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UConn’s punishment: fair, or an axe to grind?

Apr 7, 2012, 5:00 PM EDT

Jim Calhoun

Yesterday, it became official: UConn lost their final appeal to the Committee for Academic Performance on a waiver that would allow them to compete in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

The quest isn’t over, however. As some point in the coming months, the CAP will make a decision on what data they will use to determine whether or not they administer punishments like the postseason ban. The way the rule is currently set up, the NCAA requires a rolling, four-year average of APR scores to be higher than 930, up from the 900 it was previously.

The problem is that the four-year average starts with the 2007-2008 season and ends with the  2010-2011 season, meaning that UConn’s four-year average is 893. Where the issue lies is that UConn’s score is heavily weighed down by a disastrous 2009-2010 APR score of 826. The past two seasons have been much, much better. In 2010-2011, UConn scored a 978 on the APR and this past year, the Huskies were perfect.

What that means is if the CAP decides that they should use the most recent data — the four-year rolling averages that starts with the 2008-2009 season and ends with 2011-2012 — then the Huskies will, in fact, be eligible for the tournament.

And that right there is why folks in Connecticut feel as if they have been railroaded by this decision. Congress is getting involved. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs, who has been as critical of the Jim Calhoun era as anyone, hits it right on the head with this column from Friday:

For decades, the NCAA thought and acted like a glacier. Suddenly, it was an avalanche. There was a scandal with Ohio State. There was a scandal with Miami. There was Cam Newton’s father shopping around his son like a piece of meat. The NCAA came under enormous fire. NCAA president Mark Emmert had his chance to make a great mark. He called a retreat for college presidents. The result was many good intentions that became legislation.

“Here’s the thing I want people to understand about that postseason rule,” UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said. “We want it. We want it! It’s great for college athletics and our student-athletes. It’s great to motivate them to say you need to buckle down and do the things necessary to participate and to prepare for when your career in sports ends.

“At the same time, you can’t change the rules midstream and punish institutions just because you decide, ‘Well, there’s a lot of pressure out there. There are a lot of things going on out there in the world and people are mad. Other people are doing these things. So you know what? We can’t get to them so we’re going to punish you.’ No opportunity to adjust, not even one year.”

From stipends, to multiyear scholarships, to admission standards to punishment for bad APR, there were landmark changes made on the fly last year. When you make such massive changes, an organization must also be open and flexible to make adjustments on the fly. The stipend rule was sent back for more work.

Take a look at UConn’s roster from the 2009-2010 season. Not a single one of those players will be in uniform next season. Only one — Alex Oriakhi — played in 2011-2012. Only six won a ring in 2010-2011.

I understand that this kind of turnover with players that aren’t in good academic standing is precisely the kind of issue that leads to poor APR scores. I get that.

But does it really make sense to punish a group of kids for the academic issues of their predecessors, especially when they have helped turn around the problems the program previously had?

I have my own issues with the way that Jim Calhoun runs this UConn program, but it’s tough not to view this ruling as the NCAA and the CAP having an axe to grind with a coach that has sleazed his way to three national titles in 12 years.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. Tim's Neighbor - Apr 7, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    These young men chose to play for UConn. I feel for them, but they went to a program known for being dirty. It’s the risk you take for all of the benefits UConn brings.

  2. glink123 - Apr 7, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    this isn’t about punishing the kids. this is about punishing the university. dont think for one minute that the university gives one sh!t about these players, because they don’t. if they did care, they would’ve provided the education that they owe to these kids. the reality is, they only care about the millions of dollars in lost revenue from missing the tournament in 2013, and are using these kids as pawns yet again by using the same tired statement of “how can you punish these poor kids?”. UConn had *several* years of advance notice of when the enforcement period kicked it. they elected to ignore it. in the end, they ultimately won another championship, using a roster full of academically questionable players, all in a quest to win a title. well, it worked. you got your title. now sit your a$$es down in 2013 and STFU already.

  3. evanhartford - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    Rob, you lost all credibility when you wrote that Calhoun “sleazed” his way to 3 national championships in 12 years.

    Besides Duke, name me 1 scandal-free program in the last 30 years that has won multiple national championships. What’s that? You can’t think of any?

    Wake me up when you’ve “sleazed” your way through your next article.

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