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Final 4 foes Orange, ‘Heels share a room in NCAA doghouse

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Syracuse and North Carolina will square off in Saturday’s second game of the NCAA men’s Final Four. Both coaches, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and North Carolina’s Roy Williams, have enjoyed the high of winning it all.

They have also endured the low of having their basketball programs under investigation by the NCAA. Fortunately for the fans, the legal aspect of NCAA rule compliance will take a back seat on Saturday. Instead, the focus will be complying with on-court rules such as setting illegal picks.

The Orange and Boeheim have moved on from penalties handed down one year ago. Improper benefits to players, academic misconduct and a failure to enforce the school’s drug policy are past history.

NCAA investigators took eight years to complete the query into Syracuse. When the violations were confirmed, the penalties were harsh. But not as harsh as they could have been.

Syracuse was required to forfeit 108 victories achieved between 2001 and 2012. Boeheim had been the second-most-winning coach in history with 989 wins, but now is third with 881. He was also suspended for the first nine games of this season

The Orange also lost three scholarships per year beginning last season. The recruiting entourage is reduced from four to two over four years.

Finally, they were required to pay a fine of $500 for each forfeited game. They were also forced to return their share of Big East revenue from the NCAA Tournament from 2011-2013. The grand total comes to more than $1 million.

One thing they were not required to relinquish was their 2003 NCAA Championship. That year, Boeheim’s Orange, led by Carmelo Anthony, defeated the Kansas Jayhawks coached by Williams.

Boeheim has announced his retirement effective after the 2017-18 season.

Williams and his Tar Heels will take the court on Saturday not knowing their ethical fate. The NCAA has an ongoing investigation into allegations of rampant academic fraud.

A 2012 internal report found that football and basketball players were attending bogus classes while some had research papers done for them. Professors allegedly had their names forged on grade reports.

An independent investigation commissioned by UNC found that activities such as these had gone on for 18 years. Imagine the ramifications if North Carolina receives Syracuse-type penalties.

Based on whistle-blowing by former Tar Heel basketball player Rashad McCants, a member of Williams’ 2005 NCAA Championship team, the NCAA officially began their investigation in 2014.

If this investigation takes eight years, all of the current players, and probably Williams, will be long gone. Williams, who will turn 66 in August, is approaching retirement age. The penalties will be paid by those who had nothing to do with the scandal.

In the meantime, the current players will be the favorite to win it all on Monday. If they do, Williams and his team will leave their mark on history with a sixth championship.

The NCAA, eventually, will leave their mark on North Carolina. Jim Boeheim can relate.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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