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- American basketball coach and player
Saturday at North Carolina State should be Jim Boeheim's last game as the Syracuse basketball coach.
The Orange season will end then, thanks to the school's self-imposed postseason ban. Boeheim's career should end then, too, a deserved defrocking for the broad array of rules violations committed on his watch over more than a decade – violations that were revealed Friday by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Academic fraud. Violations of the school's drug-testing policy. Money filtering from a booster to players. Syracuse pretty well hit the trifecta of cheating. The school filled the rap sheet with impressive thoroughness.
Committee on Infractions chairman Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA, said the violations "really go to the core values of the NCAA and higher education."
Despite the significance of the rules breaches, nobody at Syracuse appears to be in any rush to make a change where one has to be made. Boeheim should go. Now. (And take athletic director Daryl Gross, whose department couldn't quite figure out that pesky drug-testing policy, with him.)
The NCAA benched Boeheim for half of the 18-game Atlantic Coast Conference season in 2015-16. That's a slap. So are the scholarship reductions (three a season) for the next four years. But his team will be eligible for the NCAA tourney next season, which means Syracuse will assuredly be able to keep its No. 6-ranked recruiting class together for next season. Given the length and breadth of the violations, the guy in charge stands a chance to come out of this debacle OK.
That is, if Syracuse lacks the backbone to do the right thing.
The school should give him a hero's send-off, if it wishes. He's brought a lot of glory to a bleak northern outpost, filled a cavernous arena, stayed loyal to Syracuse for the vast majority of his 70-year life. He's entitled to a fond farewell.
But Jim Boeheim should not be entitled to keep his job in perpetuity, through an unseemly and craven abdication of rules compliance. He's not emperor. He's a basketball coach, and a great one, but also a basketball coach who oversaw a scofflaw program and is now dealing with the second postseason ban of his career.
You have to win a lot of games to keep your job after one postseason ban.
Nobody should keep their job after two.
Not even the patriarch of a powerhouse program.
If Syracuse wants to kneel at the throne of King Basketball, fine. Take your academic reputation there with you and lay it at Boeheim's feet. Take all the grandiloquent puffery that accompanies the ideals of higher education and call it what it is – empty rhetoric. Just declare yourself a basketball factory and stop the charade.
Frankly, the penalties assessed by the NCAA and the school itself could have been worse. Should have been worse.
Boeheim and the school are lucky that this case goes so far back that it predates the new penalty structure that has gone into place – a severe structure that Banowsky said on a teleconference Friday could have called for the following minimum punishments:
• Six years probation. (Syracuse got four.)
• A two-year postseason ban. (Syracuse got just the one it self-imposed.)
• A 25 percent scholarship reduction. (Syracuse did get that.)
• A 50 percent season suspension for the head coach. (Boeheim will sit out less than one-third of next season.)
So Syracuse dodged some deadlier bullets. But here was the best bargaining by the NCAA enforcement staff and the school: It agreed to set a statute of limitations for this case of May 4, 2003. Thus any vacated victories are from that point forward.
How convenient is that?
You may recall that 27 days before that date, Syracuse won its first and only basketball national championship. It is the crowning achievement of Boeheim's tenure, and the crowning achievement in the school's excellent basketball history. Convenient to draw the expiration date less than a month after cutting down those nets.
Especially when you consider that, per the NCAA case summary, Syracuse was violating its own drug-testing policy as far back as 2001. It would stand to reason that a player or players on that 2003 championship team played in games from which he/they should have been withheld, if the school had followed its rules. But thanks to the agreed-upon statute of limitations date, the title bears no taint from this investigation.
In addition to retro-fitting penalties to the old structure and sparing Syracuse its lone basketball banner, the Committee on Infractions delivered one more Only The NCAA moment Friday.
It criticized itself for taking too long with this investigation.
"It's unacceptable for our membership to have cases that drag on this long," Banowsky said.
That's a supportable stance in general, but this case was extraordinary. The NCAA was diving down a decade-deep sewer here. A program was violating rules for years and years – it may take years and years to get to the bottom of it.
Oh, and this part went unmentioned on the call: Mark Emmert basically nuked his enforcement staff in the latter stages of this investigation. He fired director of enforcement Julie Roe Lach in February 2013 after an internal review of problems with the Miami investigation, and many other key enforcement reps went overboard with her – voluntarily or otherwise. That stopped a few investigations in their tracks for quite some time.
So the NCAA publicly flogged itself for taking too long with this case, but spared Syracuse and Boeheim a few slaps of the whip. The punishment is significant, but it stops short of severe.
What's left is for Syracuse to take the next step and ease Jim Boeheim into retirement – or shove him, if he doesn't want to go quietly. He's earned all the accolades he's gotten over the years. But he hasn't earned the right to sneer at scandal and be Coach For Life.
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