The mystery of Fab Melo’s March suspension continues with more ammo. There’s probably no reason to keep melting my brain over this, but Jim Boeheim’s latest spot with our friend Brent Axe adds another layer of intrigue to what exactly happened.
“The next part of the deal is something that nobody knows about and nobody is able to talk about, but it wasn’t a matter of him not doing something academically.”
Well, hey now. That’s a pretty ominous nugget, right? It’s something that “nobody knows about, and nobody is able to talk about.” What is this, a mafia hit?
Moments after Fab’s suspension came down, I threw darts against the wall.
“Maybe Fab failed a drug test and Syracuse felt it had to suspend him in light of the report? Is it possible the university caught wind of an impermissible benefit that could compromise a run through March, and didn’t want to take the chance a Final Four banner could be vacated?”
The next day I theorized the NCAA felt Syracuse’s reinstatement of Fab after his first suspension was dubious, so the Orange got skittish about playing him in the tourney. I wrote at the time:
“It’s not one thing, it’s everything. The Fine disaster put a magnifying glass on the program. Investigative media and the NCAA started looking. And when you’re a big time athletic program, football or basketball, you search hard enough, you’ll find something. So I believe Syracuse felt it had Fab’s situation squared away in the winter. The athletic department used the time he was out to dismiss one or two of the failing classes he had on his transcript on the grounds of a language barrier (English is Fab’s second language). The NCAA kept looking. The Yahoo! report popped. And the NCAA followed the paper trail and believed Fab’s reinstatement was flimsy. This week SU was alerted by the NCAA any tournament wins with Melo runs the risk of being vacated. Just my theory.”
But The Per’fesser is now insisting that it had nothing to do with his academics. Was there something linked to his volatile relationship with his girlfriend that put him in court before? Was it eligibility issues from a hotly contested recruitment? Was deportation a concern? His educational background might be questioned having come from Brazil, but that would seem to fall under academics.
The reason it’ll take far longer than three months to digest this is because of the ramifications of the suspension. A magical Orange season was short-circuited primarily because of Melo’s absence. There’s no guarantee SU would’ve beaten Ohio State even with him, but the entire run took on a totally different feel without the starting center.
It looked all along like Boeheim’s 4th Final Four. A trip to New Orleans for soldiers like Scoop and Kris, and the dynamic surge of Dion Waiters just felt like destiny. And the land mine blew up on the way to the airport. Boeheim told Axe:
“First of all, nobody knows what happened. Everybody’s [got] rampant speculation every time I hear something. He knows that he didn’t do the work that he needed to do on the first suspension. He’s well aware of that. And he was probably well-capable of doing it but he got confused in terms of what he was doing, what he was thinking about and by the time he could correct that, he was in pretty bad academic shape. He did get it corrected and was able to come back and play. The next part of the deal is something that nobody knows about and nobody is able to talk about, but it wasn’t a matter of him not doing something academically.
“That said, what happened has nothing to do with the NBA. Absolutely nothing. In other words, there is no relevance to anything that has to do with his NBA prospects. Nothing. Not one percent. They are not concerned about it. They have been told the academic problem. He knows he messed up. Wasn’t the first guy, won’t be the last guy that has an academic shortfall. But that won’t have any effect on his NBA career”
Eventually I’ll stop looking for Syracuse’s second-shooter, the video evidence of Fab’s Bigfoot. But not yet. It still stings. And when Boeheim drops the dime, “nobody is able to talk about it,” my antennae goes up. File it under, “Burn After Reading.”