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Wait until March Madness Picks on You, Orange Fans

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It's still going to get uglier before it gets better, Syracuse University sports fans.

Have you gotten accustomed to the idea that came down from the hill this morning, the message within an email from Chancellor Kent Syverud that said in the 11th of 12 long and winding paragraphs that head basketball coach Jim Boeheim will retire after three more seasons?

This eight-year NCAA investigation into academic fraud and other wrongdoing did cost Boheim his beloved job after all.

Sure, the man from down the Thruway in Lyons will be back behind the bench next season and for two more, and perhaps with the victories the NCAA said the university must vacate back onto the list that had put Boeheim at No. 2 all-time, trailing just Duke coach and his U.S. Olympic team colleague and friend Mike Krzyzewski. The Chancellor's email also said that SU will appeal parts of the NCAA's findings and penalties, including that mandate to vacate victories for the men's basketball team. Syverud also stated that he and the school's hierarchy will support Boeheim if the coach decides to appeal any personal penalties handed down by the NCAA.

But as laudatory as that is, as complimentary Syverud's wording was toward Boeheim's time spent since "he enrolled as a student here in 1962 and never left," as optimistic sounding is the ensuing statement "his goal in making this decision and announcement now is to bring certainty to the team and program in the coming years, and enable and plan for a successful, longer-term transition in coaching leadership. Coach Boeheim's commitment to ensuring that the men's basketball program remains strong even after his tenure is just one more example of his deep loyalty to our University," I have no doubt about this:

Boeheim did not have a smile on his face when that decision was made. I picture him more in a mood similar to when he ripped off his suit jacket after the referee in Durham, N.C., called that charging foul against C.J. Fair in the last minute of the game against Duke in 2014.

He's always turned a bit sour when the question of retirement came up, never mind that 70 crept closer and closer and then came and went last Nov. 17. And then he's said something along the lines of, he'd know when that day came. This way, three years down the road,  after NCAA penalties? So hard to picture.

In Syracuse, this news about Boeheim overshadows even the word that Daryl Gross was stepping down after a decade-plus as athletic director. The chancellor's message said nice things about how he'd gotten the Orange into the Atlantic Coast Conference and raised athletic department fund-raising to record levels, and added that a new job awaited as Vice President and Special Assistant to the Chancellor as well as an adjunct professor in the David E. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.

There will be far fewer tears and less gnashing of the teeth around here for the end of Gross' stewardship, because fans preferred to point toward the empty Carrier Dome seats at football games, big home games moved to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and failure to get over the small bowl game hump on the gridiron and blame him. Add to that his role in calling the now infamous athletics department meeting to strategize how to salvage basketball player Fab Melo's eligibility, and Gross had fall guy written all over him.

A Syracuse fan would only hope that a day like this would truly start the healing process.

Not to be. Not yet.

March Madness starts in full bore tomorrow, of course, with Syracuse at home with that self-imposed ban that didn't even allow it to be a bubble team, playing for a possible berth those last couple weeks of the regular season. All of this bracket hoopla with no Orange. And next weekend, the East Region, the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, takes place in the Carrier Dome as one of four sites. All of the fans from the four schools that make it here, all of the media, the CBS mike-talkers ... they get to pick at those fresh Syracuse scabs good and hard.
 

Mark Bialczak has lived in Central New York for 30 years. He's well known for writing about music and entertainment. In 2013, he started his own blog, markbialczak.com, to comment about the many and various things that cross his mind daily.