BOSTON — Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse Orange have rolled into the Elite Eight without the help of star big man Fab Melo.
Syracuse beat Wisconsin 64-63 on Thursday to advance. With three more victories, the Orange will win their second-ever college basketball national title. But Melo won't have a hand in any NCAA tournament wins this spring due to his suspension for the entire tournament — for reported "classroom troubles." The punishment adds another blemish to Syracuse's basketball program, which has had at least 10 players test positive for banned substances since 2001, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Melo gets a free education, and the guy won't do his homework. NCAA regulations state that student-athletes are students first, athletes second. Reality paints a different picture. Details regarding Melo's recent truancy are vague and could represent bigger problems in college sports.
The NCAA ended Melo's dream of leading his team to a possible national title, but was his punishment severe enough? What if Roger Goodell ran the NCAA? Perhaps a tournament and 2013 season ban would have sent the right message.
In the wake of the NFL commissioner's actions against the New Orleans Saints, one could only wonder just how effective Goodell's leadership would be in Melo's case, or in any situation involving an NCAA infraction.
Nobody knows what punishment Goodell would have handed Melo, but Goodell's no-nonsense policy across the spectrum is the absolutism the NCAA needs to keep the Fab Melos in check. After all, classroom issues are a small part of greater sins affecting the NCAA and its athletes in recent years.
While some still debate whether Goodell dealt too harsh a sentence to the Saints, no one can deny he has issued a clear edict that breaking the rules and compromising the integrity of the game will not be tolerated.
Will his message extend beyond the NFL?
Making money and maintaining high principles don't have to be mutually exclusive. Before taking future disciplinary action, the NCAA should ask itself: What would Roger Goodell do?