Photo credit: Rich Barnes, USA Today
This is extremely delicate ice John Desko is traversing right now. By now we know the reason Chase Scanlan was originally suspended by the team. He was involved in a domestic incident on South Campus last weekend. We know his teammates are not giving him the benefit of the doubt, and have threatened to walk out if he rejoins the team. We know Desko has taken responsibility for reinstating Scanlan, but we don’t yet know the reasons.
Which all means Desko is taking an enormous gamble here. Thankfully it doesn’t sound like the team has aligned against their head coach. It’s more about playing this as safely as possible.
Syracuse is protected from explaining much about the situation because of the always nebulous “violation of team rules” and the legality of an ongoing investigation, But what is clear is Desko insists this is his call. Scanlan appears to have rejoined the team during the week, even though he will not play this weekend at Notre Dame. While Desko originally said “yes” to a question about whether Scanlan is practicing with the team, apparently he is technically working with an assistant coach separately.
It seems obvious his teammates don’t believe this was a “fake allegation” like Chase’s dad claims. For the team to band together and decide to block Scalan from rejoining is an incredibly powerful maneuver. For team alumni to reportedly feel the same way shows how strongly so many players feel about what they believe happened. Scanlan’s high school coach has advised him to transfer. The Onondaga County DA’s office has joined the investigation.
This has the potential to be a very ugly reality.
Of course everyone deserves to be innocent until proven guilty. The investigation may turn up no evidence and Scanlan may have his name cleared. But as a program, why would you bring him back into a blazing hot kitchen? What is the benefit there? The best guess here is SU does not want to violate the federal protection of student’s rights. They do not want to punish a player (keeping him away from his team) for an experience on campus he may not be guilty of.
But then why the suspension? What were the team rules violated? And what violation leads to missing games but not practice? Isn’t missing games just as much a punishment as sidelining him during the week? He will have missed two games after this weekend. Is this SU’s attempt to walk a very narrow line between appeasing the locker room but keeping Scanlan fresh for a potential postseason run?
Desko has put himself in a vice. The only way this ends okay is if the investigation clears Scanlan’s name and the team is understanding and allows him to come back. Then Desko can say he did not overreact and allowed due process. What if Scanlan’s cleared legally but the team doesn’t believe the findings? They seem to have already made their minds up. You’re going to force feed him back into the lineup?
The worst case scenario is an absolute disaster for all involved. If the investigation uncovers irrefutable evidence Scanlan is guilty (pictures, physical markings, previous victims), Desko looks like he was protecting a criminal despite his team knowing the truth. In a day where domestic violence and assault on campuses is bringing intense scrutiny and making programs wilt (LSU football, Baylor football), why would Desko choose this route?
The safest course of action would be to hold Scanlan apart from the team until the investigation concludes. The coach already found reason enough to suspend him. The school has seemingly tried to bury Desko’s press conference. It is not posted on the school’s official website nor its official YouTube channel where the other Desko pressers are. (Syracuse.com captured it.) AD John Wildhack has not issued a statement, nor spoken to local media about it. His only comments come from the ACC Network, a cozy league-owned landing spot to tell a very simple version of the story. (“Cordial discussions,” “distractions” etc.)
The school sure doesn’t seem very confident in this decision, nor situation. The videos are scrubbed. The details locked up. The reasonings secret. So why would they choose this volatile path?