A member of a Syracuse fan message board who appears to be university trustee and basketball fan Joyce Hergenhan contributed to a thread mourning the death of former Syracuse player Fab Melo by writing that he “was no saint” due to his role in the school’s academic cheating scandal:
After being roundly criticized by the rest of the message-board users, the poster gave a non-apology apology:
The author of the posts, “cto,” has had an account on SyracuseFan.com since 2011. They have posted over 4,000 times, and their avatar is a photograph of Hergenhan with former Syracuse hoopster Derrick Coleman. Other users on the message board have addressed the user as “Joyce” for years, even starting a “happy birthday” thread for them on Hergenhan’s birthday last year, and the user has repeatedly made mention of her experiences sitting close to the court and interacting with the team. Other posters have commented several times in the past about being able to see her on television in her season-ticket seats. (The Wall Street Journal mentioned Hergenhan’s courtside season tickets in a 2007 profile of her charitable contributions, which includes a quote from Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim about Hergenhan’s generosity.) The user has posted several stories implying that she is well-connected, including one about going to a bar with Boeheim’s sister Barbara and another about getting breakfast at a charity event with Providence coach Ed Cooley. In other words, this is either Joyce Hergenhan or someone doing a sustained and convincing impersonation of her to little obvious end.
Hergenhan graduated from Syracuse in 1963 and went on to become a high-level executive at General Electric. She has been a trustee since at least 2007 and has donated millions of dollars to the school, where an auditorium in the school of communications is named after her.
Melo died this weekend at the age of 26, in his native Brazil. He played two seasons at Syracuse and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year his sophomore year. Melo missed a number of games over his two years because of academic issues, and the university ultimately declared him ineligible for the 2012 NCAA tournament, where Syracuse was the top seed.
Three years after Melo left, the NCAA suspended head coach Jim Boeheim nine games and vacated wins—among other punishments—for self-reported football and basketball violations going back a decade. A number of the basketball violations revolved around Melo, with the entire Syracuse “student-athlete” industrial complex working to keep him eligible. Via the Syracuse Post-Standard:
Four days later, athletic director Daryl Gross called a meeting with at least seven other members of the Syracuse athletic department, the NCAA reported. It was an effort to brainstorm how to keep Melo in uniform. And to keep the Orange’s national championship hopes alive.
“As the institution acknowledged at the hearing, a meeting like this, aimed at an individual student-athlete’s eligibility options, had previously never occurred at the institution,” the report said.
The next morning Melo and a former professor agreed he could submit a paper to raise his old grade.
Starting at 11:19 a.m. the paper, which was based heavily on Melo’s personal statement to the NCAA that had been saved on [director of basketball operations Stan] Kissel’s computer, was revised seven times in 27 hours. Each of the revisions was made by either Kissel or Debora Belanger, a basketball receptionist.
The pair exchanged seven e-mails and three phone calls during that time.
By the next morning, Melo had turned in four or five pages The professor ruled it “inadequate” because it did not include citations. Those changes were made by the afternoon.
“Unfortunately, the director of basketball operations and the basketball facility receptionist, not (Melo), completed and submitted the assignment,” the report said.
Melo later explained to NBA teams that his academic troubles stemmed from the fact that he was not a native English speaker, and still struggling to learn the language.
Melo clearly wasn’t adequately prepared for college-level work in a second language, but because he was a basketball phenom, Syracuse did what it could to keep him on the court. That anyone, let alone a message-board user who appears to be a Syracuse trustee, would blame the vacated wins on the 21-year-old trying to play basketball in a foreign country and not Boeheim, Syracuse, the NCAA, anybody else involved in profiting from his labor, or the concept of amateurism—and do so as a reaction to his death—tells all you need to know about big-time college athletics.
Hergenhan did not respond to an email or to a voicemail left on her cell phone. A home phone in Hergenhan’s name was disconnected. A Syracuse sports information director said that the school would not comment on the message board or who might post there.