Jim Boeheim's legacy forever altered

ByDANA O'NEIL via <a href="http://espn.go.com/" title="ESPN" class="espn_sc_byline">ESPN </a>
March 09, 2015, 12:00 AM

&#151; -- No matter what the NCAA does -- suspends a coach for one game, five, or a season -- they survive, like cockroaches with a whistle and a whiteboard.

Bruce Pearl was smacked more than three years ago. He's coaching again.

Kelvin Sampson was the ultimate sinner, until he repented in the NBA for a few years and got another shot at Houston.

Eddie Sutton lived to pace the sideline after his fall from grace at Kentucky. Even Jerry Tarkanian resurfaced post-UNLV.

But to say that no damage is done is simply untrue. There is a stigma, a scarlet letter, once the NCAA has branded a coach as a violator.

And now Jim Boeheim carries the brand:

For approximately 10 years, the head basketball coach failed in his responsibilities to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program and monitor the activities of those who reported directly and indirectly to him.

Those are the 34 words the NCAA Committee on Infractions used in its 94-page report, released Friday, to describe Boeheim.

Translation: Boeheim did not run a clean program.

Boeheim, the Hall of Famer. Boeheim, the most beloved man in Syracuse. Boeheim, a dean among college basketball coaches -- "failed."

Let's be clear. He will not be fired. He will not disappear, save the nine ACC games for which he has been suspended.

But this is not something he can brush away with a smirk and a flip of his hand, as he is wont to do. It will sting personally and stain publicly.

Boeheim walks in rarefied air among current coaches, in lockstep with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and a few others. Before the NCAA stripped him of eight years' worth of wins, Boeheim was on track to join his longtime friend in the 1,000-win club.

Now not only has he lost ground there, his résumé includes an asterisk that Krzyzewski's does not.

Let's face it, the man has never engendered warm fuzzies. He's frequently prickly, often dismissive and occasionally combative.

But he also is unanimously respected. He has served on more basketball committees than you can list, an impassioned and outspoken supporter of the game whose opinion and counsel are regularly sought. He's a vital cog in the USA Basketball machine, and a Hall of Fame member on merit.

People may question his personality but never his success.

And until now, never his integrity.

And that will hurt. But he will never admit it. Later Friday, Boeheim issued a statement and, true to his nature, it had an air of defiance.

He also has pride, a deep pride, and while he may not necessarily care what people think of him, he will not like that their opinions now have been colored by this report.

Because this is really about him. The COI's penalties were leveled at Syracuse University, but make no mistake, Boeheim was the target. His name -- or more accurately, "the head basketball coach," as he's referred to -- appears 106 times in those 94 pages.

And the truth is, the NCAA had to go after him. Two years ago, the enforcement group restructured its penalties, allowing for severe punishments against coaches, essentially eliminating the "I didn't know" defense from the arsenal.

Had the NCAA not come out swinging against Boeheim, the skeptics and cynics would have been rightly armed to say it's the same old, same old. In the immortal words of Tarkanian, the NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it went after Cleveland State.

In Syracuse, this will make Boeheim a martyr. At the NCAA offices in Indianapolis, it will make him Exhibit A.

In reality, it's somewhere between.

"If he doesn't get something in this case, the rule is to me rendered moot," one lawyer who handles NCAA cases told ESPN.com on Friday.

So as much as this was about Boeheim, it's also about every coach in college basketball.

Somewhere in Tennessee, Donnie Tyndall, under investigation for alleged violations committed while he was at Southern Miss, ought to be quivering in his orange blazer. Neither Larry Brown, facing NCAA scrutiny at SMU, nor Roy Williams, in the epicenter of the North Carolina academic mess, should be breathing easy, either.

"Absolutely they should be worried," the same lawyer said.

The penalties leveled at Boeheim are easily the harshest in recent years. Jim Calhoun, the former UConn coach, and Central Florida's Donnie Jones each were suspended three games. Frank Haith got five on the heels of the Miami investigation. Pearl missed eight, but that was a hit from the SEC offices, not the NCAA.

Yet Boeheim's punishment could have been far worse. COI chair Britton Banowsky said on a teleconference after the sanctions were announced that essentially Syracuse and Boeheim dodged a bullet because most of their violations came before the new penalty structure was put in place.

Otherwise the school would have been looking at a two-year postseason ban, six years' probation and, most notably, up to a half-season suspension for Boeheim.

"Everyone needs to be noting we are moving to a new place in regards to the severity of the penalties going forward," Banowsky said.

Even in the here and now, the dagger will dig pretty deep.

Jim Boeheim will survive.

But his reputation will never be the same.

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