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If UConn buys out AD, what’s it mean for Calhoun?

Jul 24, 2011, 1:55 PM EDT

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Here’s news that’ll fend off Jim Calhoun’s retirement for years.

Connecticut president Susan Herbt is working on a deal to buyout athletic director Jeff Hathaway, according to a report from theday.com of Connecticut. The process could take “a few weeks” or longer, but the site reports it’s unlikely Hathaway will still be the AD when school starts.

Calhoun, 69, signed a four-extension with UConn last year, but spoke openly about retirement after the Huskies won the NCAA title in March. (In fact, it’s been an ongoing drama most of the summer.) If there’s a way to encourage him to fulfill that contract, it’s by adding an AD he wants.

Because Calhoun isn’t a Hathaway fan. At all.

From an interesting column by Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant:

Basketball coach Jim Calhoun has made little secret of his distaste for Hathaway. Many sets of ears have heard about that distaste. That’s one matter. This is another: Calhoun and his group of supporters, according to one highly placed source, have been angling for Hathaway’s ouster. More than that, the source told The Courant that he had been approached to give support to that group.

Is Calhoun’s camp the prime motivator? Don’t know. We do know he is a powerful force at UConn. There could be other forces at work. Herbst’s chief of staff, Rachel Rubin, for instance, once worked as associate athletic director for ethics and regulatory affairs. You have to figure Herbst will hear her view, and it might not be flattering.

Yet it comes down to this: If Hathaway is jettisoned, it will look to folks from coast to coast as if a coach who has just been penalized by the NCAA in the Nate Miles debacle won a power struggle against his athletic director. It will look to all as if a coach who just lost two scholarships and $187,500 out of his pocket for poor Academic Performance Rating schmoozed a new president into guillotining an AD who had put that APR language into his contract.

Not only that, Hathaway’s set to serve as the chair of the NCAA tournament committee next year. Buying out an AD who’s set to assume a high visible position for the NCAA’s most important event of the year probably won’t sit well with the NCAA brass.

Between that and the academic/compliance issues, it’s a risky move for the school to make.

But if keeping Calhoun on the sidelines for a few more seasons is the larger goal, well, it’ll almost certainly pan out.

UPDATE: Herbt released a statement on Sunday regarding the athletic department’s external review, but Hathaway isn’t named in the statement. That can’t be promising for the AD.

“Athletics is a vital part of UConn and there are many ways to evaluate the success of a collegiate athletic department — academic performance of student-athletes, NCAA compliance, fundraising and overall athletic success,” Herbst said in the statement. “We will be excellent stewards of public and private funds in all areas of the University. As a result, I will be reviewing all divisions of the University over time, but with great urgency, to make sure that we are serving this state in the best possible way. Accountability and excellence are our themes, going forward.

“The Division of Athletics is one of those areas of the university in which we have already begun this evaluation process,” Herbst added.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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