Jim Boeheim and Syracuse Have Gone from Banner to Bust

Peter AlfanoContributor IIMarch 13, 2012

This should have been one of Jim Boeheim's most memorable seasons as basketball coach at Syracuse.

Not only did the Orange finish 31-2 and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Boeheim achieved a personal milestone when he passed Dean Smith to move into third place on the head coach's all-time wins list.

Boeheim, who has never had a losing season in 36 years at Syracuse, now trails only Bobby Knight and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski for total victories.

We also know, however, that the 2011-12 season is probably going to be remembered for incidents that have little to do with basketball.

It began last fall when Boeheim's long-time top assistant Bernie Fine was fired after two men accused Fine of sexually molesting them when they were boys.

The allegations came on the heels of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is awaiting trial for allegedly sexually abusing boys.

The scandal cost Penn State president Jerry Sandusky and iconic head coach Joe Paterno their jobs.

Some say it cost Paterno his life.

Boeheim, in a rush to defend Fine, publicly accused the accusers of lying and trying to profit financially from the Penn State scandal. He later tempered his remarks but the two men in question are now suing Syracuse and Boeheim for defamation.

It appeared that Syracuse had weathered the initial storm as the season progressed.

Then, early this month, Yahoo Sports reported that the basketball program has violated the school's "internal drug policy" by allowing 10 players who had tested positive for recreational substances since 2001 to continue to play without punishment.

The school program calls for counseling after the first failed test to a suspension for the second and possible expulsion after a third.

Yahoo quoted sources claimed two players exceeded three failed tests without repercussions and that Boeheim would have been aware of all failed tests.

There was a lot of smirking when the story was published because marijuana use is almost considered commonplace on university campuses, among athletes and the rest of the student body.

Regardless, it did raise the issue of institutional control and a double-standard; one for regular student and the other for athletes who bring revenue and publicity to the university.

None of this stopped Syracuse's march to the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, until now.

According to the Syracuse website and ESPN.com, sophomore center Fab Melo, voted the Big East defensive player of the year, has been declared out of the tournament because of an eligibility issue.

The other Melo, as Syracuse fans may refer to him given how Carmelo Anthony led them to their only national title, sat out three games earlier this season over an academic issue.

Without the seven-footer protecting the paint, popular opinion is that Syracuse orange is not going to be the prevalent color at the Final Four. 

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