The timing is perfect. Staring down impending sanctions from a seven-year NCAA investigation, Syracuse is punishing itself during a season where it didn't appear destined to make any postseason impact.
The school announced yesterday it was taking the men’s hoops team out of all postseason play as a preemptive punishment for an ongoing NCAA investigation that began in 2007. While the players believed to be involved are long gone, the only ones who suffer the consequences are the guys on the current roster who had nothing to do with any wrongdoing.
The postseason ban — Syracuse will not be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament, the NIT, or the ACC tournament — will put a merciful end to one of the worst Orange hoops seasons in recent memory. Syracuse is 15-7 overall and 6-3 in the conference, sitting fifth in the uber-competitive ACC — yes, that's considered pretty bad for Syracuse.
"I am very disappointed that our basketball team will miss the opportunity to play in the postseason this year," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "Senior Rakeem Christmas has been an outstanding member of the team for the past four years. However, I supported this decision and I believe the University is doing the right thing by acknowledging that past mistakes occurred. Our players have faced adversity and challenges before. I know they will rise to this challenge by keeping our program strong and continuing to make our university proud."
The school did say that no current players are involved and that the conduct in question took place long ago. Syracuse has not been disciplined by the NCAA since 1992 when it was slapped with a postseason ban and had scholarships revoked after a two-year investigation revealed widespread recruiting violations.
At the time, Boeheim's comments sounded a lot like what he said yesterday: "I'm obviously disappointed for the seniors who will not get into the NCAA tournament," he said 22 years ago.
Calling the self-imposed ban "further means of acknowledging past mistakes," Syracuse will announce more self-imposed penalties when the NCAA Committee on Infractions issues its final report. The school has not released any details about the ongoing investigation, though it is believed the violations have to do with former player Fab Melo, who SI.com reports had some trouble with grades before he left for the NBA in 2012, and James Southerland, who ESPN.com also reports had academic eligibility challenges. ESPN also reported that internal drug violations may also be under investigation.
The consensus is that the self-imposed ban comes at an opportunistic time for Syracuse, which may not have even qualified for the NCAA tournament in March. Other columnists say the crime and the so-called punishment are both lame. Syracuse.com thinks this episode will only tarnish Boehheim’s iconic career with the Orange.