Syracuse suspends Boeheim; Horns’ Barnes on thin ice

Here we are less than one week away from the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament and the big news about college hoops is the suspension of one big-name head coach and another prominent Lone Star State coach whose job could very well be in jeopardy.

What we’re referring to is Syracuse’s head coach for the past 39 years Jim Boeheim being suspended for nine Atlantic Coast Conference games next season and Texas Longhorns head basketball coach Rick Barnes being faced with a “win or else” scenario as college basketball’s “Big Dance” rapidly approaches.

According to an Associated Press article that appeared in newspapers Saturday, the NCAA alleges that the Syracuse Orangemen, over the past decades under Boeheim’s guidance, committed a series of rules violations that included academic misconduct, improper benefits and drug policy failures.

“The governing body, saying the school lost control of its athletic department, placed Syracuse on probation for five years for breaking with the most fundamental core values of the NCAA.

“The bulk of the violations concerned athletic department officials interfering with academics and making sure star players stayed eligible,” the article pointed out.

The basketball team must vacate wins in which ineligible players participated during five seasons (2004-2007 and 2010-2012).

Boeheim is the second winningest coach in Division I history with 966 victories and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and not only coached at Syracuse for 39 years, but also played his college basketball for the Orangemen. The exact number of victories Boeheim, 70, will lose has not been determined.

“The punishment includes financial penalties and the reduction of three men’s basketball scholarships a year for four years,” the AP article continued. “Recruiting restrictions will be enforced for two years.”

Saturday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle points out on the front page of the sports section “when Steve Patterson became the University of Texas’ athletic director in 2013, he was confronted with question marks in the university’s three most high-profile sports.

“Would Mack Brown remain football coach? Would Augie Garrido remain baseball coach? Would Rick Barnes remain basketball coach?” The answers to these questions were No. Yes. Yes.

“Garrido took the Longhorns to within one game of the College World Series final. Barnes’ Longhorns finished 24-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was their 15th Tournament invitation in his 16 seasons in Austin which included a Final Four in 2003 and Elite Eight appearances in 2006 and ’08,” the article pointed out.

The Longhorns won 10 of their first 11 games this season with the lone defeat coming at the hands of No. 1 and still undefeated Kentucky and were ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press Poll in December.

But then the’Horns hit a skid when they lost eight of 11 games and are in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons. The ‘Horns did come up with a couple of “must wins” last week, upsetting Baylor 61-59 Last Monday in overtime and downing Kansas State 62-49 Saturday, with both victories coming in Austin.

Today the Texas Longhorns stand at 19-12 overall but only 8-10 in the Big 12 and will open the Big-12 Conference tournament as the No. 7 seed against No. 10 Texas Tech today (Wednesday) in Kansas City.

“There has to be doubt about whether about whether Barnes will return even if the Longhorns advance to the Big Dance,” the article revealed.

“Patterson has not hinted which way he is leaning or even whether he is leaning at this point,” the Chronicle concluded.

Barnes guided the Longhorns through their best decade of men’s basketball in school history, and from 2002-2008 they made the Sweet 16 five times, the Elite Eight twice and advanced to the school’s first Final Four in six decades, but he hasn’t taken them back to the Sweet 16 since 2008.

So it looks like to me that the next few days in the Big 12 Tournament may dictate Rick Barnes future at the University of Texas.

KWICKIES…Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin (27-4, 17-1) will take the No. 1 seed into the SLC Tournament that begins today (Wed.) in Katy. Sam Houston State (24-7, 15-3) will hold the No. 2 seed. Each is seeded into Friday’s semifinal round.

The Lamar Lady Cardinals will receive two byes as the No. 2-seeded team in this week’s Southland Conference Tournament which begins today (Wed. ) in Katy. The Lady Cards will play their first opponent at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It will be against either Nicholls State, Northwestern State or Central Arkansas and will be televised on ESPN3. If they win Saturday, the Lady Cards will play in the SLC championship game at noon Sunday with CBS Sports Network televising the contest.

Changes in Venezuela’s visa policy may hinder Major League Baseball from getting another batting champion like Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve. An Astros’ American scout, attempting to travel in the country in search of talent, was recently turned away. The Astros were the first organization to build a baseball academy in Venezuela and always had easy access to the country, according to general manager Jeff Luhnow. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday that “gringo meddling” led him to take the action. Authorities recently detained several U.S. citizens whom he alleged were involved in espionage. Venezuela has produced several major leaguers including Altuve, Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, Freddie Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Richard Hildago and Melvin Mora.

Despite the fact the Texas Aggies baseball team has started the season 16-0, last week they were only ranked No. 22 in the collegiate poll. On Sunday the Aggies only collected three hits but that was all starting pitcher Matt Kent (4-0) needed as A&M nipped Baylor 3-2 in the Houston College Classic played at Minute Maid Park.

Former West Orange-Stark star and Lamar All-American wide receiver Mark Roberts worked out for the NFL scouts on the first of two Pro Days at Provost-Umphrey Stadium in Beaumont. The second workout day is set Monday, March 23.

And while on the subject of Lamar, the Lady Cardinals softball team christened their new field properly by sweeping the three-game Southland Conference series against Houston Baptist last weekend for their fifth straight victory. The Lady Cards play a non-conference tilt today (Wed.) against Texas State and then swing right back into SLC competition with a three-game series against Abilene Christian.

Good luck to the two area teams playing this week in the boy’s state basketball tournament. The No. 2 Beaumont Ozen Panthers will be gunning for their second state championship when they take on Cedar Park from the Austin area tomorrow (Thurs.). The Kountze Lions will be looking for their fifth state championship in school history when they meet No. 1-ranked Brock in the semifinals.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Texans apparently came out of the current free agency fiasco all right, re-signing starting right tackle Derek Newton, cornerback Kareem Jackson and quarterback Ryan Mallett, However, in order to free up the proper amount of cap money, the front office had to release two of their veteran team leaders in wide receiver Andre Johnson and center Chris Myers. The Texans also are expecting to sign free agent quarterback Brian Hoyer, who will compete for the starting job with Mallett. However, the New York Jets also are eyeballing Hoyer as their possible starting quarterback. The Texans also want to re-sign outside linebacker Brooks Reed. Perhaps the biggest free-agent pursuit is defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, who the Miami Dolphins are willing to sign to a six-year deal for $114 million, with $60 million guaranteed. The news that running back LeSean McCoy agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract with the Buffalo Bills should help DeMarco Murray get what he wants to be paid, either by the Dallas Cowboys or anyone needing a great running back.