Monday, August 30, 2010

Penalty Corner

A posting on a pro-Georgetown blog asked in its headline, "Is Connecticut About to Lose Scholarships?", and went on to speculate on the "impending doom" about to hit the program.

The answer to the headline: "Well, umm, Yeah." Or at least most likely.

It's pretty much been assumed all along that the Huskies will dock itself at least a scholarship or two, hasn't it? At least I've always heard it that way. I'm pretty sure the NCAA will agree that the program should lose scholarships. How many? Recruit Angelo Chol Tweeted that the Huskies "lost all their scholarships."

First of all, it's Twitter. Secondly, it's a high school senior, not the greatest source of breaking news. Thirdly, it's Twitter. And plus, we don't even know how many "all their scholarships" will be next year. Two, as it stands now. Or three if Kemba Walker goes pro. Or four if Ater Majok leaves, as has been reported. Or five or six if the two German recruits don't show up ...

According to Michael Buckner (popular guy these days), the NCAA's "rough formula" has been a 2-for-1 penalty: two lost scholarship for every one student-athlete involved in wrongdoing. That would mean two for Nate Miles. Of course, that doesn't explain how USC football was docked 30 scholarships over the next three seasons for the Reggie Bush mess.

“I could see them losing at least two (scholarships), but it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost more," Buckner said of UConn. "I don’t have a basis for it, but that’s up for the appeals committee to decide (if UConn appealed the decision).”

Now, throw all this out the window if Majok's potential departure has anything to do with recruiting violations involving him. A UConn source categorically denies that is the case. If it is, however, the Huskies are in some trouble: unlike Nate Miles, of course, Majok actually did play for the team. Honest.

We'll find out over the next few days (likely a Thursday presser) what UConn's self-imposed sanctions will be. We won't find out how the NCAA ultimately rules until November or December, at the earliest.

Losing scholarships isn't good, but it's hardly a death sentence. Keep in mind, the Huskies were one short last year, and had one scholarship player (Jamaal Trice) who never saw the light of day in Big East action. Oh, and Jon Mandeldove was on scholarship last year, too. OK, last year's a bad example, since the team wasn't so good. But the bottom line is, most fully-funded teams in college hoops have at least two or three skollies wasted at the end of the bench.

Really, there are only two words the Huskies don't want to hear from the NCAA committee on infractions: postseason ban.

Doesn't seem likely, but ...

“I think based on the allegations, there’s probably a remote possibility (of a postseason ban),” said Dan Fitzgerald, a New Haven attorney who specializes in sports law. “I would never say never when you’re dealing with the NCAA. But these are recruiting violations. To me, the most logical sanctions would be recruiting sanctions, punishment parallel to the act.”

Added Buckner: “Based upon what we know, I do not see (a postseason ban), unless there’s some other information that we haven’t seen. Normally, that occurs when you have an ineligible student-athlete that’s involved in some serious NCAA rules violations (and) plays in some kind of NCAA postseason contests.”

Miles, of course, didn't.

“The committee of infractions could still impose that,” Buckner said, “but it would have to explain a sound basis for it. The committee has been trying to implement more stringent penalties lately. Look at the USC case.”

Along with its hefty loss of scholarships (which it is appealing), the USC football program received a two-year postseason ban for what the NCAA deemed a “lack of institutional control” regarding Bush, who allegedly received gifts from sports agents while at the school. UConn has been admonished by the NCAA for “a failure … to adequately monitor the conduct and administration of the men’s basketball staff.” Likewise, Calhoun has failed to “promote an atmosphere of compliance in the men's basketball program,” according to the NCAA.

“The only way a postseason ban would come up,” Fitzgerald said, “is if the lack of compliance was so pronounced – the failure to monitor was more than just negligent, it was reckless. I certainly don’t think they would find that with a program like UConn, that for the most part has been very clean and on the up-and-up.”

Added Buckner: “The only reason I could think of (for the NCAA to hand UConn a postseason ban) is that they’re trying to punish or sanction UConn and its men’s basketball program for not doing the job it should have been doing, in terms of ensuring impermissible contact between agents and boosters is not occurring with prospects. The NCAA is taking a very harsh, stringent approach against not just UConn but USC, (several) SEC, ACC schools, for their dealings with prospects or enrolled student-athletes. They could come up with some reason for a harsh approach, (saying) that you’ve got to be proactive and ensure that your program isn’t doing these things.”

It’s virtually impossible to believe that UConn will self-impose some sort of postseason ban. USC, in its combined investigation of its football and basketball programs, self-imposed a postseason ban for its basketball team the past season, stemming from improper benefits received by O.J. Mayo. Of course, Mayo played a season with the Trojans.

***Oh, had a brief e-mail exchange with Patrick Sellers earlier today. He's coaching the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, the team Stephon Marbury played for last year in China. The team is 15-2, and he's happy with the way the players and organization have treated him.

Predictably, he couldn't comment on any NCAA stuff, but ended the e-mail by saying "I guess I will probably see you guys in Indy."

I guess that means Sellers intends on appearing before the NCAA committee on infractions Oct. 15-16 in Indianapolis.

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