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Syracuse University head men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim has been suspended for nine conference games after a recent investigation revealed he failed to maintain an “atmosphere of compliance,” according to the National College Athletic Association.

Additional penalties for Syracuse University also include five years of probation, fines, the reduction of three men’s basketball scholarships per year for four years and a vacation of wins in which ineligible students participated.

Though not discovered until recently, the violations spanned more than a decade and ranged from academic misconduct to failure to comply with the drug testing policy.

Many of those violations occurred in his program and involved his students and staff, including the director of basketball operations, whom Boeheim hand-picked to handle academic matters, according to the NCAA.

“Improper institutional involvement and influence in a student’s academic work in order to gain or maintain eligibility is a violation of NCAA rules and a violation of the most fundamental core values of the NCAA and higher education,” the committee wrote. “The behavior in this case, which placed the desire to achieve success on the basketball court over academic integrity, demonstrated clearly misplaced institutional priorities.”

This case illustrates the fact that compliance isn’t only a pressing matter for financial institutions or global corporations; it’s essential to every organization, including college sports.

Even if compliance failures are unintentional, the consequences are far-reaching.

Here are three compliance management lessons organizations of all sizes can learn from the Syracuse University saga.

1. Set the Tone at the Top

In a recent interview, former Syracuse Director of Compliance Robert Mathner recalls Boeheim would challenge him from time to time on rule interpretations, looking for a favorable ruling. This probably isn’t unusual for high-level coaches, but it does illustrate the importance of compliance oversight.

Depending on the size and risks of your organization, the CEO or director of operations may be also be acting as the Chief Compliance Officer by default, but that doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily the best person for the role. Your organization needs a leader who commands the respect of the C-suite, but also has ability to make the tough calls that aren’t always popular.

2. Maintain Checks and Balances

One of Boeheim’s biggest mistakes may have been trusting others too much. Whether or not he was aware of the violations, he was responsible for holding his students and staff accountable. An effective compliance program is much more than a set of policies. It involves building a system of checks and balances and consequences for failing to comply.

3. Review Compliance Risks Regularly

The violations in this case occurred over a 10-year period, yet they weren’t discovered until recently. Compliance is an ongoing initiative that should evolve over time as your company’s primary and strategic risks change.

A Chief Compliance Officer responsible for monitoring your company’s risks and implementing the appropriate safeguards is a valuable asset in protecting your bottom line.

For tips from compliance leaders at four top global companies, download this free guide, How to Build a World-Class Compliance Department.

How to Build A World-Class Compliance Department

Topics: Compliance


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