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Yahoo! Comes Knocking

College athletic programs enjoy calls from Charles Robinson the way I enjoy trips to the dentist, “Whitney” and Kevin James movies. No good can come of it, and Syracuse is no different.

I’m not all that bothered by the idea that a healthy chunk of SU players over the last ten years made some suspect decisions with their free time and what they chose to put in their bodies. These are college kids we’re talking about and some are always going to be inclined to test the boundaries. Considering these are public figures we’re talking about, that may rub some people the wrong way, but whether they like it or not, it’s reality.

Before getting into some of the possible ramifications, I wanted to give my opinion on the news process and how this story was “broken.” While Charles Robinson’s reputation precedes him, I find it galling that not a single source was willing to go on the record. Now, sometimes sources will only speak on condition of anonymity if what they have to say can have a significant impact, but this story doesn’t appear to have the blast radius that would lead so-called sources to tread so lightly. That the report prompted a response from Darryl Gross and an official statement from the school within about an hour leads me to believe that the story has legs, but I also think it will lead many to overlook the lack of on-record sources, and that’s unfortunate. In my eyes, the report can’t be characterized as thorough until we get a much firmer timeline and an accurate disclosure of who did what.

What’s most concerning to me about the Yahoo! Sports report are some of the inconsistencies involved. Both Gross and Jake Crouthamel, the two Syracuse AD’s in charge of the ship when positive drug tests came out, have affirmed them to some degree – Gross stated that the school reported the issue to the NCAA, and Crouthamel acknowledged that he received word on multiple failed drug tests during the period in question. For what it’s worth, the NCAA affirmed that the school has done everything right when it comes to reporting, so there is some  solace to be taken in that component of the story. That the report indicates that no current players aren’t involved also lends itself to a sigh of relief.

But when Jim Boeheim was asked about the failed drug tests, he declined to comment. I’d like to believe that Boeheim declined as a way of deferring to Gross, who is more directly tied to the NCAA’s investigation, but his quote stating “I didn’t know anything about it” is slightly troubling. While it isn’t as bad as a flat-out denial, it doesn’t seem consistent with Gross’ comments. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, and as I mentioned, it’s very possible that Boeheim was simply deferring to the man in charge, but to say that he didn’t know anything about it appears to fly in the face of everything Charles Robinson and Pat Forde turned up.

As for the potential penalties, it’s very difficult to see the NCAA come down on Syracuse as hard as it did on Baylor, as the original report invoked. Positive drug tests were just one peak on a mountain of misconduct in Waco, but they were just that – a part. There were about five or six more egregious things about Baylor at the time, capped by a murder cover-up. Lesser misgivings included payments by coaches to players, payments by coaches to recruits, and advice from coaches that boosters should funnel cash into organizations tied to AAU teams fielding Baylor prospects. If “all” Syracuse did was continue to play players after they tested positive for recreational drugs, the program could still be in some trouble, though not to the extremes that Baylor met. Still, the threat of vacating wins, potentially including the 2003 National Championship, will hover until the investigation is complete. I don’t think that’s what the future will come to, since Syracuse reported the indiscretions to Indianapolis, but suffice it to say that after a few months of quiet, Jim Boeheim’s press conferences are about to pick up.

If the team has been this successful at blocking out the buzz surrounding the Bernie Fine scandal, it’s pretty safe to assume they can handle this new element of scrutiny as the Orange enter the postseason. With that in mind, I’m not that worried about the story affecting the team as it continues its quest to New Orleans, but March just got madder.

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