the NCAA exercised questionable judgment in punishing innocent people, and we strongly disagree that a dedicated group of blameless, amateur athletes should bear the overwhelming weight of the consequences in this case,” the statement, released to CBSSports.com, said. “As student-athletes directly impacted by these sanctions, we believe the sanctions are disproportionate to the infraction and unfairly punish us for things we had nothing to do with and over which we had no control.”

“The NCAA has imposed an immediate postseason ban that unfairly punishes our entire team. This punishment is especially unfair to our seniors, who will lose an opportunity of a lifetime despite doing nothing wrong. None of our players, especially our seniors, had any role in this case nor could possibly have known about any rules infraction.”

The Mustangs were banned from the 2016 NCAA tournament last month as a result of an investigation into an online class that helped get Keith Frazier initially eligible at the school. Frazier did not complete the work for the class, as it was done by a former administrative assistant with the program.

Frazier was the only player on the roster involved in the academic misconduct, and, as it turned out, Frazier would have been eligible as a freshman even without the online class.

After the decision by the NCAA was made, I wrote a column about how horrid the ruling was. It makes absolutely no sense. The people that are actually being punished by the NCAA — the players, specifically seniors Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert — had nothing to do with the violation that occurred, and if the NCAA truly wanted to hurt the program, a 2017 postseason ban would be much more effective.

What makes even less sense in the school’s decision to abandon these seniors, to forgo an official appeal. That is why this statement was made public. Their university and athletic department has failed them.

“We ask that the NCAA reconsider the sanctions that unfairly target and disproportionately affect the innocent, and allow SMU Men’s Basketball to compete for a berth in postseason play,” the statement concluded. “That sanctions disproportionately affecting the student-athlete have been levied in the past is no reason to continue such an unfair practice in this case, or in future cases..”