The bruise will remain on the Orange, no matter

The big and heavy anvil dropped from the NCAA sky and landed flush upon the head of the Syracuse community Friday.

After nearly a decade of investigations regarding multiple instances of running afoul of its rules, intercollegiate sports’ governing body released a 94-page report that ripped into Syracuse Univerity officials over that period of time and sent down its penalties that reached beyond this year’s self-imposed post-season ban for Coach Jim Boeheim’s men’s basketball team.

Way beyond that move, which already had set tongues in the university-centric community afire when the school announced that one.

Boeheim will be suspended from coaching the first nine Atlantic Coast Conference games next season, bad for next season’s squad. The university will be forced to negate wins in five seasons that it was found to have used ineligible players because of academic fraud. That will remove 108 victories from Boeheim’s career total of 966, dropping him from second on the NCAA’s all-time list to sixth. That’s awful for his legacy. The team will lose three scholarship for four seasons in a row, which won’t start until 2016-17 because high school athletes have already been offered scholarships for 2015-16. That will injure the program for years to come. The football team was also found to have used ineligble players for three seasons, starting in 2004, and was placed on five years probation.

Here’s the link to an extensive report from a team of reporters at, if you’d like to know more.

Syracuse senior center Rakeem Christmas had one more opportunity for victory, starting level at North Carolina State on Saturday.

Syracuse senior center Rakeem Christmas had one more opportunity for victory, starting level at North Carolina State on Saturday.

I tuned into CBS on my flat screen at noon Saturday with interest, wondering how this year’s team would react in its first game since the announcement and final game of this season.

It did not end well down in Raleigh for senior center Rakeem Christmas and mates as North Carolina State pulled away for a 71-57 victory.

Junior guard Trevor Cooney can now rest his back.

Junior guard Trevor Cooney can now rest his back.

Junior Trevor Cooney, nagged by back pain as well as this post-season ban these last several weeks, again did not shoot well as he and the rest of the Orange will retreat to watch or avoid watching the brotherhood of college players take part in the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament during the next month. It will be hard to avoid in Syracuse. The NCAA East Regional will bring four teams to the Carrier Dome in the bracket rounds leading to the Final Four.

Jim Boeheim congratulates the Wolfpack after Saturday's game.

Jim Boeheim congratulates the Wolfpack after Saturday’s game.

After the penalties were announced, Syracuse University officials, including Chancellor Kent Syverud, disputed with the NCAA’s conclusion that its individual findings added to the conclusion that Boeheim was guilty of the big sin of failing to properly oversee his program during the past decade.

The university, and Boeheim, have two weeks to appeal the decision to the NCAA, which then would put the matter before a five-person panel with the final power to reduce the penalties.

That would indeed alleviate some of the sting.

But not the bruises or the stigma of what was included in that 94-page report. That, like the anvil to the head, can’t be taken away by any panel reversal that may come. So much, simply, was laid out in so much vivid detail, to sound so convincing. The athletic director, still working up there, got together a panel of staffers to strategize the best way to restore the athletic eligibilty of an athlete whose grades did not meet requirements. The resulting actions included the director of basketball operations and an important program receptionist rewriting a past paper for the player and getting a grade changed, indeed restoring his eligibility. The NCAA’s investigators said it was not the only instance. They had forensic evidence from the indiduals’ computers as proof. Also, a local YMCA staffer paid players too much and fudged internship records to keep their eligibility intact, and the YMCA fired and sued the employee in question over such practices. The university ignored its own substance abuse policy multiple times, mostly for marijuana use, saying the policy was unwieldy.

Boeheim has not spoken to the media since Friday, sending assistant (and head-coach-in-waiting) Mike Hopkins in his place after Saturday’s game. On Friday night, however, he released a statement saying he was “disappointed” in the findings in the report, including the fact that a worker vetted thoroughly by both the university and a trusted organization such as the YMCA would take such actions. The statement also cited “alleged academic violations.”

Boeheim, Orange football coach and athletic director Daryl Gross were among the Syracuse officials who explained their points of view before an NCAA committee in October.

Since Friday, I’ve been considering what I’ve heard on talk radio and TV shows and been reading online while gauging my own level of disappointment.

This is not the first instance of NCAA penalties coming down against the university in this city in which I live. The men’s basketball team was hit was a postseason ban two decades ago, and the men’s lacrosse team had to vacate a national championship a few years after that. At that time, I worked for the big daily, and some of the backlash in the city was directed at The Post-Standard reporters who wrote stories about the violations in the first place. I heard my share of “How could you do that to your hometown team?” around the bars and restaurants back then. That’s how loyal Syracuse University fans were. And are, two decades later, after Syracuse put new people into positions and pledged allegiance to compliance only to find itself in a similar pickle, with even stiffer penalties.

Now, there are plenty of people who are more angry at the NCAA than Syracuse University officials. The rules stink. The rules committee stinks. The investigators stink. The NCAA stinks.

There is indeed much about the guidelines and governance of college sports that leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve come down on the side of paying college athletes a work-study rate for practice and game time hours, in fact.

And yet, I can’t get past the fact that the NCAA is nothing more than a collective put together by all of these universities that hate it every time one of them gets hit by the anvil. Hey, university presidents and chancellors and way smart people, if you want a better way, invent it and implement it, already.

As it looks today, I think some sort of punishment is deserved, and what stands now sounds about right. And Boeheim in turn should have his chance to stay on the bench far and beyond to prove that guidance is indeed good and proper.

If Syracuse University and its basketball coach appeal these penalties and they’re reduced, that will be a good day for the Orange program. Right now, they say, our rules are in place, they won’t be broken, oversight is good.

We’ll see. Yes, from our season tickets for football, still.

Do you think college presidents need to lead sports down a better path for all? Would you blame the NCAA or Syracuse officials for these penalties? Are you getting tired of hearing about colleges getting flagged for breaking NCAA rules, and would that make you give up on following college sports?

32 thoughts on “The bruise will remain on the Orange, no matter

  1. Hmm… I’m not equipped to answer your comments. But you already knew that. So my comment will have to be simply, I’ve missed you this week while I’ve been so busy. I’m glad to be here to visit. 🙂


  2. Okay, so this is just the sort of conversations we ladies have with men where we twist our hair, nod our heads and really try to stay focused on the conversation, when in the end we just want you to order us another beer. 😉 😉 I’m sooo interested in what your sayin’, Chum. Promise. 😉 I had to write what popped into my mind. Made me giggle. Hope you did too. xx


  3. wow – I had no idea – and I think a new system is needed – and I agree with what you said exactly…
    “if you want a better way, invent it and implement it, already…”


  4. There are some bigtime problems in the NCAA rules and I can’t believe someone can’t fix what is broken. It’s a crime in itself that these messes keep getting made. I’ve got a big issue with what gets a pass and what gets punishment.


  5. Creating academic work for an ineligible player goes to the heart of what’s wrong at SU and other big-time athletic schools. They are willing to trample on the core academic mission of the school in order to succeed in win-at-all-costs athletics. The tail is truly wagging the dog up on Piety Hill. Nice write-up Mark of a truly dark chapter in our town’s life.


    • You, too, on your blog yesterday, Phil. Sports and Syracuse fans should click over now to check out how Phil answered a letter to his lifelong friend and Orange fan who now lives in California.


    • Thanks, Ross. I appreciate it. When something like this happens in a university city here in the States, it’s an identity crisis, as you’ve caught on living just north of the border. Yet life must go on, and it’s in the 40s (F) finally.


      • It’s not nearly the same thing (for starters there are far fewer universities involved) but our local university basketball team is headed for the national tournament for the first time in 15 years. Normally, I’d be invested in this but I didn’t get to a single game this season. It’s a big deal for the school but it’s not life-and-death big. College sports is important in Canada but it lacks the cut-throat quality of the U.S. schools.
        Now, junior hockey on the other hand…


      • Is it the school where you work? I should remember, but … In any case, feel invested even though you didn’t attend a game. It gives you something else to chat about at the store in passing, anyway, even without the cut-throat passion attached down here.

        Junior hockey is getting bigger in our parts, and we have college hockey on Division I with Colgate and DIII with a bunch of SUNY schools, and then there’s the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. All fairly popular. But I cede junior hockey forever to Canada. That must be amazing to witness.


      • No, I’m in a private high school, Stanstead College, but it does have an “elite” hockey program modeled after New England prep. So we have a lot of kids who head to junior, DI and DIII schools. Mark Jankowski was a #1 draft pick to Calgary out of here three years ago. (Article in The Hockey News last week:
        The university I refer to is down the highway a bit, Bishop’s University.


      • I must remember north of our border, College is our high school. Cool beans regarding your No. 1 pick for Calgary. Keep the talent in-country there. Nice notice for your prep school battles in the bible Hockey News, too. OK, I’ll try to follow Bishop’s progress online. Go you battling Bishop’s U.!


      • Just one last thing, because you’re a word guy. The Bishop’s team is known as the Gaiters. It’s an old word for an old-ish school, describing a type of footwear, like the Red Sox used to be the Red Stockings. But, of course, the school mascot is an alligator — a gator. Because higher education is not necessarily about accuracy.


      • Of course they must make a (mishandled) play on words with the mascot situation, Ross. It would not be the sports side of academics if they didn’t! Take a bite out of education, you Gaiters. At least they’re not the Goiters. Imagine what rules would have to be bent to come up with a mascot for that one.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.