In today's edition of the Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota pens a piece entitled "Duke Transfers Unwelcome Here." In this article, Ditota notes Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross will not sanction the transfer of any current or prospective Duke Blue Devil to Syracuse's lacrosse program. The piece provides, in pertinent parts, the following:
As an initial matter, Dr. Gross' comments appear to be inconsistent with prior athletic department practice. As recent as this past August, the Orange lacrosse program accepted Joe Yevoli and Nathan Kenney as transfer students. Both individuals committed to and played significant minutes for the University of Virginia prior to enrolling at Syracuse. Thus, Gross has established a strong precedent that the Orange athletic department will sanction transfers to the Syracuse lacrosse program should an athlete academically qualify for admission.
At least one Duke University lacrosse player has indicated an interest in transferring from the troubled program. But Syracuse University athletic director Daryl Gross said Tuesday he will not sanction the transfer of any former Blue Devil to Syracuse.
"I think it would be inappropriate," Gross said.
SU coach John Desko said he's received written notification from Duke that sophomore attackman Zack Greer is seeking his release from the school. Athletes intent upon transferring from one program to another ask their athletic departments to issue releases to schools the athlete is interested in attending.
****Desko said he would reserve comment about any transferring Blue Devils until the legal system sorts out what happened the night of March 13.
"My position would be that I couldn't comment about anything until speaking with the chancellor and the athletic director," Desko said Tuesday afternoon. "I'm assuming there would be no position until the situation is resolved."
Tuesday evening, Gross described the events at Duke as "really a sensitive situation on so many different fronts." Gross said he recently talked with Desko about the possibility of accepting Duke transfers and has advised Desko that the university would be unwilling to consider the option.
"I wouldn't be interested in our coaches recruiting players from Duke, given the situation," Gross said. "I think it would be inappropriate. . . . So the policy for us would be 'No.' "
Gross said he based part of his decision on the idea that those players initially chose to play lacrosse somewhere other than Syracuse.
Gross said he had not discussed the possibility of accepting Duke recruits, but was inclined to deter those athletes from playing for SU, too.
"It still kind of falls back to if a kid committed to Duke," Gross said, "then he had an intention to go to Duke."
Furthermore, the athletic department has sanctioned the transfer of non-lacrosse athletes to Syracuse. On April 17, 2006, the Syracuse women's basketball program announced that Fantasia Goodwin, the NJCAA Division III career and single-season scoring record holder, would enroll at Syracuse this fall. Goodwin spent the last two seasons at Monroe College in the Bronx.
The football team has also seen an influx of transfer students throughout Dr. Gross' tenure. This year alone, head coach Greg Robinson convinced three athletes who were enrolled at an institution not named "Syracuse" to join the team's 2006 recruiting haul -- Taj Smith, Larry Norton, and Ian Hammond. While these four athletes were all enrolled at junior colleges, they nevertheless failed to commit to Syracuse at the close of their high school careers. For Dr. Gross to permit these individuals to enroll at Syracuse and not any member of Duke's lacrosse program is, at the very least, hypocritical.
Latent in Dr. Gross' comments are also issues as to whether this departmental policy is actually enforceable. Eric Devendorf, Syracuse's excitable freshman sharpshooter, was an initial commitment to Tom Izzo and Michigan State University. The summer before enrolling at prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, Devendorf re-opened his recruitment and committed to play for Jim Boeheim and the Orange.
According to Dr. Gross' comments, this necessarily means that Devendorf is unwelcome at Syracuse and should, therefore, transfer from the Salt City to Michigan State as that's where his original intention was placed. This, of course, will not occur nor should it. However, given Dr. Gross' comments, the only way to achieve a consistent departmental policy is for this hypothetical scenario to happen.
That, in and of itself, is mind-numbing and unacceptable.
The only reasonable explanation for Dr. Gross' decision to prohibit transfers from Duke's lacrosse program to Syracuse is that he fears associating the university with this unresolved scandal. While this is a noble pursuit, it is flawed.
It should be noted as a prefatory matter that I have no problem with Syracuse holding its athletes and prospective athletes to high moral, ethical, and academic standards. A university is a place for higher education. It is only residually an athletic factory. Thus, I can accept a modicum of failure on the athletic field if it means that Syracuse will not become the second coming of Florida State or Ohio State.
However, this does not mean that Syracuse should deny admission to quality students and athletes who, for one reason or another, carry some undesirable baggage. Only three lacrosse players on Duke's roster have been or will be indicted for crimes associated with the fiasco that may or may not have occurred in Durham last month. To punish an entire team for the transgressions of a select few seems patently unfair.
Zack Greer did nothing wrong. Why should he become collateral damage?
Furthermore, this raises the question of how the athletic department should treat the scholarship offered to football signee Jermaine Pierce. Pierce has, at the very least, a checkered past. He recently had charges against him withdrawn for possessing and dealing illicit drugs, having drug paraphernalia, illegally possessing weapons, and criminal conspiracy.
If Zack Greer is being denied admission to Syracuse for far less than what has been levied against Pierce, it necessarily follows that Pierce should not be permitted to enroll at Syracuse this coming fall as he has been involved in far more serious matters.
I do not believe that this should occur. Pierce is an individual that appears to be turning his life around for the better. Now that the charges against Pierce have been withdrawn, there is no reason to believe that he is not taking advantage of the opportunities afforded him. Zack Greer and other members and prospective members of the Duke lacrosse program should be given the same chance.
It must be conceded that the athletic department has set at least one barrier to admission to the university and has enforced it uniformly: if you are convicted of a crime, you are not welcome. The recruitment of Colt Brennan implemented this policy and the athletic department appears to have adhered to it consistently.
However, there is a big difference between being convicted of a crime and being the teammate of an individual convicted of a crime. As far as I know, there is nothing in the Syracuse code of conduct or athletic department policy manual that imposes vicarious liability in those instances. Accordingly, Dr. Gross should not act in a capricious fashion in his approach to the Duke transfer situation.
Thus, it appears once again that Dr. Gross is attempting to couch flawed policy in spin that fails to find consistency in actual practice. This has nothing to do with these lacrosse players originally committing to Duke. Rather, it has everything to do with Gross fearing a backlash from the media that, in most likelihood, will not occur.