To understand the Boeheim Exception, you have to understand the rule. The rule is that we cheer for fellow conference members when theyíre playing outside the conference. Itís particularly important for the conference to do well come basketball tournament time, but the rule applies to all sports that have conference affiliation. At Notre Dame, we share an interest in a strong Big East with our conference brethren. It's not altruistic. We need them for our RPI.
Almost every conference has a team that is so unlikable, a program that is so slimy, and/or a coach who is so despicable that no thinking human being should have to blindly hope for its success. Thus, we have the Boeheim Exception. Everyone is allowed to hope that nothing goes well for one, and only one, of the conference brethren should a team meet the proper criteria.
The Boeheim Exception is named in honor of the man who, over time, earned the disdain that the exception implies; but that does not mean that its use is restricted to Syracuse. In fact, the Boeheim Exception isnít restricted to basketball applications; and it is not limited to use within the Big East. If you can stomach supporting Boeheimís Syracuse squad but find Bob Huggins more disgusting than a fart in a phone booth, feel free to use your Boeheim Exception hoping for West Virginia's rapid and permanent demise. If youíre a Big Ten fan, you too have a Boeheim Exception; and Iím willing to bet that youíll think that a Boeheim Exception spent on Michigan is a Boeheim Exception spent wisely.
The great thing about the Boeheim Exception is its versatility. Like the gift that keeps on giving, it keeps finding new applications. The most basic application is the loss, particularly early in a postseason tournament; but there are many other great ways for a program to be damaged. If a player runs afoul of the law or flunks out of school, it isnít good for the conference's reputation; but the Boeheim Exception can allow you to fully enjoy the malfeasance. If a great player bolts for the NBA after one year, it weakens the conference; but that whiny, cheating coach of his will also be out a good player, and thatís okay by me. Finally, what could match the sheer joy of an NCAA investigation at your Boeheim Exception athletic program?
Nobody has to use a Boeheim Exception, but nearly everyone needs the flexibility sometime. Use it when you need it, but choose your target carefully. You only get one Boeheim Exception, and you canít go moving it to suit your circumstances. I thought mine was committed until Boeheim retired, but West Virginia hired Huggins and I had to adapt.