College basketball is like a gym class dodge ball game.
There are the kids who always win no matter how many people want them to lose (Kentucky, Duke, Louisville). There are kids who get off to a rough start but storm back in the end (Florida, UConn). There are kids that just don’t care and dream of different sports (Penn State).
Then there is the NCAA. They are like the gym teacher who stands on the side of the court randomly calling people out but not quite catching everything. Let’s face it, if we really wanted to win that dodge ball game, we would try as hard as we could to win (even if it meant ‘bending’ the rules).
That is exactly how college sports have always been. Lots of teams find ways to ‘bend’ the rules and, as sad as it is, that is college sports. However, this past week it took an interesting route.
In a sudden announcement last Wednesday, Feb. 4, Syracuse University suspended its basketball program from any post season play. That includes the ACC, the NCAA and the NIT tournaments. For Syracuse, once the final whistle blows in PNC Arena, the season is over.
As an avid ‘Cuse fan, my instant reaction was frustration and confusion. The random, middle of the week ban brought up a lot of questions; first of which was, why?
In 2012 the University filed an internal drug investigation with NCAA, meaning that the school and some NCAA officials would look at the drug policy and how it may have been breached.
These charges were brought up because earlier reports from the NCAA showed that Syracuse allowed players to play despite being in violation with the drug policies in place.
So why the self-ban? Why not wait until the NCAA makes a ruling?
As a fan, I am supposed to say that it was a smart move by the school to show that the University has power and can handle its own problems. However, I don’t feel that way at all.
Personally, I think it looks foolish for Syracuse to have banned itself in the middle of a season where they probably were not going to make it very far in the ACC, NCAA or NIT tournaments.
But nonetheless, it still just seems weird to declare on a random Wednesday in February that the basketball program will be banned from the post season and to think that by doing so, the University side-stepped an NCAA ban.
I understand that Syracuse was trying to look responsible, but if that is the case, why not ban the program at the beginning of the season?
Now the ruling is not out yet about whether or not the NCAA will further punish the Orange, but regardless, the self-ban only hurt one thing: the players.
Rakeem Christmas, who has put his heart, soul and trademark scowl into this season, will be unable to fight for any sort of championship or playoff wins in his last year in the program.
Now unless the University knows something that we do not, otherwise the ban is useless in my opinion. I would have accepted an NCAA ban if it had meant watching Christmas dominate in the ACC tournament this season.
It’s a lose-lose situation in the first place, because even though the current/future players had nothing to do with the violations, they are the ones being punished.
I agree that any ban given would have been heart-wrenching, but this one just does not sit right.
If everything goes as planned and Syracuse calculated the NCAA correctly, the orange and blue will be back dancing come March 2016.
And as hurt as I am to have the season end so abruptly on March 7, I will still be rooting and cheering on the group of guys we Syracuse fans know did not deserve this ban. As always, Go ‘Cuse!
Pat Kenney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org