So what is Syracuse University basketball, circa 2013?
The Orange’s run to the Final Four in Atlanta has evoked a whole lot of examination of what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong here. It’s also evoked the usual amount of journalistic opportunism - some of it legitimate, some of it not.
Long story short, it’s a complex, messy picture, symbolic of the modern game’s myriad problems and yet, at the same time, displaying virtues of loyalty, enthusiasm and support that most other programs would gladly trade for.
First, we’ll share the bad news. From academic questions to off-the-court incidents (small, but numerous) and the Bernie Fine saga, there’s plenty of reason to cast aspersions on SU because, at the least, there’s been less-than-stellar behavior.
It would have turned sinister if the allegations of abuse against Fine were found to be absolutely true. But there’s too much ambiguity (from the accusers), opportunism (from ESPN post-Sandusky) and flat-out lying (from accusers who recanted). As a result, we’ll never know the whole story, and even if we did, a lot of people wouldn’t trust it for the reasons above.
Even without that cloud, the others, causing the NCAA to conduct a years-long investigation into the program unrelated to Fine, has brought some doubt into SU’s basketball future. The threat of doom led many to suspect that Mike Hopkins would run away and be a head coach somewhere else, rather than wait for Jim Boeheim to retire and inherit supposedly damaged goods.
Then there’s the move to the ACC. Boeheim, and many others, were blunt about their sad feelings of leaving their ancestral Big East home for a reason (football) that had nothing to do with events on the court. Even as a measure of survival, the move hasn’t gone over well.
Here, just like with the other non-basketball issues, SU reflects the typical big-time program, always needing to chase that next dollar to keep up with the other superpowers. And if it blows up history and ticks off fans, well, that’s tough.