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Making Sense of the NCAA’s Punishment on Syracuse Basketball & Jim Boeheim

Picking apart the decision by the NCAA.

The NCAA has a sliding scale of justice. For some seemingly light incidents, it swings the hammer of Thor. For other more egregious violators (like Miami and Nevin Shapiro), it looks totally clueless and limp. Syracuse’s list of punishments probably lies somewhere in between. Why it took this long is anyone’s guess. Eight years? There are third-graders in Baldwinsville who weren’t alive the time the NCAA started the investigation.

For those that look at it as too harsh (the reduction of 12 scholarships is big), there may be a bright light at the end of the tunnel. In the Penn State case, the NCAA swung hard, got its pound of flesh, but eventually backed off all of its punishment and never saw it through. So Syracuse’s initial punishment may end up getting softened.

For those that look at it as too light: What did you want? Jim Boeheim’s gone for half the conference season, and they’re vacating wins. That’s undeniably a black mark on Boeheim’s legacy. Some may have wanted a loss of the postseason again next year, but this is where Syracuse looks smart (in context of course). The self-imposed March ban this year was enough.

Step-by-Step:

  • BIGGEST HURT: Loss of three scholarships a year for four years. That’s how you lessen the major talent hauls SU has become used to. The team will undoubtedly be more shallow in talent, and now you can’t waste any scholarships on guy’s who are borderline worthy. SU must be more selective. The hope is for Orange Nation, much like the Penn State situation, the scholarship reduction is lifted after 2-3 years. It also likely ends the possibility of adding Thomas Bryant.
  • MOST HOLLOW PUNISHMENT:  Vacating football wins. We had those?
  • BIGGEST BLACK EYE: Telling a Hall of Fame coach he’s got to sit out 9 ACC games and vacating some of his win total. They didn’t take the ’03 national championship, which would have been truly life-altering for fans and the program. But Boeheim has to publicly take his medicine next season. The good news? We finally get to see Mike Hopkins on the sideline.
  • WHO’S TO BLAME? Anyone with half a brain knows Boeheim above all others, runs the program. So if there were major violations and lack of institutional control, he must be held accountable. He’s a control-freak, he looks at it as the program he personally built brick-by-brick (which he’s not wrong about), and knows enough about everything going on. He can’t plead ignorance. He deserves his comeuppance if there’s evidence of major violations. The problem is where you view these violations on the scale of “not that bad-to-thoroughly evil.” Seems like this was a litany of smaller violations that just seems like SU either didn’t know or didn’t care. Which means we need to hold Doc Gross’ feet to the fire. This era of in-compliance essentially coincides with his first decade on the job (jeez, it’s been that long already?). He’s the AD. He’s gotta be on top of this. He was green and raw at his job, and SU is now suffering the penalties. More by the day, there’s reason to believe he was a terrible hire from USC. This stuff may have started before him, he may have been intimidated or brushed aside by Boeheim early. But now SU has a major NCAA punishment, Greg Robinson, an embarrassing mid-season football coach fiasco, and a downward trending football program all under his watch. But at least there’s more signage around the Dome.
  • BEST DUCK AND MOVE: No postseason ban next year. Who knows what that would’ve meant to the program and all the major talent coming in with this hoops recruiting class.
  • LARGER PICTURE: It’s possible SU gets its scholarship ban reduced by years 3 or 4, and the probationary period lifted (if it remains compliant). But is it possible this motivates Boeheim to leave earlier? If the NCAA holds firm does he want to grind out another four full seasons before his team is at full strength? And 5 years of probation?

Overall, this is probably worse than most fans hoped it would be. But does not extinguish all hope within the program for the foreseeable future.

Posted: D.A.

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