The New York Times published an article before Syracuse began its 2016 NCAA tournament crediting last year’s self-imposed post-season ban with Syracuse being eligible for this year’s post-season. It argues, and I am inclined to agree, that had Syracuse not barred itself from post-season play last season, a 2016 post-season ban would have likely been included in the NCAA’s punishment.
This story has become even more relevant now that Syracuse has made a run to the Sweet 16. A story-line that has come with the Orange making the tournament was that its two seniors, Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney would get one last ride and one last shot in the Big Dance. However, Rakeem Christmas was sacrificed to allow Cooney and Gbinije this type of send-off.
Christmas, like Cooney and Gbinije, certainly deserved a proper send-off. He had nothing to do with the academic violations that caused the NCAA infractions committee to come down on Syracuse. He, by all indications, was a model student-athlete and put countless hours into helping the program. However, the team he was on last season was going nowhere fast and the administration made the conscious decision to sacrifice him for “the greater good”.
A year later, though it may sound cruel and unfair, it can be said that Syracuse made the right decision. Last year’s team was most likely not going to the NCAA tournament, post-season ban or not and by instituting a post-season ban, Syracuse was able to get into the tournament this year and excite all of Orange Nation with a great ride.
It is certainly unfair that current players get punished for the actions of others. but that is something that is out of Syracuse’s hands. Had the Orange not self-imposed a post-season ban last season, the same punishment would have come from the NCAA this season.
In short, Syracuse sacrificed its 2014-15 season, and at the same time, Rakeem Christmas, in hopes that the 2015-16 season would bring a nice post season run. As it turns out, as unfair as it is to Rakeem Christmas, it was the right call.