Friday, May 28, 2010

What Will the Penalties Be?

OK, it was more than just about 30 improper phone calls over a four-year period. It was actually at least 160 impermissable phone calls and 191 text messages that the NCAA alleges UConn's coaching staff to have made from June, 2005 to February, 2009.

According to the notice of allegations, Beau Archibald made 114 impermissable phone calls and 181 texts between Aug. 9, 2007 and June 13, 2008; Andre LaFleur made 13 improper calls and eight texts; Patrick Sellers placed 19 impermissable calls and one text; George Blaney (not named specifically but referred to as "then assistant and current associate head men's basketball coach") made at least five impermissable phone calls; Tom Moore made four improper calls and Jim Calhoun placed two impermissable calls.

There are also numerous allegations that then-agent Josh Nochimson provided impermissable benefits to recruits.

So what will it all mean for UConn? We won't know for at least a few months, but it still appears that the likely punishments will be recruiting restrictions and loss of a scholarship or two.

"If it’s a recruiting case, then you look for recruiting sanctions," said Rick Evrard, UConn's legal counsel in NCAA-related matters. "If it’s a competitive-advantage case, where a student-athlete has competed while ineligible, then you look for vacation of contests, wins, participation in NCAA tournaments. If it has to do with academic fraud, you’re going to look institutionally at the systems in place."

Nate Miles, who appears to be the subject of most if not all of the improprieties, never played for UConn. Hence, the Huskies wouldn't have to worry about an ineligible player having played for them.

In his opening statement at Friday morning's press conference, Calhoun labels the process as the NCAA's "inquiry into our recruitment of a particular student-athlete," which, of course, would be Miles. However, it's possible some of the violations involve kids who have played at UConn.

Either way, UConn has 90 days to review the NCAA's allegations and institute self-imposed penalties. At the end, the NCAA can either concur with UConn's suggested penalties -- or treat them more harshly.

"It’s a balancing act," Evrard said, "trying to evaluate making sure that you self-impose meaningful penalties, versus the committee of infractions evaluation of what you do … does this institution get it? If you’re too light on yourself, you risk the possibility of having additional penalties imposed by the committee. If you hit it on the mark, and the institution and committee on infractions are lock-step and say ‘This is about right,’ then sometimes the institution will question itself, ‘Did we hit ourselves too hard?’"

Some statements from Jeff Hathaway and Jim Calhoun:

“Let me be clear: the University of Connecticut is fully committed to NCAA rules compliance, and takes this matter very seriously. With regard to Coach Calhoun, he personally has a long-standing history of demonstrating commitment to NCAA compliance. We appreciate his continued commitment, as well as the full cooperation and support that he has provided throughout this process.

“These are serious matters. We have a demonstrated commitment to NCAA compliance … we’re proud of our record of compliances. It’s a serious matter, we understand that, but we’re fully engaged to resolve this situation.”

"We all have to comply by the same rules and regulations, so that we all have the same chance to compete, to recruit, to run programs. It comes down to a level playing field. We all have the same rules, and we’re all expected to comply. That’s why I would consider it very important that we all comply by the rules.

"I pride myself, my love of the university, my players, the program, the institution and, quite frankly, the state. It’s certainly one of the lowest points (of my career), any time you’re accused of something. It’s a very serious matter. Conversely, I’m not defeated. I don’t get defeated by things. As a matter of fact, I’m going to be educated by certain matters if, in fact, we did make mistakes – which I think I said 15 months ago – and we’ll finalize some of that over the next 90 days. And we will go forward.

“No one wants this to happen. Did I see it happening? No. But it happened, therefore we’re going to handle it the way we’ve always handled things – upfront, transparently, and do the best we possibly can if we have made mistakes.

"We are steadfast in our beliefs that we operate a program deeply committed to complying with NCAA guidelines. In my 38 years as a collegiate head coach, 25 of which I’ve been at the University of Connecticut, I look with particular pride on our strong record of compliance, and the impact we’ve made on the young people who have come through our program.

"Though we may have made some mistakes in the recruiting process, UConn has never wavered in terms of fostering and maintaining a strong culture of compliance, and has always strived to meet the highest standard possible, and the highest standard expected of us."

A few other interesting tidbits:

***Calhoun, Hathaway, faculty athletics representative Scott Brown, LaFleur, Sellers, Archibald and director of compliance Marielle Van Gelder are requested to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Oct. 15-16.

***Evrard said he believes this is the first time UConn has ever received a letter of allegations from the NCAA.

***He also said the resignations of Sellers and Archibald were "probably just coincidental, to the fact that it’s the end of the academic year or perhaps the end of (their) contract … In this case, it’s just a matter of timing.”

***Archibald resisnged on May 20; Sellers this past Sunday.

***The process for finding replacements for Archibald and Sellers began today, simply in terms of filing paperwork to human resources to get approvals to post for the jobs.

***According to Evrard, similar past cases (Kelvin Sampson, anyone?) are "very relevant. The committee on infractions relies on its case precedent to evaluate cases that are coming up the pike and the ones that they hear. All cases that have any relations – circumstantial relations, similar patterns of allegations or violations – they evaluate all of that and prepare a response accordingly.”

***These are considered major violations, but that could be more semantics than anything else. Violations that are viewed as isolated or inadvertant are labeled as secondary. Virtually everything else is deemed "major."

"If you move out of scope of secondary violation, you become involved with every other major case that’s ever come down the pike," Evrard said. "There’s no levels of major, which I think is unfortunate for many institutions, because they get lumped into … I’ll harken back a long time ago to a Florida State case. They had four elements of a lack of institutional control, and they put it into a major category. But the four elements that comprised the lack of institutional control were relatively minor. Standing alone,they all would be secondary. The facst of the matter is that that case is in the same category of SMU and Alabama and some other major cases.

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