The Syracuse basketball program allegedly ignored at least 10 of its players testing positive for banned substances at various points since 2001.
A week after Sports Illustrated was supposed to drop a bombshell on the UCLA basketball program but never did, Yahoo! Sports has swooped in and leveled Jim Boeheim’s 30-1 squad.
According to a report by Charles Robinson and Pat Forde, sources with knowledge of the internal workings of the No. 2 ranked team in the country (currently) told them that despite the fact that at least 10 players have tested positive for a banned recreational substance over the last 11 years, said players were permitted to continue to participate in practice and team functions as if nothing had happened. In fact, the players involved at times were never even made aware of the situation.
What does that mean for Syracuse? Via the report:
The four sources said Syracuse violated its drug policy in at least two areas: failing to properly count positive tests; and playing ineligible players after they should have been subject to suspension.
Robinson and Forde went back and reviewed the applicable drug policy dating back to 2000-01. Here is the general path that the program was theoretically supposed to follow in the event of positive tests, including necessary consequences:
Each penalty called for the head coach to be notified and, in turn, alert a player’s parents or guardians. After the first offense, an athlete was required to attend drug counseling and rehabilitation sessions. In addition, the policy called for the offending athlete to be tested on a regular basis for the remainder of his or her eligibility.
Penalties for a second positive test included automatic suspension from practice and playing, plus mandatory drug counseling, and a player could not return to the team without being cleared by a counselor as being drug free. For a third positive test, a player was subject to termination of eligibility and expulsion from school, barring special intervention by the athletic director.
The policy stated that after a third failed test, the athletic director had the option of extending a “one-time conditional grace period” in which the athlete was subject to specific terms and conditions for corrective action during a predetermined period of time.
And here is the kicker:
Two sources told Yahoo! Sports that of the 10 players, at least one player continued to play after failing four tests and another player played after failing three.
Those two players being allowed to play would obviously be a clear violation of all three parts of the school’s protocol.
Syracuse has shown a remarkable knack for drowning out the noise and playing through hardship this season. Mind you, very early on this team got saddled with a shady sex scandal involving assistant head coach Bernie Fine and it didn’t slow the squad down one bit. Beginning with when Fine was left twisting in the wind waiting for school officials to decide his future and ultimately ending with his termination, none of the media scrutiny or intense investigations of what had really transpired -- it was really intense in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky situation -- phased Syracuse’s season in the slightest.
In keeping with that, it’s sort of hard to envision this (albeit, ugly) drug scandal swaying things one way or the other. If Syracuse was able to keep its footing through everything else that’s gone on this year, this report likely won’t change that.
It’s equally important that this whole thing doesn’t tie to a current player. Whatever winds up happening in the future, the fact that this situation isn’t going to be an anchor around any one or number of current players means that they can carry on the way they have all year long. If the stuff in this report is proven to be true, it’ll be moreso an indictment on the institution than any of the players involved. The purported cover-up by Syracuse is what’s damaging here, not 10ish youngsters testing positive for a banned substance over an 11-year span.
And just to play conspiracy theorist for a moment: Robinson and Forde note specifically in their report that “over the course of a three-month investigation, four sources with intimate knowledge of the Syracuse men’s basketball program told Yahoo! Sports…” The whole situation with Fine occurred late last year and carried on for a while, but he wasn’t fired until Nov. 28. It would sort of make sense that a disgruntled party -- be it because of the ultimate decision, or someone who wasn’t happy that it took as long as it did to fire Fine -- opened up about violations that obviously only folks at the upper levels of the program would know about.
Again, though, that’s pure conspiracy theory – there is zero evidence to back that up.