I didn’t have the chance to write on this decision yesterday, but there are a couple of things that I wanted to say while I have the chance.
Syracuse should be ashamed of themselves for offering up this decision, for proposing in February a self-imposed postseason ban.
The biggest reason is the most obvious: That none of the players on the team, according to the university, had anything to do with this ruling. It’s ludicrous to have the punishment for a program’s past sins fall in the lap of the current players on the roster. That is wrong, plain and simple.
But what makes this situation ten times worse is that the ruling is coming down in February, in the midst of the season’s stretch run. When UConn received their postseason ban, it was announced during the offseason. That allowed Roscoe Smith to leave the program instead of waste a year of eligibility with no chance of playing in the postseason; he transferred to UNLV. The NCAA has a rule that allows players whose eligibility will be exhausted under a postseason ban to transfer without having to sit out a season, which is why Alex Oriakhi was able to leave and be eligible immediately at Missouri as a senior.
Rakeem Christmas wasn’t so lucky, and he’s the guy that I feel for the most in this entire mess.
Christmas is arguably the best story in all of college basketball this season. He’s finished his undergraduate degree in three years. He’s a former top 25 recruit that went from playing a limited role for three years to having an All-American caliber season as a senior. He’s been sensational, and has carried the Orange for long stretches this season.
But he won’t get a chance to see that culminate in a NCAA tournament berth.
Now, that might not have happened anyway. Syracuse has a 15-7 record and is 6-3 in the ACC, but there isn’t much meat on their resume. They do, however, play five games against Virginia, Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame in a three-week stretch, and all it would take is a win in one or two of those games to get them firmly in the bubble conversation.
And while playing in an NCAA tournament is the goal of every player, the chase for a bid is just as exciting and as special. Landing an upset win over Duke in front of 35,000 fans at the Carrier Dome holds a special meaning when it makes an at-large berth possible. That’s to say nothing of the excitement of playing in the ACC tournament, which Christmas will not get to experience as a senior, either.
All of that was taken away from him for an investigation that began in 2007, before Christmas had even started his freshman year in high school.
I don’t understand how any administrator on that campus can look him in the eye today.