Well, it took four months but the NCAA has finally disclosed its findings in a decade long investigation into infractions committed by the Syracuse University football and basketball programs. The football team, it appears, will vacate wins achieved during the Greg Robinson era – which, amazingly, there were a few of – but it’s the basketball team that will face the bulk of the penalty by the NCAA.
The full report was made public by the NCAA today at noon, and the most noteworthy punishment imposed is the loss of 12 scholarships over the next four years. Considering that a men’s basketball team can carry 13 scholarship players, that means that the Orange will be losing roughly one quarter of its entire roster for each of the next four seasons.
Obviously, this can – and must be – appealed. After all, when Penn State received its penalties for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, within two years virtually every punishment doled out by the NCAA was rescinded and things were back running normally in Happy Valley. The fact that Syracuse, with a five year probation period and this massive loss of scholarships, could find itself facing a stiffer penalty than Penn State ultimately did is laughable.
Other penalties announced include a nine game suspension for Jim Boeheim, with each of those nine games being ACC contests next season. There will be some wins vacated as well, though it remains unclear at this point exactly how many. What we do know is that they will come from the following seasons: 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012. (UPDATE: 108 wins will be vacated)
There are also monetary penalties, but obviously that’s not going to impact the on court stuff for Jim Boeheim’s program, which the NCAA penalized due to an overall lack of control and Boeheim’s “failure to monitor” his student-athletes.
The report also states that among the infractions are a failure to comply with the athletics department’s own policy regarding banned substances – which in this case almost certainly means that players failed drug tests but were allowed to continue playing – and a booster reportedly supplied $8,000, in total, to various football and basketball players for their volunteer work at a YMCA.
At the end of the day, the biggest takeaway is the loss of scholarships. This will not begin until 2016-2017, so it will not impact this year’s class. This was determined by the fact that Syracuse already has scholarship offers out to members of the 2015-2016 recruiting class, meaning the four years of scholarship losses are still two years away. This delay could potentially be a bit of silver lining, as it apparently will not impact whether or not the Orange are able to add Thomas Bryant for the current recruiting class.
The most important thing to remember is that Syracuse can appeal these decisions. Based on historical precedent, it would be surprising if the NCAA does not dial down its punishments upon appeal. Michigan won a similar appeal following infractions with the Fab Five, and obviously Penn State has already had its punishments basically all lifted following the Sandusky scandal.
It will be interesting to see what the NCAA now does with North Carolina. Syracuse fans will be watching intently, because if they were willing to lower the boom this heavily on the Orange, whose infractions pale in comparison to the massive academic scandal taking place at Chapel Hill, they had sure as hell go hard after the Tar Heels. After all, this is a school whose academic scandal is so widespread that one Raleigh newspaper has to have an entire section of its website dedicated solely to keeping track of the numerous incidents that have been reported over the years.
The good news is that there will be no further postseason ban for the Syracuse basketball team, so a return trip to the ACC and NCAA Tournaments are to be expected next year. The bad news is obviously the scholarship losses, though there’s always room for some optimism, in hoping that Syracuse can win an appeal and have that incredibly stiff penalty reduced.