Column: After damning NCAA report, time for Boeheim to go
Here’s some real March Madness.
For the better part of a decade, Jim Boeheim oversaw a college basketball program that broke all sorts of rules — from not following its own drug-testing policy to doing whatever it could to maintain the eligibility of academically deficient players — yet the only real price he’s required to pay is a nine-game suspension next season.
Actually, he should be getting ready to coach his final game at Syracuse.
Call it a retirement, if you like. Whatever.
After the NCAA released its damning report Friday on the Orange’s lawless program, it’s clear that one of the nation’s most storied coaches needs to voluntarily step down — or be handed a pink slip, if he refuses to go quietly.
Of course, this being big-time college athletics, that’s about as likely to happen as Boeheim doling out warm, fuzzy hugs to the NCAA’s enforcement staff. He’s been the face of Syracuse athletics since the 1970s, the grumpy curmudgeon who fills the coffers with millions of dollars, so they’re not about to turn their backs on him now. Never mind that the school already pulled itself of postseason play this season, meaning the Orange plays their final game Saturday at North Carolina State.
Syracuse, in fact, is doubling down on Boeheim just as the rest of college basketball heads into its favorite time of year. Yeah, they’ll agree to pretty much everything they did wrong, going all the way back to 2001 — but somehow, in the same breath, they’ll claim Boeheim bears zero blame for all the shenanigans that occurred on his watch.
“The university strongly disagrees that it failed to maintain institutional control over its athletics programs, or that men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim has taken actions that justify a finding that he was responsible for the rules violations,” Chancellor Kent Syverud wrote in an open letter to an undoubtedly sympathetic Syracuse community.
“The university is considering whether it will appeal certain portions of the decision,” Syverud continued. “Coach Boeheim may choose to appeal the portions of the decision that impact him personally. Should he decide to do so, we would support him in this step.”
No one should be surprised that Syracuse reacted this way. Universities almost always take on this sort of combative tone when it comes to their cash cows, because athletic programs and the people who run them have far too much power and influence on most campuses.
Well, enough’s enough, at least when it comes to Boeheim’s 39-year reign at Syracuse, a career that produced a remarkable record on the court — the (soon-to-be-reduced) 966 wins, the four Final Fours, the 2003 national championship — but clearly gave no thought to the things that really matter.
While the NCAA’s rules are a confusing mess, one thing seems pretty clear: The person in charge is responsible for the actions of the people that work for him, even if he’s not the one actually committing the violations.
“The head coach has a duty to monitor the activities of those in the program and is presumed to be accountable for their violations,” said Britton Banowsky, chief hearing officer and commissioner of Conference USA. “The coach should be responsible for the people that report directly to him, most certainly.”
The findings in the 94-page, nearly 46,000-word report were downright appalling.
Syracuse’s reaction was even worse.
In addition to defending Boeheim, Syverud complained about the excessive length of time the investigation took (which Banowsky agreed was far too long, though he didn’t have any specific recommendations for speeding up the process).
“We believe the NCAA’s investigation of Syracuse University has taken longer than any other investigation in NCAA history,” Syverud wrote. “The entire process has taken close to eight years and involved a review of conduct dating back to 2001. By comparison, the investigation into the fixing of the 1919 World Series took two months and the 2007 investigation of steroid use in baseball took 21 months.”
A cursory review of Syverud’s own statement reveals the university was largely responsible for the case dragging on so long.
Syracuse initially reported the violations in May 2007, but didn’t issue a report on its internal investigation until October 2010. The NCAA came back with its initial notice of allegations — essentially, the indictment — 11 months later, and while the school was in the process of responding, another violation occurred, requiring a new joint investigation with the NCAA in February 2012. That probe lasted for more than two years, resulting in a new notice of allegations in May 2014.
Those facts didn’t get in the way of Syverud crassly pontificating at the end of his letter, “Some may not agree with Syracuse University’s positions on these important issues. However, we hope everyone will agree that eight years is too long for an investigation and that a more expeditious and less costly process would be beneficial to student-athletes, public confidence in the NCAA enforcement process, and major intercollegiate athletics in general.”
He sounded like a defense attorney for an admitted criminal declaring the biggest problem was the investigation taking too long.
Don’t be fooled by diversionary tactics.
Boeheim bears the ultimate responsibility for this latest stain on college athletics.
It’s time for him to go.
Paul Newberry in a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963