Sidelines: Vacating wins and the best coach in the big dance

By Matt Barrett ‘17 and Brian O’Neill ‘16

Collaborative Writers

The NCAA often will strip wins from a program as a penalty for said program committing infractions, whether it be recruiting violations or off court issues. Most recently, Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim was stripped of 108 wins for his players committing academic misconduct and receiving money from boosters. Should win be vacated from a program?

M.B: I think that vacating wins from a program is pointless. It’s an unnecessary measure and it isn’t harsh enough.

Vacating wins implies that a team never won those games. It’s impossible to rewrite history—whether the wins are stripped or not, Syracuse still won those 108 basketball games. Even though I do agree that those wins should have an asterisk beside them, they shouldn’t be discredited. What the basketball players did on the court is irreversible and need be dealt with other ways.

Such measures should include banning postseason play and removing scholarships for coming years. Most of these penalties are usually handed down on top of vacating wins anyway, but rarely are harsh enough. For example, Syracuse was additionally given a one year postseason ban and was stripped of just one 2015-2016 scholarship. For an eight-year investigation, the sanctions do not justify the means. The 108 wins that will now tarnish Beoheim’s legacy will always be wins no matter what the record books say.

B.O: As most sports fans are aware, there is more to any game than just the act of playing it. To win is one thing, but to do so with integrity is just as important. When the integrity of any game is challenged, there must be consequences, and Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse University basketball program are feeling the heat after being stripped of 108 previous wins, as well as 12 scholarships over the next four years due to several infractions of NCAA policies.

To some, the punishment of stripping wins might seem a little inconsequential. Taking away past wins is a little funky—they already happened, and most of those players who have already moved on will likely not feel as though their accomplishments have been entirely marginalized.

However, the reason I see this as the correct course of action is precisely because it serves to tarnish the legacy of Boeheim while leaving the players alone. The NCAA could easily have affected the future of the program by denying players the opportunity to play at all—rather, they allowed Syracuse University to make that decision internally. This decision resulted in a ban on post-season play as well as a five-year probation period for the team. Allowing this punishment to occur split the responsibility well between the NCAA and Syracuse, who really should be responsible for taking action on existing student-athletes on their campus.

 

In the midst of March Madness, coaching plays a big role in how far a team is able to go in the NCAA tournament. Which coach remaining is the best of the best?

M.B: Forget who’s left. Tom Izzo is the best coach in the country. The Michigan State head coach has led the Spartans to 18 straight tournament appearances and seven Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past eight years. What makes Izzo such a good coach is his ability to develop players. Unlike other big college basketball programs, Michigan State’s 16-man roster consists of just five top 100 ESPN high school recruits, one of whom is a freshman. Even since 1995, he has just signed just 11 McDonald’s All Americans, compared to Duke, who has inked 42.

Izzo is able to turn guys that fly under the radar in high school into stars at the collegiate level. Senior Travis Trice was just a 6’0’’ guard from Ohio coming that saw offers from just one other school, Dayton. In four years, Izzo has transformed Trice from a back up point guard that scored 4.5 PPG into the floor leader of the Spartans, posting 15 PPG.

Izzo’s experience and basketball IQ make him the best in the country and the Spartans lethal in March. Don’t be surprised if this year Izzo dances to his seventh Final Four appearance.

B.O: This year’s NCAA basketball tournament has been a thrilling one so far. One of the most important elements of any team to bring them to this point in the tournament is found in the head coaching position, and there is no shortage of experience and talent at that level. But who is the best? Names like Tom Izzo of Michigan State and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke come to anyone’s head right away, as their leadership and tactics have yielded outstanding results in years past. No coach, however, has achieved this season the level of perfection that Mike Calipari has with Kentucky University, and for that reason I’m picking him as the best remaining coach in the tournament.

Sure, Kentucky is the biggest and most talented team in the dance. But to play the way they do, with so much patience and discipline, isn’t a result of natural talent. It’s a result of hard work and organization, two things that must come from the top down. Calipari has utilized the talent on his team to perfection, ensuring that the name “Kentucky” insights the type of dreadful feeling in the heads of his opponents that can only come from mechanical success.

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