As I begin this, I want to own up to a couple of things.

First, I am a major Syracuse University sports fan and it comes to both basketball and football. I’m not big on all the other sports because I really don’t know them that well, but whenever Syracuse had the chance to win something I always pull for university. In essence I’m a “Homer”; I have no problem with that moniker.

Mitch Orange FanSecond, I am also a leadership consultant, as I’ve written a book on the subject and I’ve done several seminars on the topic over the years both locally and out-of-town. This doesn’t mean I know everything, but I like to think I know a lot. I also like to think that I can be unbiased when it comes to certain things; I just want to state that for the record.

A couple of interesting things have happened today.

The first news release came out saying that Daryl Gross, the athletic director of the university, had resigned and is taking a different role with the University. Whether that was his doing or he was encouraged to do it, I think this was a logical step. I will admit that since the days of Paul Pasqualoni I have always been cautious about his leadership of the athletic department, mainly because he didn’t seem trustworthy. That’s his fault, after firing the football coach when he lost a bowl game after he had said the coach was definitely going to be there for the next year. We know what we got after that.

The second news release came out saying that coach Jim Boeheim would be stepping down after coaching for three more years. This isn’t overly surprising since he is 70 years old, but coming right after the first news story the timing just seemed strange.

I didn’t like what the NCAA did by announcing the sanctions the Friday before this team played its last game of the season. In my opinion, doing it on that day was intentional and mean spirited, and showed them in a very bad light, as if trying to strong arm someone to show how tough they are. Some have said that you can’t blame the NCAA for its timing; I pretty much disagree with that. These guys know what they were doing, and they knew they would get the most press possible by doing it on that day.

I have never really trusted the NCAA and this goes way back to the days when Jerry Tarkanian was coaching the UNLV team. It always seemed like they were accusing him of things and trying to penalize him for something that they never could quite lock down. That we ended all these years later with nothing ever being definitive is testament to the fact that these guys really don’t know what they’re doing.

If we want to bring us closer to our time, we can look at the fiasco they ended up causing Penn State. Once again, I’m of the opinion that the NCAA had no jurisdiction in taking games away from Joe Paterno, which they eventually gave back. The Jerry Sandusky case was more criminal and really had nothing to do with the football team, per se. The state took care of Sandusky, and they added some of their own penalties against the university, and that should’ve been enough. The NCAA should have stayed out of it.

With that said, let’s take a better look at the penalties against Syracuse.

Mitch_DonYeagerFrom what I can see, the NCAA basically spent 10 years investigating the program and came up with very little.

They have stated that there were some basketball and football players that didn’t do any work at a YMCA out of town and that they were paid by a booster, who wasn’t really a booster, just because they were on sports teams. However, they couldn’t prove that, and at least a couple of players have come out saying that they did work there and got paid for it, yet the university get penalized for it anyway.

They stated that there were some drug tests that showed some players might have failed because of marijuana. They never stated that the coach knew anything about those drug tests, and made anybody stay quiet because of them. They didn’t even imply that, and since they didn’t mention the players, which was probably one of the few fair things they did, to me it’s a non-issue at this point.

In my mind, if they didn’t go back and strip Villanova of their championship in the 1980s when one of the players admitted he was high on cocaine during the game, then this means nothing. I’ve never heard of any player being able to play sports better because of marijuana; doesn’t work that way from what I know (since I’ve never smoked it I have no experience with it, but I’ve seen its effects on others).

The Fab Melo story is an interesting one. In a weird way this is the only story they can really prove anything about.

This kid should have never been in college; it’s up to others to determine his academic standards beforehand and it wasn’t done. There were a lot of violations on this one, and indirectly the athletic director had a hand in this; that was enough for him to lose his job. However, the team sat him down for a lot of games, including before the NCAA tournament, and there shouldn’t be any extra penalties on the program after that. However, if there were any penalties against the program, this should be the only one that counts.

Let’s talk about leadership for a minute.

In my opinion, the best leaders need to know what’s going on. At the same time, they have to learn to trust the judgment of others that they put in charge of something and hope that they’re doing the right thing. That’s because true leaders can’t do it all; you need to have other people to help do things, especially if you’re running a large operation. If you make someone responsible for something and they do some things that are irresponsible, and they don’t tell you about them, there’s nothing you can do about it until afterwards.

Even the NCAA acknowledges that when the university found out what some of these people had done, both in hiding drug testing results and some of the educational things, they lost their jobs. Frankly, I’m thinking that’s probably about as good a job of leadership as you can do under those circumstances.

Coach Boeheim has always been kind of a hands off leader. He hires people and brings in players with an expectation that they will know how to take care of themselves in an adult manner, even if they’re still young. Let’s face the fact that 18 to 21-year-olds basically do most of the fighting in wars for this country; they’re old enough to die for the country. So, they’re old enough to be considered as adults. True, they may not always make the best choices, but the responsibility is on them.

Boeheim bookAre there some things over the years that Coach Boeheim should have done differently as it concerns his players and team? I think so, especially when they bordered on bad behavior.

Had it been me, I would have suspended Fab Melo from the team after the assault on his girlfriend. I would have suspended Carter-Williams for a couple of games after the shoplifting.

So, I’m certainly not saying that I agree with everything the coach has done. I am saying that he has had his reasons for doing things the way he has done them, and things have gone pretty well for almost 40 years.

My overall opinion is that the NCAA has gone overboard in trying to send a message to other schools by putting a penalty like this on the Syracuse team that isn’t justified. I’m not the only one saying it. Not only have a lot of sports personalities said the exact same type of thing, but this article in the New York Times agrees with me that the report doesn’t come close to justifying the penalty.

Also, if the NCAA actually cared about academics as it applied to athletes, they would allow colleges to offer more help to them as it pertains to tutoring to make sure they can keep up with the classwork. Any other student in the university can get help so why can’t athletes? I’m not saying that anyone should have others doing the work for them, but all of us know that some athletes are not Mensa scholars when they show up at college, and that they might need a little more help with their class work.

With all the money these athletes help bring to the University, and with all the arguments going on as to whether players should be paid or not, I’m thinking this one here should be a no-brainer. Sorry but I’ve always been amazed that players who practice as much as they do and travel as much as they do can handle their coursework all that easily. Some can, some can’t; just like all the other students.

As it stands now Boeheim will appeal and the university will appeal, and based on history some of these penalties will be reversed. Once again, the NCAA has done a horrible job with an investigation. This seems to be a problem with them. What they probably should do is start contracting this work out to someone else who knows little bit about investigating things and leave it to them to do things right.

It will be interesting to see what happens with North Carolina, whose own school put together a report that they then tried to censor, showing all sorts of nefarious things with at least the basketball program over many years.

I support my coach, I support my local university’s football and basketball teams, and I expect that as things move forward things have been put into place to hopefully help alleviate the few things that did come up this time around. Things can definitely be better, but I don’t think they were overly bad in the first place.

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