Yesterday afternoon, the great investigative reporting crew over at Yahoo! Sports dropped another bomb on a college sports program. Charles Robinson, of the Miami Football program takedown fame, and Pat Forde, a longtime veteran reporter who is amongst the top of his profession, published a story on the Syracuse Basketball program and its decade of ignoring failed drug tests. The gist of the report from Yahoo!:
Over the course of a three-month investigation, four sources with intimate knowledge of the Syracuse men’s basketball program told Yahoo! Sports at least 10 players since 2001 have tested positive for a banned recreational substance or substances. 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.
The complete report was well done and has some good reporting and sourcing behind it, but I can’t help but be bothered by the timing of it all. This is the start of Championship Week. The conference tournaments are in full swing and the day before the Big East Tournament is set to begin, the Yahoo! report implicating an institutional failure inside of the Big East’s regular season champion and the #2 team in the nation, the 30-1 Syracuse Orange.
This story wasn’t leaked out. Forde told Brent Axe of Syracuse.com “There was no thought given to the timing” of the report. The story was completed by the authors and published. Forde can tell us this all he wants, but the timing of this is just wrong in my opinion. It bears striking resemblance of something that happened back during the 2007 Baseball playoffs that still bothers me to this day.
On the morning of Game Seven of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians, a story was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle that Indians starting pitcher Paul Byrd had spent nearly $25,000 on the drug HGH during a three -year period, before the drug was banned by MLB. This was a distraction that the Indians just did not need heading into their most important game in six years. Though Byrd wasn’t the starting pitcher that day, the entire team and organization had to deal with something they shouldn’t have. Byrd, to his credit came right out, met with the national media, and admitted that the report was true.
The report had to have leaked from somewhere inside of the MLB offices. Only a few people were privy to this information. One of them was George Mitchell, baseball drug investigator and author of the famous “Mitchell Report” that “named names” and busted open the steroid era. At the time the report was leaked, Mitchell happened to be a front office director, and part owner of the Red Sox. Of course, the former Senator denied having anything to do with the leak. It bears repeating: the Byrd report came out the DAY OF GAME SEVEN OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES.
Before my days at WFNY, I had my own blog called My Teams Are Cursed. Two days after the Indians lost Game Seven in Boston with the infamous “Skinner Stop Sign” opening the flood gates for a Tribe collapse, I let loose on Mitchell and MLB for allowing the report to go public that day:
What a fool and a fraud George Mitchell is. The man that Bud Selig put in charge of investigating steroid use in baseball is lying today. He says he did not leak the Paul Byrd HGH story to the SF Chronicle. Oh, ok George.. so who did then? Scribes around MLB have said it for months that leaks have come out of Mitchell’s office when players like Troy Glaus and Gary Matthews Jr. have been named as HGH users. Now, Byrd gets fingered the DAY OF GAME 7 and all of the sudden Mitchell has to backtrack and say he knows nothing? Hmmm. Mitchell is a part-owner and Director of…. THE RED SOX!!! Same team that Byrd’s Indians were facing Sunday in Game 7. How come Mitchell has had to backtrack today and come out and deny it? Because he has been BUSTED!! Another great move by Selig– to appoint a man who is a Red Sox homer and slappy and part-owner. Yeah, that is fair. have any Sox been named as steroid or HGH users or buyers? Of course not. Mitchell would never let that happen. He’s covering his own ass as a member of the team. Sick dude. Hey, still doesn’t change the outcome, Red Sox beat the Tribe fair and square. But Sunday’s report was Horse bleep.
Whether the Syracuse story is true or not (Head Coach Jim Boeheim let off a classic blast when asked about it – “I have no comment. Have fun with your story.” )you just know that Boeheim and the entire Syracuse athletic department is livid over the timing of all of this. This story could have very easily been held until after the season was over. It wasn’t. Now the team will have to deal with yet another distraction in a season full of them. Remember, it was back in November when the season had just begun when the Bernie Fine molestation allegations came to light.
The NCAA issued a statement last night:
“Syracuse University appropriately self-reported possible violations to the NCAA several months ago and we currently have an ongoing investigation.”
So this story is published on the eve of the Big East Tournament, yet the NCAA already was aware of this and have an on-going investigation under way? I just can’t understand why Forde, Robinson, and Yahoo! chose now to put this story out to the public. It just stirred up all of those ill feelings and bad memories from the Byrd leak back in 2007. It remains to be seen how this will affect the Orange as they head into the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.