Syracuse hoops under investigation

Syracuse University's basketball program has been the subject of a wide-ranging NCAA investigation, according to multiple reports.

Syracuse has received a letter of preliminary inquiry from the NCAA, which has been investigating the school for a multiyear period, CBSSports.com reported Wednesday, one day before the Orange begin play in the NCAA tournament against Montana.

It is unclear when Syracuse received the letter of inquiry. The nature of the alleged violations also is unknown, but CBSSports.com reported the transgressions are "major."

The scope of the investigation has expanded beyond the NCAA's inquiry last year into possible drug-related violations, and now includes the school's handling of Fab Melo's academic eligibility and an alleged sexual assault case involving three players in 2007, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

NCAA investigators also have interviewed Syracuse employees and former school employees over the past year, according to the Post-Standard.

"Same story they had last year at this time," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said Wednesday in San Jose, Calif., where the Orange will play Montana. "I guess that's annual. I guess next year we'll get it again."

Syracuse stunningly declared last March that Melo was ineligible for the 2012 NCAA tournament just prior to its opening game. Melo, the Big East's defensive player of the year, also had missed three games earlier in the season due to an academic issue.

"Last year was completely different," Boeheim said. "We didn't have Fab Melo; that's a little different. That was not a distraction; it was an absence. And they handled it as well as they could."

Boeheim would not answer any specific questions about the reports but said he wasn't bothered by the timing on the eve of the tournament.

"We're concerned about playing Montana," he said. "What people write or say, you know, there's 30,000 people in the Dome yelling at me all the time. People yell at their television sets. I tell them I can't hear them, but they still yell at them. There's no distractions for me. And these players, there's absolutely no distractions for them. They're here to play Montana, and that's it."

James Southerland also missed six games this season after being declared academically ineligible. The 6-foot-8 Southerland is the Orange's second-leading scorer this season, averaging 13.9 points per game.

Although Kevin Quinn, Syracuse's vice president for public affairs, told the Post-Standard that the investigation does not involve the 2007 sexual-assault case, the newspaper reported that an NCAA official questioned a school professor in August about the university's handling of the alleged assault.

Quinn declined to provide details Wednesday when he publicly addressed the investigation.

"As we said last year at this time, we are collaborating with the NCAA as part of an ongoing inquiry. Given this process is ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time," he said.

The NCAA has not commented on the reported investigation. The probe also encompasses Syracuse's football program but primarily is focused on the prestigious basketball team, according to reports.

According to CBSSports.com, the case is not related to sexual-abuse accusations made against former assistant coach Bernie Fine. Federal prosecutors closed their investigation without charging Fine in November but declined to comment on whether they found the accusers credible or whether they uncovered any evidence to support the allegations.

Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams said this was the first he heard about the NCAA probe.

"I don't have any idea what it's about and I'm sure my teammates don't know anything or I would have heard," he said. "To be honest, we are going to avoid any distractions and just focus on our game. When you get to the tournament, no games will be easy."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.