The eve of the NCAA tournament is kindling the wrong kind of March Madness in Syracuse, where mayhem has become all too familiar this time of year.
Nearly one year to the day after an unspecified NCAA violation resulted in the suspension of Fab Melo, the NCAA is on the attack again to spoil another Salt City tournament bash. Less than 30 hours before Syracuse’s opening round tournament game against No. 13 Montana, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports dropped this bombshell:
Syracuse University basketball has been under NCAA investigation for a period of “years,” a source with knowledge of the case told CBSSports.com.
That source said the school has received a letter of preliminary inquiry from the NCAA.
The specific nature of the alleged violations was not disclosed by the source but the transgressions were described as both major and wide-ranging in nature. The investigation also encompasses football but is believed to primarily involve basketball. Syracuse has been penalized only once by the NCAA in a major case according to the association’s legislative database. That was in 1992 in a case that focused on extra benefits in the basketball program.
The college athletics governing body has been snooping around the program ever since multiple accusers levied sexual abuse charges against former SU assistant Bernie Fine. While investigating the Fine allegations, the NCAA stumbled upon damning evidence of Fab Melo that nullified his eligibility. Melo, whom Syracuse had already suspended for three games earlier in the season, was declared ineligible on the day of the team’s flight to its opening round tournament site.
Eligibility issues and more off-the-court drama carried over into the 2012-13 campaign. Syracuse suspended senior sniper James Southerland in January because of an issue raised regarding part of a term paper he submitted in a previous semester. Southerland won an appeal and was reinstated in February, but not after the school dragged its feet in a curiously drawn-out and meticulous process. Now we have a better idea what may have caused the hold-up — the looming threat of the NCAA peeking out the corner of its eye.
Red flags were raised in December when Stan Kissel, SU’s former director of basketball operations and the man in charge of monitoring academic performance within the program, summarily resigned in December. Hint, hint.
NCAA and Syracuse officials have declined comment on Dodd’s report, which cites one anonymous source.
The NCAA has been entangled in its own self-inflicted mess over the last month. The organization fired vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach in the wake of an external report detailing an abuse of power in the NCAA’s investigation into the University of Miami’s football and men’s basketball programs.
The NCAA remains in a months-long standstill in its probe into a sweeping academic fraud scandal at North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which dates back to 1997. Tar Heel student-athletes, including members of the 2005 and 2009 championship men’s basketball teams, received GPA-boosting grades in fraudulent classes within the African studies department. While investigators have absolved members of the North Carolina athletic department, the government body may still hand down retroactive sanctions and punitive punishments if it determines the illegitimate courses salvaged the eligibility of players on either championship team (Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough among them).