Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson and Pat Forde are reporting that Syracuse basketball violated the school’s internal drug policy with “at least 10 players” that tested positive for recreational substances since 2001.
The sources said all 10 of those players were allowed to practice and play at times when they should have been suspended by the athletic department, including instances when some players may not have known of their own ineligibility. The four sources said Syracuse violated its drug policy in at least two areas: failing to properly count positive tests; and playing ineligible players after they should have been subject to suspension.
Schools handle drug policies themselves without NCAA involvement. Syracuse’s called for players to attend counseling and rehabilitation after the first positive test, to be suspended after a second positive and to face expulsion (with a one-time exemption) after the third. Jim Boeheim would have been notified after each player’s positive. Yahoo! has two sources claiming one player played after four positive tests and another played after failing three tests.
How this relates to the NCAA is a bit more complex. The sources claim the NCAA asked at least one ex-player about the drug testing policy, indicating a possible investigation. The NCAA would have to construct a “lack of institutional control” argument, potentially claiming Syracuse were “willful violators” to remove the statute of limitations.
Syracuse could also be charged with lack of institutional control for failing to adhere to its own drug policy, similar to sanctions recently levied against Baylor University. A wide-ranging NCAA inquiry into the Bears’ basketball program in 2005 revealed the athletic department failed to follow its established guidelines by concealing positive marijuana tests for three players.
As with Ohio State, the initial report is inflammatory. The NCAA may not be able to substantiate much of it. The ultimate severity for Syracuse is unclear. At the very least, this was not what the school needed directly following the Bernie Fine allegations. The timing resembles another bomb Yahoo! dropped on Connecticut basketball in March 2009.
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