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Despite the fact that the Syracuse Orange have been working hard to bring in highly coveted prospect Thomas Bryant, the NCAA’s rulings have basically put an end to any hopes that Jim Boeheim and his staff had that the McDonald’s All-America center from Rochester, by way of Huntington Prep, could end up in Orange.

It all comes down to the wording in the NCAA report, which says that:

“Reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by three for the 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years. If the school has already executed scholarship offers for the 2015-16 year, the school may begin the four-year penalty with the 2016-17 year.”

The key part here is that Syracuse, which has 13 scholarship players signed, sealed, and delivered for the 2015-2016 season, can push the reduction back to the 2016-2017 year based on the current financial obligations that the signed scholarship papers constitute. Basically, this year’s four player recruiting class – consisting of Tyler Lydon, Moustapha Diagne, Frank Howard, and Malachi Richardson – is being grandfathered in. Because they’ve all signed their letters of intent, the NCAA will push back the start date of the scholarship reduction to the following season.

But this is the key here, regarding Thomas Bryant. If Syracuse were to try to add Thomas Bryant, since the University is not already, in a sense, “contractually obligated” to honor a scholarship since he hasn’t actually signed one, the Orange can’t add him without starting the penalty clock. In short, if Syracuse tries to sign Bryant now, it negates any grandfather clause that the other 2015 signees have and would create a situation in which the Orange need to free up additional scholarships, because suddenly the program would be limited to 10 scholarships for next season.

Now, that’s not to say that still couldn’t happen, though it’s extraordinarily unlikely. Syracuse can decide to free up four scholarships by encouraging players to move on or transfer, getting the roster back down to nine scholarship players and creating one open slot for Bryant. While one or two transfers seem not only possible, but maybe even likely at this point, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which the Orange are able to create four open slots.

So really, here’s how it breaks down:

  • Syracuse can delay the scholarship reductions to 2016-2017, and keep its full 13 scholarships for 2015-2016 as it currently stands – OR –
  • Syracuse can try to sign Thomas Bryant, but in doing so, push up the penalty clock and try to find some way to clear four scholarships, and begin the penalty in 2015-2016

It’s not a particularly appealing prospect to shove four guys out the door. It’s also not a particularly appealing prospect to lose out on one of the top centers in the class of 2015.

Late addition…

Now, a lot of people are wondering, “What happens if someone transfers? Why can’t we add someone else then since we’re pushing the reduction back so the NCAA is already giving us 13 for next year?” It’s in the language, specifically, “If the school has already executed scholarship offers for the 2015-16 year.”

The scholarship offers already having been executed is the key here. A contract is fully executed when both parties have completed their obligations, which in this case means the paperwork is done, filed, and the contract is official. Lydon, Diagne, Howard, and Richardson already have fully executed “contracts” with Syracuse, so the NCAA is not going to take those away. Because Bryant is still uncommitted, he does not fall under this umbrella because, while Syracuse has offered, the offer has not been executed. There’s no paperwork, so he does not fit into that stipulation.

Basically, we’ve been given permission to have the 13 players currently under scholarship. The NCAA is not going to take any of those scholarships away, because the “contracts” have all been executed. But they are also not going to let us try to add anyone else. If we fall down to 11 or 12 scholarship players, tough luck for us, basically. The NCAA is already letting us go above the 10 scholarship limit, so they sure as hell aren’t going to let us add anyone new.

And if you’re wondering, “well, how can they bump us down to 10 next year, when we’ll have – if everyone returns – 11 players?” That’s easy: scholarships are year to year. The “contracts” will have to be executed all over again.

At least, that’s my interpretation. And you can trust me, I watch a lot of Law and Order.

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Jeff is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University, and has been published on various websites including Cracked.com, Spike.com, TheSportster.com, Gunaxin.com, and TopTenz.net, among others. His work was featured in the New York Times bestselling book You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News. He's got a wife, and a toddler he's brainwashing to love Syracuse. Jeff's a pretty great guy, overall, and would never steal your car. Follow him on Twitter: @jekelish