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Syracuse to honor the late Pearl Washington on Saturday

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Debbie Busacco struggled with her emotions as she thought about what promises to be a difficult moment.

That moment comes Saturday when the Syracuse Orange (6-3) host former Big East rival Georgetown (6-4) and her late fiance, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington , will be celebrated for his contributions.

“He would be smiling,” said Busacco, who will make the trip. “I guess it’s bittersweet. It’ll be overwhelming. He would want us to be there to honor him and keep his spirit alive. He would love that.”

Washington, the man longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has called his most important player, died of cancer in April at age 52. He left an indelible mark on the Syracuse program and his legacy will continue.

The university is establishing the Pearl Washington Endowed Fund for Continuing Education and has set a $1 million endowment goal. The fund will support student-athletes who leave the university and later return to pursue their degrees. Results of a 31-day fundraising drive will be announced at halftime Saturday during a tribute ceremony for Washington, who wore No. 31.

“Of course, we all wish things like this were done while someone was alive,” said Elmer Anderson, a former high school teammate of Washington. “It’s a culmination of the wonderful things Dwayne did for the university. It was an extension of the university wherever he went.”

Washington left Syracuse after his junior year to play in the NBA. After a brief pro career, he returned to the university to complete his class requirements and received a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. He was working toward a master’s degree in the school of education during the mid-1990s when he was first diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Surgery was performed in August 2015 to treat the recurrence of a brain tumor and Washington had required around-the-clock care and a wheelchair when he died.

There was plenty of support in his final months. (hash)PrayersforPearl became a social media gathering point last season and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas gave the movement national exposure. In early March, Bilas wore the all-orange “Pearl” warmup shirt that Syracuse players had donned on the bench during games.

Washington’s electrifying play was instrumental in helping create the aura of greatness the Big East Conference enjoyed during its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. The opponent on Saturday, Georgetown, is fitting. Some of Washington’s most memorable moments came against the Hoyas, who haven’t played in the Carrier Dome since 2013, the year Syracuse bolted for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“For them to take time out and take so much energy in making this a special moment is certainly a blessing,” Anderson said. “I just want to squeeze the oranges and let the juice drip, instead of tears. It’s a beautiful thing, and for it to be against Georgetown, it’s just great.”

One of Washington’s signature moments against Georgetown came in the semifinals of the 1985 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Towering Georgetown center Patrick Ewing elbowed the 6-foot-2 Washington in the ribs, Pearl retaliated with an elbow to the stomach, and Ewing came back with a punch that missed. Neither was ejected, but Washington endeared himself even more to Orange fans with his display of spunk in a league that was renowned for its physical play.

The next year, Washington scored 24 points in a 1-point victory over Georgetown in February and followed with 21 points and eight assists in a 75-73 overtime win over the Hoyas in the Big East semifinals.

Even though the Orange failed to win the Big East title that year – St. John’s star Walter Berry blocked Washington’s lay-up attempt from behind at the final buzzer of the title game and the Orange lost 70-69 – Pearl was named MVP of the tournament after posting 68 points and 29 assists in three games.

Washington left an impressive trail when he left for the pros: Big East rookie of the year, first-team Big East all three years of college, and first team All-American his junior year. He averaged 15.6 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds and led the Orange in assists and steals in each of his three years at the school.

A dinner to celebrate Washington’s legacy was to be held Friday night at the university, and Derrick Coleman, Rafael Addison and Billy Owens were expected to be among several former Orange stars at Saturday’s game.

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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.