Multi-year investigations, secret interviews with professors, teachers and student body members and closely guarded information of specific infractions…
What part of the game is that?
The NCAA’s ethics probe into the Syracuse program feels more like a Fed case. The NCAA is looking to really stick it to Syracuse. Execute them. Guillotine style.
When the feds go after a kingpin – in this case Cuse’s HC Jim Boeheim – they don’t act on every crime the kingpin commits. The Feds investigate, speak to a bunch of witnesses and compile evidence until they have enough ammo to box a bull ridden by Mike Tyson into a corner.
Boeheim, a NY State native, is arrogant and protective of his beloved university. However, the truth is, he’s never been much of a disciplinarian.
It’s common knowledge, he ran a loose program at Cuse, with little off court rules or structure.
Former Orange forward John Wallace told the Shadow League that most other college teams were jealous of Syracuse because, “we didn’t have any curfews. He treated us like men. It was basically, do what you do but show up for the game on time.”
The walls of that wild-and-free Syracuse philosophy are closing in on Boeheim. The private university received a letter of preliminary inquiry from the NCAA, which has been investigating the school for years.
Boeheim’s reaction is the same as it always is when Cuse’s name is dragged through the “unethical college program” mud : dismissive, confident and sounding more like a victim than a guy who’s teetering that delicate NCAA line of aggressively and competitively maintaining a winner versus playing dirty pool.
During Boeheim’s tenure, Syracuse basketball players have been accused of crimes ranging from sexual misconduct and physical violence to burglary. Boheim always downplays allegations and attacks the credibility of people who levy such accusations.
“Same story they had last year at this time,” Boeheim said, before his team smashed Montana in the NCAA Tournament’s second-round on Friday 81-43. “I guess that’s annual..next year we’ll get it again.”
Despite Boeheim’s smugness – which only increased with the dismissal of sexual abuse charges against former assistant Bernie Fine – the six-game suspension of forward James Southerland earlier this season was a result of the NCAA looking into the men’s basketball program. It’s at least an admittance of a lack of institutional control on Cuse’s part.
A source with knowledge of the investigations says that’s just the tip of the iceberg , and if you “throw a dart at the [NCAA] Manual [you would hit one of numerous Syracuse violations].”
Boeheim probably feels the NCAA has been out to get him for years. With the exception of ‘92 when Cuse was placed on two years of probation for what the NCAA deemed “widespread violations involving recruits and student athletes,” Boeheim has been the Teflon Don.
Despite his lax disciplinary standards and lukewarm enthusiasm towards education, he’s stayed unblemished and a step ahead in recruiting blue chip prospects. During his 37-year reign, he’s continued winning games and generating millions of dollars for the private school. So, excuse him if Syracuse’s last NCAA title-run as a Big East team, before bolting to the ACC, is his top priority.
While other American sports icons have retired, passed away or been forced out in shame, Boeheim’s ball is still bouncing. He’s led the Orange to 11 Big East regular season championships, five Big East Tourney championships and 30 NCAA Tournament appearances; including three Final Fours and a National championship in ‘03 with Carmelo Anthony.
He’s outlasted all of his rivals – John Thompson, Lou Carnesecca and the like. He’s second amongst active coaches in wins with 917, and his brand is only expanding as Cuse transitions into the ACC. He’s certainly not looking to retire, but this isn’t the kind of turmoil-filled transition Syracuse was looking for when they announced their decision to leave the conference they helped put on the map since 1979.
The NCAA probe is a party–crasher. We are finally starting to see major chinks in Boeheim’s armor. It doesn’t sound like a slap on the wrist is coming. If Cuse is facing sanctions that could debilitate the program, this could be boom bye-bye for an epic program…and it’s king.
It would be even sadder if Boeheim – one of the true giants and cultural icons of college basketball – went out foul, like so many great coaches in sports who got caught slipping.
The idea of Boeheim – who took Cuse to mythical heights and sent a bandwagon of ballers to The League – having to step down to save the program he immortalized, is mired in irony.
Maybe it would be fitting if Boeheim, a rib in the original body structure of the Big East, never coaches in the enemy ACC.
On the other hand, maybe he will dodge these major allegations as he’s done in the past – like a true kingpin, and in the spirit of March Madness. Survive and advance.