Commentary: Jim Boeheim Tarnishes Syracuse’s Golden Image

Commentary: Jim Boeheim Tarnishes Syracuse’s Golden Image

Legendary coach deserves no one’s pardon for his unforgiveable misconduct.

Published March 20, 2015

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim must think he runs the university. Is he so powerful that he can decide himself when it’s time to step down?

The answer is yes.

For that’s the only explanation for why, after the harsh sanctions NCAA officials handed Syracuse on the eve of March Madness, Boeheim has felt emboldened enough to say when it’s time to give up his job.

Of course, that time isn’t now. What a pity!

A defiant Boeheim, playing a role no Black coach has ever been allowed to play, decided to stand firm. He branded himself as an old white coach who won’t give up his fiefdom. Old white coaches like him have played that trump card before. Just think of Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel or Bob Knight.

They all ignored public embarrassments; they stood tall against accusations against them and refused to step aside. No one above them in a school’s hierarchy felt he could push them, no matter how egregious or reckless their misconduct was.

And Boeheim’s misconduct was loose and reckless, though he’d never admit it.

“This is far from a program where student-athletes freely committed academic fraud,” Boeheim told the New York Times.

But his decade of what NCAA officials called “noncompliance” led to harsh punishment. They accused Boeheim, 70, of promoting an atmosphere of noncompliance and said he should have monitored activities around his basketball program better.

Such legalese from the NCAA in its 94-page report is harsh talk – unduly harsh, Boeheim contends. But he is wrong.

Men who have coached storied programs ought to understand the rules, and those men are expected to comply. But when they are found in noncompliance, the consequences must be Draconian. Punish the powerful and the weak fall into line.

The punishment for Boeheim should fit his wrongs, which were inexcusable in the same way Tressel’s, Paterno’s or Knight’s wrongs were. All these men lost their jobs for what they did to their program, and Boeheim should lose his.

The right thing would be for him to make that decision. He’s refused to, so the college must make that decision for him. Syracuse can’t play blind, deaf and dumb to conduct as blatantly wrong as Boeheim’s was.

He can’t hold himself faultless. No coach in his situation can. His charge was to protect the image of the university and its sports programs – to ensure his team stays within the rules.

Boeheim didn’t; he let all these wrongs happen on his watch.

“Ultimately, as head coach, I must also accept responsibility for the conduct of individuals within the program,” he said.

Yet he didn’t accept responsibility. Because he didn’t, nobody should forgive what Boeheim did in tarnishing the golden image of Syracuse. Now, the college must separate itself from a man who shamed a basketball program that used to stand for something good.

But Syracuse won’t.

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(Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill

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