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Reports: NCAA investigating Syracuse men’s hoops

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SYRACUSE — Syracuse University’s men’s basketball program is reportedly in the midst of an NCAA investigation as the team heads into its first tournament game tonight. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported NCAA investigators have conducted interviews of SU employees or former employees for at least the past school year in a wide-ranging investigation that includes the handling of Fab Melo’s academic eligibility last season and a 2007 alleged sexual assault case involving three players.

CBS Sports.com reported that the basketball team has been under NCAA investigation for years. A source told CBS the school has received a letter of preliminary inquiry from the NCAA.

“The transgressions were described as both major and wide-ranging in nature,” CBS reported. The investigation also encompasses football, but is believed to primarily involve basketball, according to the report. When asked by The Syracuse Post-Standard about an NCAA investigation on Wednesday, Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross would not confirm or deny an NCAA investigation.

“We regularly have communications with the NCAA and our communications are no different than any other school’s athletic department,” Gross said.

The Orange faces Montana tonight in San Jose, Calif., in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In the past year, Melo and James Southerland were suspended for academic problems.

Last year, SU officials acknowledged an NCAA inquiry into years-old allegations that players were allowed to practice and play in games despite being in violation of the school’s drug policy.

“As we said last year at this time, we are collaborating with the NCAA as part of an ongoing inquiry,” Kevin Quinn, SU’s senior vice president for public affairs, told the Post-Standard Wednesday in an email. “Given this process is ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Quinn said that, within the past day, NCAA officials told SU that they “are not investigating the 2007 case or anything related to it. That matter was adjudicated and resolved through both the grand jury and student judicial processes five years ago.”

The paper also reported the NCAA’s probe into the basketball team’s academics coincides with a shake-up in the student-athlete academic services office that helps the players stay eligible. Three people in the department have changed jobs since summer 2011.

Big East ADDS 3 SCHOOLS

The breakaway basketball schools kept the Big East name and the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. In return, they left behind tens of millions of dollars to the football members. That was easy to do with a lucrative television contract awaiting.

The new Big East launched as a 10-member league Wednesday with the additions of Butler, Creighton and Xavier and a 12-year deal with Fox. The agreement is worth about $500 million with the possibility of increasing to $600 million were the league to add more members, a source said.

The so-called Catholic 7 schools completed their exit from the Big East earlier this month. They’ll start play with their three new colleagues in the fall. Providence, Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall and DePaul broke away from the old conference in search of stability, which was badly lacking as the football members kept leaving for other leagues.

AROUND CAMPUS ...

Alabama AD Mal Moore is stepping down to become special assistant to the president because of health problems after a reign that ended with the Crimson Tide’s football program back on top nationally. ... .New Mexico coach Steve Alford has agreed to a new 10-year contract that could bring him up to $2 million per season including base salary, bonuses and incentives.

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