ACC distributes memo on ‘unacceptable conduct’ after NIL accusations

On3 imageby:Andy Wittry02/10/23


The ACC office earlier this week issued a conference-wide memo to its athletic directors, men’s and women’s basketball head coaches and women’s basketball committee members addressing recent “unacceptable conduct” and “public comments that are not in line with the ACC’s Sportsmanship Principle.”

The memo, obtained by On3 through a public records request, didn’t name any individual schools or coaches. But the ACC distributed it roughly 36 hours after Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim alleged in a Saturday night interview with ESPN that ACC foes Miami, Pitt and Wake Forest each “bought a team” through NIL deals.

Monday morning, Boeheim issued a public apology through the official Syracuse men’s basketball Twitter account, saying he believes ACC member schools are “in compliance” with the NCAA’s rules that govern NIL. The ACC’s memo came within an hour after Syracuse released Boeheim’s public apology.

“This memorandum is in regards to observations the conference office has made over the last two weeks of the 2022-23 ACC men’s and women’s basketball seasons,” said the memo, which was addressed from commissioner Jim Phillips. “Specifically, this pertains to unacceptable conduct during and after games, and public comments that are not in line with the ACC’s Sportsmanship Principle.

“As a reminder, the ACC’s Sportsmanship Principle makes it the responsibility of each member institution to ensure that all individuals associated with the institution’s athletics program conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner. For those that do not meet the standard, it also sets forth penalties for acts of unsportsmanlike conduct.”

The memo included the ACC’s Sportsmanship Principle.

Memo: ‘Negative conduct and comments reflect a lack of awareness and consideration’

The ACC’s Sportsmanship Principle is roughly two and a half pages. The conference’s list of punishable acts includes public criticism of “any contest official, Conference personnel, Member or Member personnel.”

Penalties can include a public or private reprimand, fines to an institution or individual “up to $25,000 per occurrence” and suspensions. On3 has requested a comment from the ACC about whether any penalties were imposed after Boeheim’s recent comments, but there has been no response at the time of publishing.

During the college football offseason in 2022, Alabama coach Nick Saban alleged that division foe Texas A&M “bought every player on their team.” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher held a fiery news conference in response. Texas A&M president M. Katherine Banks and athletic director Ross Bjork co-signed an email to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in which they said the conference should consider suspending Saban.

“I do not view suspension or financial penalty as appropriate at this time,” Sankey wrote to Bjork.

The ACC’s recent memo referenced “several incidents,” but the timing is notable after Boeheim’s comments.

“We have observed several incidents of conduct that take attention away from the most positive aspects of our games and are in violation of the sportsmanship policy creating a negative image of our teams and our Conference,” the memo stated. “The negative conduct and comments reflect a lack of awareness and consideration of others – and our coaches must have a higher degree of responsibility and accountability. … Our basketball programs are drawing significant media coverage and some of what has been taking place during the postgame is both troubling as well as distracting from the achievements by the student-athletes and the games themselves.”

Nijel Pack’s NIL deal is still referenced a year later

After Syracuse beat Boston College last Saturday, Boeheim lamented his perceived state of college basketball.

“This is an awful place we’re in in college basketball,” he told ESPN. “Pittsburgh bought a team. OK, fine. My [big donor] talks about it, but he doesn’t give anyone any money. Nothing. Not one guy. Our guys make like $20,000. Wake Forest bought a team. Miami bought a team. … It’s like, ‘Really, this is where we are?’ That’s really where we are, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Last offseason, John Ruiz, the founder and CEO of the company LifeWallet, announced a two-year NIL deal worth $800,000 with guard Nijel Pack, who transferred from Kansas State to Miami. In a rare moment in the NCAA’s NIL era, Ruiz publicly announced the terms of a high-profile deal on Twitter. He has since cited the social media engagement from the tweet to validate the cost of the deal.

Last month, Pack told ACC Radio’s Chris Spatola, “I didn’t know it was going to become public. Obviously, I saw it kind of how everyone else did over social media. Am I mad? No. Am I upset it happened? Yeah, but obviously it brought a lot of exposure to the school, to my name, to John’s name. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s obviously in the past now.”

Ruiz previously told On3’s Pete Nakos that he willingly met with NCAA enforcement staff members last June.

Wake Forest’s Steve Forbes: ‘I’ve never had a player come here for NIL’

Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes defended his program after Boeheim’s comments. “He’s wrong,” he told CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. “He’s 1,000 percent wrong. I don’t have one player on my team that got NIL to come here. That’s a fact. I’ve never had a player come here for NIL.”

This latest high-profile public accusation regarding potential or perceived NIL violations comes after the NCAA’s new charging standard for potential NIL violations took effect January 1.

“In cases involving name, image and likeness offers, agreements and/or activities in which related communications and conduct are subject to NCAA regulation, the infractions process (including interpretive requests) shall presume a violation occurred if circumstantial information suggests that one or more parties engaged in impermissible conduct,” the rule states.

The NCAA potentially could try to use news stories or social media posts as circumstantial evidence in infractions cases, placing the burden on an institution to prove its innocence.

“As we look ahead to the remainder of the regular-season, postseason and beyond,” the ACC memo said, “it is imperative that behavior improve and maintain the highest level of professionalism.”