Reductions in scholarship, off-campus recruiting will have significant impact on Syracuse moving forward

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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.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.