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Say Goodbye to Syracuse Basketball as You Know It

Author:
Jim Boeheim

Jim Boeheim

Syracuse basketball will never be the same.

The NCAA committee on infractions hammered Syracuse on Friday, suspending coach Jim Boeheim for nine ACC games next season and restricting scholarships for widespread violations regarding academics and extra benefits.

For certain, the tarnish that comes with this sort of penalty will put Boeheim’s legacy into question. The man who built the program won’t join his friend Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000-win club, at least according to the official record books. He might not get back to 900.

Feel free to disregard the vacated wins on Boeheim’s ledger — the NCAA could take away up to 135 of them. The past is the past no matter how the NCAA requires Syracuse to remember it. 

Instead, the future of Syracuse basketball is more cloudy than ever.

More than the vacated wins, the suspension of Boeheim or the financial penalties, Syracuse will feel the most pain from harsh scholarship limitations combined with the inevitable retirement of its Hall of Fame coach.

On Friday, the NCAA announced it will dock the Orange 12 scholarships over the course of four seasons. Syracuse will be on probation until 2020. The Orange will lose a quarter of its roster to the scholarship limit provided Syracuse doesn’t get any back on appeal.

If the Orange begin to serve the penalty in 2016-17 — so it does not need to run off players already committed — the program won’t be back to a full scholarship allotment until 2020-21.

And there lies the second peg in what could be a disastrous sanction for Syracuse basketball. At the start of the 2020-21 basketball season, Boeheim will be 76 years old.

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Who will be in charge Syracuse basketball at that point is anyone’s guess. Boeheim is stubborn, but is he stubborn enough to coach Syracuse into his late 70s?

If Boeheim retires before the end of the sanctions, who will be in charge? Longtime assistant Mike Hopkins was named Boeheim’s eventual successor in 2007 with no timetable of when he’d take over for his mentor. 

If Hopkins, who was not named in the NCAA report, can start elsewhere without an NCAA sanctions, few could blame the up-and-coming coach for giving his head coaching career a better start.

A scandal of this magnitude — one that also involves the football program — is also not a good harbinger for an athletic director.

Syracuse will face the twilight of Boeheim’s career with only three-quarters of a roster for four seasons. Replacing a legend is tough enough as it is. This will only make the change more clumsy when the time inevitably comes.

When Connecticut faced NCAA sanctions at the end of Jim Calhoun’s tenure, the Huskies lost one postseason and three total scholarships in three seasons. There was still enough left for Calhoun’s handpicked successor Kevin Ollie to lead the Huskies to the 2014 national title.

After the Clem Haskins scandal at Minnesota in the late ‘90s, the Gophers lost 12 scholarships over the course of four seasons and have won only one NCAA Tournament game in four trips since.

Granted, Syracuse basketball and Minnesota basketball can’t be mentioned in the same sentence, but the future is no less cloudy.

For the next four or five years, Syracuse basketball is looking at the possibility of a new coach, a shorthanded roster and a brutal ACC schedule.

When Boeheim arrived at Syracuse as a player in 1962, the Orange went 8-13 when he was a freshman. Syracuse went nearly two decades between 20-win seasons.

Syracuse won’t be in those depths when Boeheim departs. But the national title contender that usually occupies the Carrier Dome? That program’s future is more questionable than ever.