Third-ranked Syracuse has allegedly defied fundamental NCAA rules, such as allowing basketball players to receive merchandise, cut-rate use of cars and even cash gifts from boosters, a newspaper reported today.
A seven-month investigation by The Post-Standard of Syracuse, involving interviews with scores of players, parents, coaches and others, revealed allegations of conduct that may have broken numerous NCAA rules governing intercollegiate athletics.
Although the NCAA strictly forbids paying student athletes, 10 players told the newspaper they received hundreds of dollars from such prominent Orangemen boosters as Dave Bing, a former NBA star, and Bill Rapp Jr., a local car dealer.
Players from every season from 1983-84 through 1989-90 said they received cards containing cash from Rapp, whom Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim calls his best friend. Typically, players said, they found $50 inside the cards.
"It just said, 'Merry Christmas, Bill Rapp,' something like that," said George Papadakos, a center who has since transferred.
"Bill Rapp signed it," said another player, who did not wish to be identified. "Everybody took the money and trashed the card, right there in the locker room."
Other Orangemen who played during the past 10 years said they received cards from Rapp, but said the cards did not contain cash.
Rapp denied giving money to the players.
Other players said Rapp also supplied them and their families with rental cars at discount rates.
Rodney Walker, who has since left school, said he rented cars from Rapp on six or seven occasions. Usually he paid $15 to drive a car for a weekend, he said.
Derrick Coleman, who signed a $15-million contract with the New Jersey Nets after being the first player picked in the NBA draft, told the Post-Standard he recently gave $500 to college player-of-the-year candidate Billy Owens, his former Syracuse teammate.
Coleman said Owens called him and he sent the money so Owens would have it to spend in Hawaii, where Syracuse played Nov. 23-25 in the Maui Invitational.
Owens said he never received any money from Coleman.
Boeheim said his team has not violated any NCAA rules.
"The NCAA has looked at everything we've done. They have talked to guys who have left here, and nothing was ever said," Boeheim said. "We try to do everything we can to see that nothing happens. Because it is the right way to do things, No. 1, and because, No. 2, I want to coach here 30 or 40 years."