Although Syracuse's Edelin is ineligible, he's finally on the right track
Posted: Wednesday October 6, 2004 2:37PM; Updated: Thursday October 21, 2004 9:33AM
Syracuse's Billy Edelin is academically ineligible for the first semester.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The headline spread across the wires and Web sites last week at the usual warp speed: Syracuse's Edelin academically ineligible for first semester. If you only read that headline, you probably thought, There's that Edelin, screwing up again. A closer look, however, reveals that Billy Edelin, a 6-foot-4 junior point guard, is actually saying and doing all the right things these days. That in itself is news, but it doesn't make for easy headlines.
The truth is, it would have been a major surprise if the NCAA had declared Edelin eligible for the start of the season. Besides having to withdraw from classes last spring for personal reasons, Edelin also missed most of the 2001-02 school year because Syracuse suspended him after two female students accused him of sexual misconduct. (No charges were filed in the case.)
NCAA rules dictate that a student must complete 50 percent of the credits necessary to graduate by the beginning of his junior year, but Edelin's "clock" was ticking even while he was out of school. The only way, then, that Edelin would have been able to play this fall would have been for the NCAA to grant Syracuse's appeal for a waiver. It didn't. Syracuse hopes to hear the result of its final appeal by the end of this month, but that answer isn't likely to be different from the first.
Since the end of last season, Edelin has completed two sessions of summer school and signed up for a full course load for the fall. If he fulfills his academic obligations, he should be able to suit up for the basketball team in mid-December. Still, last week's NCAA decision, and the insta-headlines that followed, left Edelin distraught.
"He's really down," said Jeff Cornish, who works for a YMCA in nearby Oneida, N.Y., and has become a mentor to Edelin. "A lot of people have been saying that Billy is a problem, and that's tough for someone his age to handle. He's been working his tail off to get back to playing basketball."
Neither Edelin nor the university has ever explained why Edelin abruptly left his team last February, after he had started 16 of 17 games and been the Orange's third-leading scorer. That void was naturally filled by much speculation and rumor, yet Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim emphasized again to SI.com last week that that was not the case.
"It had nothing to do with the law or breaking rules. He just had some personal issues he had to deal with," Boeheim said. "We've never talked about it, and we never will. I'm sure Billy never will either. The bottom line is, we think he's on the right track, and we're pretty confident he'll be available second semester."
Syracuse's success this season hardly depends on whether Edelin is available. The Orange made it to the Sweet 16 last year without him, and with jet-quick freshman Josh Wright ready to take over at the point, the team will hit the ground running when practice begins in a couple of weeks. Edelin will be allowed to practice with the team while he's sitting out, but by the time he's eligible he may find it hard to crack the starting lineup.
Edelin hasn't said anything publicly in a while, but once the season begins it will be hard for him to avoid answering questions about what he's been through and where he's headed. Still, right now he needs Syracuse basketball more than it needs him. As long as he keeps doing the right things, the right headlines will follow.
NCAA tourney committee should push teams to hit the road
Since the home team wins in college basketball more than two-thirds of the time ... and since the power-conference schools have a huge advantage over mid-majors when it comes to scheduling home games ... and since the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is an important tool used by the men's basketball committee for seeding and selecting the NCAA Tournament ... it would only seem fair that a road win should count more than a home win in the RPI.
Fortunately, the committee's members agree with this premise, which is why after studying this issue for almost five years, they decided at their summer meeting in Colorado to do the right thing and incorporate the home-road factor into the RPI.
Starting next season, the committee will make available to its members an additional, "adjusted" RPI ranking that gives extra weight to road wins. (In the past, the members have had a dozen various adjusted rankings because they could never decide on a single way this should be computed.) However, that ranking will be evaluated separately from the standard RPI, which is based 75 percent on who a team plays, and 0 percent on where.
The good news is, this will allow members to make better decisions on how they select and seed the tournament. The bad news is, because this adjusted ranking will not be made public, there's little chance that the new policy will shame the power schools into giving mid-majors a chance to play the big boys on their home court.
"If the home team is winning about 70 percent of the time, we need to take that into account," said Iowa athletics director, Bob Bowlsby, the committee's chairman. "If there are byproducts to our doing that, that's up to the schools. But it's not our responsibility to convince them to go on the road if they don't want to."
Bowlsby is right when he says that power-conference schools stack up a lot of home games for financial reasons as much as competitive ones. But if the media, fans and alumni could see that was hurting their team's chances of making the tournament, the coach would have no choice but to play a more fair and competitive schedule. While the regular RPI the committee uses is technically a secret, there are enough math geeks out there who have figured out the basics of the formula that those rankings are essentially public knowledge. They are also more discussed than won-loss records in late February.
It doesn't help that the committee won't reveal just how it will integrate the home-away factor to create its adjusted RPI. If weighing road wins is the right thing to do, the committee should simply adjust its main RPI accordingly and make sure everybody knows how and why.
Izzo tries more Spartan approach to scheduling
Michigan State is playing a perfectly respectable schedule this season. The Spartans travel to Duke on Nov. 30 for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, will probably play Maryland on Dec. 5 in the championship of the BB&T Classic in Washington, D.C., and they host two borderline NCAA tourney teams, Stanford and UCLA, before beginning Big Ten play in January. After that, the Spartans' only non-conference game is Jan. 29 against Oakland.
That is a far cry from last year, when Tom Izzo famously loaded up what might have been the hardest schedule in college hoops history, only to see his team go 0-6 against Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma, Kentucky, UCLA and Syracuse. This year's schedule would have been harder if Kansas, which had agreed to play Michigan State in a home-and-home contract, wasn't forced by a scheduling conflict to put off its return game until next season. Still, Izzo learned his lesson last year, and the new schedule reflects that.
"Our biggest problem was there was no spacing between those tough games. We kept losing and having to play another great team right away," Izzo said. "I still think good schedules make you better in the long run. I don't mind losing because that's how you figure out what's wrong, but you have to do it within reason."