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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsThe Hot Stove

The Hot Stove: Athletes pay the price for outside cheating

We’re fewer than two months into 2015, and already multiple stories are focusing on cheating and a lack of integrity in sports.

My problem is not the number of reports finally being released. The problem is that many teams seem to feel that winning by bending the rules is justified. We all know the rampant number of scandals in sports, whether it’s the NCAA or the NFL. You name it, there’s some sort of issue with ethics and playing by the rules.

Last week both the Syracuse University men’s basketball team and the Jackie Robinson West Little League team made headlines for cheating, and both have something frighteningly in common with each other: The players paid the price for mistakes made by management.

Let’s start with Syracuse basketball. The university has self-imposed a postseason ban based on an ongoing investigation. All we know is that these violations by the program and athletic department occurred between 2007 and 2011, meaning no current student-athletes were involved.

What really makes this ban outrageous is the timing. Syracuse was 15–7 with nine games remaining in the season and its postseason odds shaky at best. Given this circumstance, the players are finding out about the ban past the halfway point of the season.

The rules are being changed in the middle of the season. It would be one thing to support this punishment before the season began because then at least the players, who most likely had nothing to do with the violations, would have had  an option to transfer. Now, Syracuse senior forward Rakeem Christmas, who is a potential NBA draft pick, will end his senior season without playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament, missing out on facing some of the best comparable talent at the end of the season.

And what’s going to happen to head coach Jim Boeheim, who has been at the helm for almost 40 years? Probably nothing considering this isn’t the first time the university has made headlines for its team’s violations, and Boeheim is still employed.

Plus as of 2013, Boeheim makes about $1.9 million per year and will still profit off the backs of free labor. As the leader of the men’s basketball program, the only sort of accountability he has taken is saying he supports the university’s decision to make the postseason ban. There’s still the possibility the NCAA will punish Syracuse more, but postseason bans aren’t going to cut it. If Boeheim is not suspended, heavily fined or flat-out fired, it’s an injustice to all of college sports.

Now we find ourselves dealing with a scandal in Little League Baseball. It’s not the first scandal in the organization’s history, but what comes as a disheartening tale is how far some teams will go to win. The Jackie Robinson West Little League team, based out of Chicago, Illinois, was stripped of its U.S. Championship in the 2014 Little League World Series after it was caught knowingly using three players from outside the squad’s district. This team was comprised entirely of African-Americans — and showed promise for a sport lacking African-American participation — but is now the latest story of a sports scandal.

Unlike Syracuse, the higher-ups were held accountable, as team manager Darold Butler was suspended from all league activity and Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly was removed from his position.

But the damage has been done. Nothing can take away the fact that these kids made memories in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, during the Little League World Series, had a hometown parade and met the president of the United States, but the fact remains that it was all done because of cheating. The officials and parents ought to offer a full apology because now the actions of older — and supposedly wiser — adults are ruining athletics for young participants.

In the end, everybody involved in these two scandals should do some serious soul-searching because if they see the lack of integrity and shamefulness everyone else is seeing, they would take more accountability for their actions and do what real leaders are supposed to do: Set a good example.