Syracuse Basketball Dealt Harsh Sanctions

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Paul Smyth, Maroon-News Staff

Head coach Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse University basketball program were dealt a major blow when the NCAA released a detailed report that found the program guilty of multiple infractions dating back to 2001. The NCAA’s 94-page report highlighted a culture that failed to live up to the high standards that the NCAA expects from its coaches and players. Jim Boeheim, who has been the head coach at Syracuse since 1976, was given a nine game conference suspension for the following season.

The NCAA deemed, “During the 10-year period of violations, the head basketball coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program and did not monitor the activities of those who reported to him as they related to academics and booster involvement.” 

While Syracuse already had issued a self-imposed postseason ban for this year, the NCAA additionally ordered that three scholarships be taken away for each of the next four years. Also, an estimated 108 wins will be vacated (not including the 2003 national championship) dropping Boeheim from second to sixth on the all-time wins list. Jim Boeheim has said that he plans to appeal the particularly harsh sanctions against him and the program.

The NCAA sanctions have spiraled the Syracuse basketball program into even further turmoil when on March 18, the university announced that Athletic Director Daryl Gross would resign from his position that he has held since 2005. Gross will remain with the university as Vice President and Special Assistant to the Chancellor for the near future. Following this announcement, coach Boeheim announced that he would retire in three years. Boeheim’s aims are to see out the remainder of the sanctions in order to leave his successor with no lasting repercussions for things that happened under his watch. 

Where does Syracuse basketball go from here? After an 18-13 season, and an eighth place finish in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, the program will be forced to rebuild into a championship contender with a lack of scholarships to do so. Despite the lack of resources, the 2015 recruiting class may very well be the best in program history. The class features four ESPN top 100 recruits highlighted by the fourth ranked shooting guard Malachi Richardson. Each of these recruits has committed to honoring their letter of intent and will be playing for Syracuse next season.

Following the release of the report highlighting the findings of nearly ten years of NCAA investigations into the Syracuse basketball program, many have called for Jim Boeheim to be fired or retire immediately. Those who say this feel that Boeheim should be held fully responsible for each infraction that included grade changes to keep players eligible and improper benefits that happened at the local YMCA. While it is unrealistic for a head coach of any program in any sport to know everything that goes on, it is ultimately his or her responsibility to make sure that their program is kept squeaky clean. In the NCAA’s eyes, Jim Boeheim failed to do this and thus was punished accordingly.

I would argue that coach Boeheim was punished appropriately, but that he should be able to remain head coach of the Syracuse men’s basketball program for as long as he wishes. Before the vacation of wins, Boeheim ranked second all-time behind only Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Now, he will drop back to sixth all-time with a total of 858 wins. He has been the head coach for almost 40 years after playing at Syracuse from 1962-1966. He has brought the only men’s basketball championship to the program when Carmelo Anthony led the team to victory in 2003. Firing Boeheim at this point in his career would be a shame by the university and would undermine the great accomplishments of his hall of fame career.

I have a feeling that Jim Boeheim will go out with a bang in his final three years as head coach of the Syracuse Orange. The recruiting class coming in next year is second to none and will allow this team to rebound from a mediocre 2014-2015 campaign. This upcoming squad should be one that can compete for a national title next season and one that will be a staple in the top-25 all season. Look for coach Boeheim and the Orange to not only recover, but flourish following the harsh NCAA sanctions levied on them.