Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has set the record straight regarding the second suspension of former Orange center Fab Melo, which sidelined the 7-footer for the NCAA tournament.
Boeheim told a Central New York sports radio station on Monday that academic issues—originally thought to be the reason for Melo’s suspension—had no role in the steep penalty handed down by the NCAA in March. In his conversation with Brent Axe of TheScore1260 (you can hear the entire interview: here), Boeheim clarified:
“First of all, nobody knows what happened. Everybody’s [got] rampant speculation every time I hear something. He knows that he didn’t do the work he needed to do on the first suspension. And he’s well aware of that. And he was probably well-capable of doing it but he got confused in terms of what he was doing, what he was thinking about and by the time he could correct that, he was in pretty bad academic shape. He did get it corrected and was able to come back and play. The next part of the deal is something that nobody knows about and nobody is able to talk about, but it wasn’t a matter of him not doing something academically.”
Boeheim’s account seems to contradict the explanation Melo gave to NBA scouts at organized workouts just last week. Melo told Pacers officials last Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, that the suspension which held him out of the NCAA tournament was squarely because of academics. Melo added that a language barrier—he hadn’t begun speaking English until he came over to the United States from Brazil four years ago—compounded his academic struggles.
Melo sat out three games during a stretch in late January as part of a school-mandated suspension stemming from unsettled academic issues. The university remained mum on details related to the first suspension, citing federal privacy laws in Melo’s defense. The NCAA, not Syracuse, tagged Melo with a second suspension in March, for unknown reasons that Boeheim insists had nothing to do with schoolwork.
Melo, meanwhile, has told a different tale. He has informed NBA teams that his status as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student complicated his studies at SU, and that those difficulties in the classroom prompted both suspensions.