The West Virginia Mountaineers men’s basketball team experienced complete chaos over the course of the weekend. Fans of the Syracuse Orange quickly brought up a few tangential implications from the 315.
To recap, on Friday in Pittsburgh, driving under the influence led to the arrest of West Virginia’s head coach Bob Huggins. Huggins’ blood alcohol level was.210, more than twice the Pennsylvania legal limit, and police discovered empty beer cans in his car. Huggins resigned from his position as West Virginia coach on Saturday, less than a day after news of his arrest on June 16 and just over a month after using a homophobic slur on a Cincinnati radio show.
Huggins oversaw a fruitful transfer portal cycle this offseason, which included the signing of Syracuse center Jesse Edwards, a member of the All-ACC third team (14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game last year), who is considered one of the top transfer prospects by 247Sports and ESPN.
Soon after Huggins’ resignation, rumors started to circulate regarding the West Virginia roster, which included Edwards to some extent. Immediately, the question has been asked by some Syracuse fans: can The 2023–2024 season will see Edwards actually return to the Orange?
There is theoretically a possibility. Here are some reasons why it’s unlikely to occur.
Players from the Mountaineers’ transfer class have a 30-day window to be qualified for an immediate transfer to another team. According to the NCAA, the 30-day grace period enables players like Edwards to re-enter the portal in the event that a program’s head coach is replaced, as was the case with West Virginia.
Let’s start with the most crucial point: the returning freshman guard Judah Mintz secured the final spot on the 2023–2024 roster after the Orange already committed to all 13 scholarships. In order to make room for Edwards, Autry and/or Syracuse Athletics would (in theory) need to transfer someone from the roster to another team.
Let’s get this abundantly clear: Syracuse should not and would never act in that manner. A move like that would be a complete PR disaster. It’s a horrendous look for recruitment efforts, especially if the view from the player sees the “we love you, until we don’t and it’s time to cut the cord” move play out. Additionally, it is completely at odds with Autry’s (and Syracuse basketball’s) philosophy of developing close, strong bonds with the players.
More importantly, despite how much NIL and the transfer portal have altered the landscape of college basketball in recent years, these student-athletes are, at the end of the day, still incredibly young. A choice like that just wouldn’t feel right. Syracuse won’t just get rid of someone to make room for Edwards.
Since some might wonder about other avenues, there is the “medical DQ” option which has been used by many schools. In this case, a school could medically deem an athlete ineligible while still paying out their scholarship without it counting against NCAA limits. Athletes who have been disqualified from competition cannot return to that school to compete in the future. Of course, this must be demonstrated and supported by documentation. It has happened, but short-term relief is not an option unless the athlete, the school, and both parties agree to it.
Yes, if Edwards decided that he wanted to play somewhere that had a full roster, he could choose to walk on at Syracuse or another school. He will receive that money regardless of who WVU’s head coach is. NIL was a pretty motivating favor in his decision to go to West Virginia. Even without Huggins, the Mountaineers finished 19-15 overall and narrowly missed Maryland in the NCAA Tournament before getting to work in the offseason by bringing in the second-best transfer portal class in the country. Will they act swiftly to find a new coach so that the team stays together?
There is undoubtedly a strong motivation to get Edwards to return. Who, with such a strong, athletic roster, wouldn’t want to see him return as the starting center? The likelihood of Edwards returning is very slim, but he would give this Syracuse team a seasoned, proven center and a top-20 team with a pretty high ceiling.