Clockwork Orange: NCAA Investigating Syracuse Basketball

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on October 24th, 2014

It wasn’t a good week for ACC student-athlete academics. First the Wainstein Report dropped like a bomb in Chapel Hill. Now Syracuse may be due for bad news next week. Jim Boeheim, along with several former members of the basketball team’s “support staff” for academics, all got invitations to the NCAA’s upcoming Committee of Infractions hearing.

Jim Boeheim is in for a tough week. (photo credit:

Jim Boeheim is in for a tough week. (photo credit:

The story surrounding Jim Boeheim’s program isn’t new. The investigation started at least a year ago, as originally reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard and CBSSports. The investigation is looking back at least a decade (dating to Carmelo Anthony), and spans everything from academics to the drug policy to extra benefits. Boeheim hinted in his recent book that the investigation focused on academics:

We suspended [Fab Melo] for three games. After that, we were under the impression that he could appeal and do some academic work to get himself eligible. He did that work. But then there arose a question about how he had gotten eligible, and he was declared ineligible again, right before the NCAA Tournament. The issue is extremely complicated, and at any rate I can’t really go into it because it is part of an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Based on the reported invitations — and the information from Boeheim’s book — it may have been an internal investigation of extra benefits that made the NCAA look more closely at the program, but expect the findings to focus on academics.

It’s unclear exactly what sort of punishments are on the table here. If players are retroactively declared ineligible, it’s possible Syracuse could vacate a whole bunch of wins. The vacated wins outcome, while ridiculous in their revisionism, might hurt Boeheim more than most other coaches, as they would likely make reaching Coach K’s win total (983 and counting) unattainable. Postseason bans and scholarship reductions are also popular punishments of late, although I hate punishing current players if they aren’t considered a part of the investigation. At a minimum, Syracuse has already restructured its academic support system.

This couldn’t be worse timing for the Orange. The NCAA took a beating when the Wainstein Report dropped, as the North Carolina case is an example of scholarships for athletes failing to lead to education. The NCAA mandates broadcasters describe players as “student-athletes,” but moral semantics are farcical if players are kept eligible by an overzealous support staff and/or phony courses. And while the phrase seems unimportant, the NCAA’s insistence on the notion of amateurism hinges on academics remaining a top priority. Long story short, Mark Emmert may bring the hammer down in these cases to prove the organization cares about academics. It’s unlikely the NCAA will respond to the allegations in Chapel Hill quickly (considering the immediate backlash after the Penn State scandal), so this Syracuse hearing gives Emmert and his staff a chance to stand up for their organizational principles in real time.

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