SAN JOSE, Calif. — The mediator at the podium had just finished saying Jim Boeheim's news conference would begin in about 10 minutes Wednesday evening when up walked the Syracuse coach himself.
It was an odd day for Boeheim to be early given the nature of the questions that awaited him, but it fit with the defiant attitude Boeheim adopted throughout his 15-minute press conference in advance of Thursday's NCAA tournament matchup with Montana.
He cracked jokes about telling his daughter who teaches at Montana not to wear an orange sweatshirt this week. He disputed the notion his team had endured a rough patch prior to the Big East tournament. And when it was time to address the elephant in the room – a CBSSports.com report alleging that Syracuse basketball has been under NCAA investigation for years for transgressions major and wide-ranging in nature – Boeheim refused to show a hint of concern.
Asked about Wednesday's report, Boeheim quipped that it was the "same story they had last year at this time," referencing a Yahoo! Sports report last March that the NCAA was investigating if Syracuse violated its team drug policy.
Asked if he was worried the report would be a distraction for his players Thursday, Boeheim said, "I doubt seriously they know about it."
Asked if it bothered him the story was published on the eve of the NCAA tournament, Boeheim said he didn't care at all.
"We're concerned about playing Montana," Boeheim said. "There's 30,000 people in the Dome yelling at me all the time. People yell at their television sets. I tell them I can't hear them, but they still yell at them. There's no distractions for me. And these players. There's absolutely no distractions for them. They're here to play Montana and that's it."
Boeheim's probably right that the report won't have much impact on how the team plays Thursday against Montana, but it's tougher to believe there's no reason for Syracuse to be worried at all.
The CBSSports.com report wasn't specific besides the reference to potential "major and wide-ranging" transgressions. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, the investigation includes the handling of the academic eligibility of Fab Melo, the standout center who was declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament last March days before it started.
It's too soon to determine if Syracuse is in jeopardy of major sanctions, but the length of the investigation and the fact that the NCAA is traveling to do its interviews in person suggests this is potentially serious. In other words, when there's this much smoke, it often means that somewhere there's a fire.
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