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We've touched on this before (here and here), but this Eric Devendorf saga took another turn, as Jim Boeheim vehemently defended his player to the media and denounced the impending suspension.
Here is video of the interview.
You can't really blame Boeheim for taking his player's back. And you really cannot be mad at him for being upset when the Syracuse judicial board basically said that his players were lying, both to them and to the district attorney under oath.
When it comes down to it, he makes a very good point. This girl's story has changed a number of times. At first it was a closed fist he hit her with, then it was an open hand. She said he approached her, but the players say she approached them.
She said that she did not know any of the people, did not know Devendorf, and did not know that there were basketball players there, but she had dated two of the players (Boeheim leads you to believe that one was Arinze Onuaku), and AO lives with Devendorf.
This is clearly not a cut and dry situation, and it absolutely is more complicated than a simple he-said-she-said issue. I don't want to come off as saying that I believe the players were lying (because I don't), but I can definitely see how a judicial board could interpret three of Devendorf's teammates taking his side and defending him as "orchestrated statements."
In itself, this seems to be the type of thing that would warrant some type of probation or community service—there is a serious lack of evidence on either side (which is why the DA declined to press charges), all involved parties were more than likely intoxicated (it was 3AM on a Friday night/Saturday morning outside a frat house on a college campus), and the girl's credibility is just about nonexistent.
So what is comes down to is Devendorf's credibility and prior behavior. Boeheim said that he was on probation. The Syracuse Office of Judicial Affairs handbook lists three different types of probation (scroll down to Part 10): social, residential, and disciplinary. Only disciplinary probation lists extended suspension or expulsion as a punishment for further violation.
If you scroll down to 10.6, the handbook gets into standard sanctions for violence-related violations. From the Handbook:
Physical harm or threat of physical harm without a weapon resulting in little or no physical injury to involved persons.
• Disciplinary probation, suspension, or indefinite suspension as determined by the case manager or hearing board
• Participation in the Anger Management Program
• Options Program referral, if alcohol or other drugs were a factor in the incident
• Minimum of 80 hours of community service and/or other educational sanctions as deemed appropriate by the case manager or hearing board
For a student already on disciplinary probation:
Further violations may result in immediate suspension, indefinite suspension, or expulsion from the University.
There are two things that I take from this entire situation. One is that it sounds like Devendorf has been in trouble before at Syracuse, and that more than a punishment for this specific offense, Devendorf is being punished for his body of work, so to speak.
The other is that Boeheim has had bad experiences in dealing with the Judicial Board in the past. By all accounts, it seems like an organized kangaroo court.
So this is what I will leave you with. I stand by my statement that Devendorf should have been held out of games while his appeal is pending, if for nothing else being dumb enough to put himself into this situation. But given the circumstances in this instance, I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing if I were in Boeheim's shoes.
When it comes down to it, if Devendorf does end up getting suspended, I don't think he has a right to be mad at anyone except himself. If you are on probation at school, and you know that one more offense could result in a punishment like this, why do you let yourself get into this situation? Why do you even get involved in an altercation with this girl? Why not just walk away from her?
Yes, she more than likely shoulders just as much blame as Devendorf does and should also face some kind of punishment, but do you think she has anywhere near as much to lose in this situation as Devendorf does?
Like it or not, athletes at big-time schools get held to a higher standard than regular students. They are the face of the university, and their athletic abilities generate an unbelievable amount of revenue for the school.
In general, I find it unfair that athletes get held to this higher standard. But this is the world that we live in, and these guys will have to adjust off the court, just like they have to adjust if they are facing some junk, triangle-and-two defense on the court.
If this was Devendorf's first time in trouble, I would say forget it—make the kid do a bunch of community service, let Boeheim run his tail off in practice, give him some probation, and don't punish him too harshly for making a dumb decision when he was drunk. But this was not his first offense.
So if the Judicial Board decides that they want to throw the book at him (however unfair that decision ends up being given this offense), it is his own fault for putting himself in that situation.
All of that said, I don't think Devendorf should be suspended for the rest of the season. But if he is already on probation, what else can you do? Is it fair to allow Boeheim to deliver a punishment of, say, five games? Normal students do not get that luxury.
It's not like the Judicial Board can go to a frat president and say, "we will allow this kid to stay in school if you suspend him from a month's worth of keggers." If the suspension is upheld, then what it would come down to is basically a one-semester suspension.
Is that really all that unfair?