Friday afternoon the NCAA revealed its findings in an investigation of the Syracuse athletic department, with both the men’s basketball and football programs being punished. Jim Boeheim’s program took the most significant hit. In addition to being placed on probation for five seasons they’re also losing 12 scholarships over a four-year period amongst other penalties.
The recruiting angle is what could be most damaging for Syracuse, as they’ll also have to navigate restrictions with regards to who will be allowed to recruit off campus. The school recommended in its findings that one off-campus recruiter be eliminated for a six-month period during the 2015-16 season; the NCAA ultimately ruled that two coaches will be banned from leaving campus to recruit for the next two years beginning June 1.
However this ruling may not have as big of an impact as it would appear to at first glance. Why? Because in addition to serving as an assistant to Duke Mike Krzyzewski on the USA Basketball coaching staff, Boeheim has also served as chairman of the US Junior National Team Committee since 2005. That means he observes many of the nation’s top prep talent at youth national team tryouts and can interact with them as well.
Will that change due to the NCAA ruling? That’s a question that has yet to be answered, but if Boeheim remains in that role that is one way in which to ensure that elite prospects are still interacting with Syracuse in spite of the recruiting restrictions.
With Rakeem Christmas moving on and four players having signed a National Letter of Intent, Syracuse will be at 13 scholarships next season which is the maximum allowed per NCAA rules. With forwards Moustapha Diagne and Tyler Lydon and guards Frank Howard and Malachi Richardson all signed, the school will not have to begin the process of cutting scholarships until the 2016-17 academic year.
While that avoids a potentially messy situation from occurring this offseason, Syracuse still has some significant moves to make. Here’s a breakdown of their scholarship players, by class, in the 2015-16 season. And you’ll notice that the majority of them will have eligibility remaining beyond next season.
Seniors: Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije
Juniors: DaJuan Coleman (redshirted this season), B.J. Johnson, Chinoso Okoboh, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson
Sophomores: Kaleb Joseph, Chris McCullough
Freshmen: Moustapha Diagne, Frank Howard, Tyler Lydon, Malachi Richardson
Syracuse is also still in contention for the services of five-star big man Thomas Bryant, so there could be some shuffling of the roster to come in the offseason should there be a need to make room for him. With Christmas out of eligibility and Coleman having struggled with knee issues for much of his college career, landing Bryant would be an important recruiting win for Syracuse if they can make it happen.
Looking beyond next season, with four-star forward Matthew Moyer having verbally committed to Syracuse in the 2016 class Syracuse (at this time) has 12 scholarships accounted for in the 2016-17 season (Cooney and Gbinije moving on). With the scholarship penalties being what they are, that is the first season in which the Orange would be limited to ten available scholarships.
The combination of a reduction in scholarships and less time to recruit off-campus means that Syracuse will need to be even more selective in recruiting. Casting a wide net would not be feasible given the resulting lack of resources. Another question that could impact the future of the program: how does all of this impact assistant coach (and head coach-in-waiting) Mike Hopkins?
He’s had multiple opportunities to accept head coaching jobs in the past, most notably discussing the USC vacancy in 2013 before ultimately deciding to remain at his alma mater. With Boeheim moving further away from the 1,000-win mark due to the vacating of games, how will Friday’s developments impact when Hopkins takes over? There’s only one person who has the answer to that question, and it’s Jim Boeheim.
The biggest concern at this time is accounting for the scholarship and evaluation sanctions, as they’ll impact the strength of the Syracuse program for years to come.