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OSU basketball: A guide to Cowboys' appeal process following NCAA penalties

Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton and the Cowboys will appeal the NCAA's one-year postseason ban and other penalties. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton and the Cowboys will appeal the NCAA's one-year postseason ban and other penalties. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s promising men’s basketball season is officially on the clock.

Less than a week after the Cowboys were slammed with a one-year postseason ban and loss of three total scholarships over the next three seasons by the NCAA, they are prepping for what could be a lengthy appeal.

If they lose the appeal, it’s likely No. 1-ranked recruit Cade Cunningham exits before even playing a game. Other players could follow.

OSU’s season of hope under coach Mike Boynton is then crushed.

But don’t expect Boynton to not fight. OSU believes it has a strong case, primarily due to former associate coach Lamont Evans acting alone in taking $22,000 in bribes that were discovered in an FBI investigation.

Here is a look at what OSU faces in the appeals process:

History of the Infractions Appeals Committee

The Cowboys face an uphill battle.

Since 2015, the NCAA Division I Infractions and Appeals Committee has historically favored NCAA rulings.

In 2018, the five-person committee vacated just two of the 12 violations and two of 12 penalties — remanding one back to the NCAA — that were appealed. In 2017, just a total of two violations and penalties were vacated from 12 total cases.

Here are two cases the committee either dismissed penalties or adjusted:

• Former Louisville assistant Brandon Williams was issued a one-year show case penalty for allegedly not fully cooperating with an NCAA investigation into former assistant Andre McGee, who provided prostitutes and strippers to recruits. But the Infractions and Appeals Committee ruled in April 2018 to vacate the penalty after it was proven Williams was unable to provide the necessary documents in the investigation.

• Syracuse had some success with the appeals process after a 10-plus year investigation that covered failed drug tests to extra benefits to academic misconduct.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was initially suspended for nine conference games in the 2015-16 season, but the committee modified that in December 2015 to nine immediate games. Boeheim was suspended after it was determined he “failed to create an atmosphere of compliance.”

The committee also adjusted a loss of men’s basketball scholarships at Syracuse from 12 to eight over four years in November 2015, but upheld vacation of wins and a financial penalty. The committee ruled the Committee on Infractions’ initial scholarship ruling was a “departure of precedent.”

The process

OSU will fight the penalties with an appeal, which must be filed by June 20. From there, the process could drag on and on.

According to the NCAA, there is a membership-approved 110-day timeline for the appeal process.

But the appeal could take longer “depending on the complexity of the case.”

There is no schedule for when the committee meets. Members only meet as necessary. The appeal is also not a new hearing or another chance to argue the case. No new evidence will be allowed.

OSU officials appeared in person in front of the Committee on Infractions in February, which allows Cowboys officials to again appear in person after written information is submitted by OSU, Committee on Infractions and the NCAA enforcement staff.

From there, the Cowboys must prove one or more of four qualifications for the committee to overturn or reduce the penalties. OSU will lean on the penalty being excessive, but could also push for the penalties being contrary to evidence in the case.

In either scenario, OSU will argue that Evans acted alone and his actions did not benefit the program.

What’s at stake?

The Cowboys were looking forward to their most anticipated season since Marcus Smart led the way.

Cunningham was the biggest reason. He’s projected by many as the NBA’s No. 1-overall pick in the 2021 draft. Boynton getting Cunningham to Stillwater was the biggest move in his tenure. It led to other star recruits joining the program.

Now, Boynton’s master plan could crumble.

That’s why the longer the process takes, the better for the Cowboys.

If OSU loses the appeal to the Infractions Appeals Committee, the Cowboys face one final option — the legal system.

OSU could look for legal injunctions to continue fighting and perhaps even delay the decision until after March 2021, effectively allowing Cunningham and Co. to play as expected.

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›