Monday, May 31, 2010

Some Thoughts on the UConn Crisis

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Hope you all enjoyed this perfect day.

I'm willing to bet that, if you're reading this blog, you had a conversation or two about the Huskies over the grill or by the pool or at the beach (in Rhode Island, of course) over the weekend. It certainly came up with me, and the reactions by UConn fans were fairly predictable: "I can't wait 'til the NCAA goes after Kentucky," and, "These kind of things go on with almost every major program in the country." Those types of things.

While I have no idea whether there any probe into Kentucky's program is in the works (I've heard the rumors, but that's all they are -- rumors), I tend to agree with the latter comment. It's a pretty safe bet that many of the indiscretions UConn is accused of -- impermissable phone calls and text messages, dealing with unsavory characters (like Josh Nochimson) in pursuit of recruits, doling out a few extra tickets to AAU coaches and recruits -- probably happen at numerous other programs around the country, to varying degrees.

How rampant is it? No idea. But these things assuredly go on. UConn, however, became the target of a couple of journalists from Yahoo ! Sports, and got caught. Did these writers have it in for UConn? Again, no idea, but several people who've been around the program in different capacities for years swear that at least one of the writers has vowed to get Jim Calhoun for some 15 years now. Well, he got him.

Here's a parallel that might work: a football player using steroids gets busted by Mark Fainaru-Wada in his never-ending, exhaustive investigation into PED use by athletes. The player knows lots of other guys (maybe nearly every other guy) are using, but what's he going to do? He got caught, and he's got to take his medicine (so to speak) and move on. No sense finger-pointing and saying, "He's using, too!" That just comes across as babyish. (And, lest we forget, maybe most other guys aren't doing it -- just like with the NCAA. Maybe the vast majority of programs are squeeky clean. We just don't know).

So there's really no point in whining that everybody else is doing it. UConn got nabbed, and it must suffer the consequences. There's no excuse for breaking the rules, even if some of them seem rather minor and, possibly, the definition of some of the rules wasn't clear to begin with.

The biggest thing that stands out to me in this whole process is the scrutiny that UConn gets. Not long before the allegations against UConn were announced, Yahoo ! Sports reported that a high-ranking member of the Kansas University athletic department and the father of a prominent Jayhawk athlete allegedly made more than $800,000 in a ticket-scalping operation that was orchestrated by hoops power brokers David and Dana Pump. That could get real ugly.

And has anyone noticed what's going on over at Providence? Over the last month, three players have been booted out of school: two of them for allegedly beating up a fellow student for no apparent reason other than they felt like beating someone up, the other, we've been told, for involving some underage kids in some illicit activity in his dorm room (let's just say the player supposedly had a female friend who was very, umm ... giving). We hear Keno Davis (who just lost a key assistant, Pat Skerry, to Pittsburgh) was one of only two coaches not at the recent Big East coaches' meetings, for what it's worth. (Rick Pitino was the other).

Look around, though, and it seems it's UConn that gets the bulk of the focus by the national media. Or how many national writers have essentially rung the death knell for the Huskies' program over the past few days?

I have a few theories on this. For one, UConn is a major program that is held to a higher standard. That's why its alleged indiscretions make the ESPN scroll, while you see very little time devoted to Providence. (Seriously, can you imagine the media firestorm if three UConn players had been expelled from school over the past month? Calhoun may have lost his job).

Also, Calhoun has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way over the years. Now, as things look bad around him, many media types who have never particularly cared for him are sharpening the knives.

Finally, I truly believe the fact that UConn's location leads to a lot of its publicity -- bad or good. It's proximity to ESPN (and its location in the East Coast media market, less than two hours from New York City) helps make UConn one of the most exposed programs in the country. Why do you think seemingly every ESPN anchor knows Stanley Robinson's nickname is "Sticks," yet probably couldn't tell you more than two starters from Gonzaga, or even UCLA? Why do you think Calhoun appears on Mike Francesa's show seemingly as often as Joe Girardi? Why do you think fans still -- still! - to this day chant "Where's my laptop?" at UConn games, and why Calhoun's rant at Ken Krayeske made national headlines for several days?

Bottom line: UConn almost certainly did wrong, and must pay the piper. The general consensus is probation, loss of a scholarship, certainly recruiting restrictions are in the offing. It's already cost Patrick Sellers and Beau Archibald their jobs. Maybe the penalties will be a little stiffer.

But UConn definitely seems to get scrutinized and criticized on a national level far more than other programs. And if that sounds like a homer talking, think again: I didn't grow up a UConn fan and still am not, but rather an impartial beat writer who covers the team. I was born and raised in Rhode Island and lived there for 37 years. If I were a "homer," I'd be defending Providence's program -- which no one in their right mind would do at this point in time.

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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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The Allegations ...

Here are the eight allegations of violation the NCAA has made to UConn:

Impermissable phone calls and text messages to prospective student-athletes.

Impermissable benefits provided to a prospecive student athlete by a representative of the institution's athletic interests.

Impermissable benefit to a prospective student-athlete by a member of the basketball staff.

Allegations against two members of the basketball staff for providine false and misleading information to the NCAA Enforcment Staff and to the institution.

Providing impermissible complimentary admissions or discretionary tickets.

A failure by the head men's basketball coach to promote an atmosphere of compliance in the men's basketball program and a failure to adequately monitor the program to ensure compliance with NCAA legislation regarding phone calls, text messages and benefits provided by a representative of the institution's athletic interests.

A failure by the institution to adequately monitor the conduct and administration of the men's basketball staff in the areas of: telephone records, representatives of the institution's athletic interests and complimentary admissions or discretionary tickets.

What We've Learned ...

According to a source, UConn made about 30,000 phone calls from 2005-2009, and the NCAA has deemed about 30 of them to be impermissable. The program, this source claims, has been assured that it will not be banned from any postseason play for the indiscretions. The likely punishments: recruiting restrictions (one less assistant coach on the road, etc.) and perhaps a scholarship.

Also, it seems at least one of the assistants (Patrick Sellers) was simply caught in some inconsistencies in his interviews with the NCAA.

That's what we've been told so far. More to come ...


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sellers, Archibald Resign

UConn assistant coach Patrick Sellers and director of basketball operations Beau Archibald have resigned from the program over the past week, according to a source.

Their resignations stem from a letter of allegations that UConn recently received from the NCAA, alleging that the men’s basketball program committed infractions. UConn has 90 days to respond to those allegations and implement self-imposed sanctions. The NCAA would then either accept or change those suggestions.

It looks like the Huskies could be looking at a reduction of one or two scholarships, probably not for next season but spread out over the next few seasons, and potentially fewer recruiting visits, as well.

Sellers and Archibald are the only two members of UConn’s current staff that have been and will be let go. Apparently, Tom Moore is completely in the clear, according to his lawyer.

It appears that the resignations of Sellers and Archibald may have less to do with the alleged recruiting violations, but rather with their dealings with the NCAA during its investigation.

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NCAA Probe Udate Tomorrow

UConn will hold a press conference Friday at 10 a.m. to announce an update on the NCAA investigation of its men's basketball program.

Materials related to the press conference subject matter will be available to the media in attendance at approximately 9:45 a.m. and will also be posted at

In attendance at the press conference will be Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun, Director of Athletics Jeffrey A. Hathaway and Rick Evrard, the University’s outside counsel for NCAA-related matters.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cothran an Inspiration

I understand this is a UConn blog, but things are pretty slow in Husky territory right now (I know you want updates, folks, but I can't make up news out of thin air).

Anyway, thought you might be interested in this story I wrote for today's Register on Keith Cothran, a New Haven kid who overcame a lot to star at URI and, today, receive his degree in sociology. Cothran was arrested at age 15 after being wrapped up with the wrong crowd and remanded to Mount Saint John in Deep River, a facility that tries to rehabilitate young men and send them back into their community as better people.

Cothran returned to Mount Saint John yesterday to talk to some kids and show that he's an example that, if they really want, they can turn their lives around.

Anyway, it's a nice story about a Connecticut kid I thought you might want to read. I know we hear all the time about athletes who have changed and are better people and want to help their community, and many times we continue to be disappointed by those athletes. But trust me, Keith Cothran is the real deal.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Birth of the Cool

Sorry, couldn't resist. When I heard about one of UConn's potential new recruits, Myles Davis, the first thing I could think of was the legendary jazz musician (different spelling, I know). And since 'Bitches Brew' wouldn't have been a very politically correct title of this blog, I went with one of Davis' earliest and most influential albums.

Either way, if UConn signs this kid, I'm really going to have to resist the cheesy jazz references throughout his Husky career. Especially if they sign a kid named John Coltrane, too (relax, he's a jazz musician, too, not an under-the-radar recruit).

Anyway, seems like Villanova is in the lead for Davis' services, but he certainly likes Storrs, as well.

“UConn is another guard-oriented school and I know they know what they are doing,” Davis told Adam Zagoira. “I went there for an unofficial. I worked out with the guys. I worked out with Kemba [Walker] and Shabazz Napier. C.J. Leslie was down there. I got to run with the guys.

“They just had a bad year last year.”

Apparently, Georgetown is in the running, as well.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Can't Make This Up

An actual e-mail I received today from Ashley Wiener, apparently a PR person for the SCORES strip club in NYC:

Sure, LeBron James is getting wooed by million-dollar offers from major corporations to make the move to NYC, but does money really talk the way Strippers walk? With the Knicks in talks to convert LeBron James into a New Yorker, offers are pouring in across the city from businesses which support this move, but the most recent offer may have just sealed the deal.

SCORES, the legendary NYC Gentlemen’s Club has announced today that they will offer James the following if he signs with the Knicks:

* A lifetime pass to receive free lap dances;
* A dedicated “LeBron James Day” where each girl will wear his jersey when stepping onto stage, in lieu of their robe;
* A lifetime pass for complimentary dinners at Robert’s Restaurant.

Well, guess that seals it ... LeBron's a Knick.


Friday, May 7, 2010

How the Players Feel

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Ater Majok were at Jim Calhoun's press conference today. Here's how they feel about knowing their coach will be around for at least four more years.


"It's definitely a good feeling. I kind of knew all along that he was going to come back. He's been telling us that. It will also help our team in recruiting for the next couple of years."

(was there ever a doubt in your mind that Calhoun would return?)

"I just know how much of a competitor he is. He loves the state of Connecticut, he comes here at 7 a.m. even though he doesn't have to, so I definitely knew he was coming back."

(did the long time without a new contract affect recruiting negatively?)

"Yeah, I think it did. Some of the guys -- if you don't know if a coach is coming back, you don't want to put yourself in a predicament where you sign here and you're stuck here, without the coach you wanted to be here."


"I'm excited that he's coming back. Everybody else is excited, I spoke to most of the guys on the team. We've got the coach, we've got the players, it's just time to get in the gym right now, get better and get ready for next year."

The two players also spoke on a few other subjects. Both were disappointed in this past season, both from a team and an individual standpoint.

"It was definitely a disappointment for me," said Coombs-McDaniel. "Coach said I played alright, but I expected much more out of myself. Next year, I'm going to come back and be one of the best players in the Big East."

Added Majok: "It was a tough season. It was exciting, and I learned a lot from it."

When asked what type of things he learned, Majok paused for a moment, then said: "I learned a lot of things. First of all, I've got to get stronger. That's one of the most important lessons I learned, and we'll take it from there."

Majok will try out for the Australian national team in June. If he makes the team, he'll play in the world championships this August in Turkey.

Coombs-McDaniel noted that he's played with incoming freshman Shabazz Napier since he was about 10 years old.

"He's a prolific scorer, a great leader, a winner. He's going to come in and play hard, he's going to be a great player for us next year."

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Who's Next?

Jim Calhoun was asked today if he will have any voice in who his successor will be once he finally decides to call it a day -- thought to be a sticking point at one time in the negotiations.

"I've got 24 years of sweat-equity in UConn ... The world is changing. As the world continues to change, I would love to be able to bring what we consider to be UConn (people), and keep UConn going as what we know it. That's not going to be my decision.

"Would I like to have something to say? That's not my position, not my place. But certainly I would like something to say (about) who (will be) the next coach here. But I don't have the authority to do that, but I certainly would like to do that."

Hathaway indicated that he would certainly listen to Calhoun's suggestion, calling him "my primary advisor for anything about basketball", and seemed to hint that some of the former UConn assistants (Tom Moore, Steve Pikiell, etc.) would receive strong consideration.

But that's for another day, far in the future.

"I think it's important to note that this contract provides for Jim to be at the University of Connecticut the next nine years," Hathaway said. "I don't think he's going anywhere, and I'm glad for that.

"I think the last thing we should be talking about is the end of the line. In some ways, this is the beginning of a new line, a new round of years."

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Age is Just a Number

Jeff Hathaway insisted that the long duration of negotiating Jim Calhoun's new contract had nothing to do with his age (68 on Monday), his health issues or the current NCAA review of the program's alleged recruiting violations.

""None at all ... Jim is an all-in, 110-percent person. When he's not all-in, he's going to tell me, I'm not going to have to tell him. We all know of his passion. It was never part of the conversation."

Both Calhoun and Hathaway conceded that negative recruiting has almost certainly gone on by other schools, who have warned recruits about Calhoun's age, health, etc. But Calhoun doesn't believe the lack of a contract until now has poorly affected UConn's own recruiting.

"I'll be getting older -- I actually won't, but people will say I'll get much older; they couldn't say I'm getting much grumpier -- that will be used in recruiting. It's an aspect of life that we have to continue to deal with. We did have other things -- a season ... Jeff had responsibilities here as athletic director, and then on the men's basketball committee. An awful lot of things had to take place. If I thought it was so (impactful), we probably would have gotten together at some particular point to solve it. I don't think anything that might have come out of it is not going to be permanent. I'm incredibly happy with the five kids we have coming in -- much happier than you can probably realize."

Calhoun even labeled this year's recruiting class (Roscoe Smith, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Bradley) the best the school has had in at least a decade.

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Calhoun, Hathaway on APR (with Video)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Jim Calhoun's new contract is the provision that the coach would lose performance-based incentives and also donate $100,000 to the UConn Foundation General Scholarship Fund if the program fails to meet NCAA Academic Progress Report (APR) standards.

Currently, men's basketball teams must meet an APR score of 925 out of 1,000 over both the last-reported four-year rolling average and the most recently completed academic year. Failure to do so would result in loss of a scholarship (and, in Calhoun's case, loss of money).

UConn hasn't fallen short of APR standards since they were instituted six years ago, but it's a struggle -- particularly because the program has had so many players leave school early to turn pro.

Here's what Hathaway and Calhoun had to say about the provision, and about keeping up to APR standards.

"All that underscores is the fact that we're committed to academics, it's the primary mission of the university and of the athletic department. We've paid a lot of attention to APR in the six years it's been in place. It's a point of emphasis for all of us."

(is such language common in other coach's contracts?)

"There's a lot of APR provisions in contracts across the country. A lot of people do it as incentives. We don't do it as incentives. We believe all our coaches understand the importance of academics, and we believe that they're going to deliver on the academics. We've never provided incentives for academic achievement."

"I had no problem having it in my contract. I just think it's a statement. When people say I want to serve my community, I try to serve my community. Now, I'm saying I'm very ... It doesn't mean any more or less to me now. It's tangible evidence."

He noted that if a player signs a pro contract, his academic obligations are lessened under APR guidlines.

"(APR) was something that I've been a spokesperson about. The fact you were penalizing us for kids going out and making $2, 3 million per year. It's one of the few places in our society where you're penalizing kids for not finishing up the final three, four courses, when they can more than afford to come back and get their degree."

Calhoun pointed out that Scott Burrell will be graduating on Sunday, as will Jerome Dyson. Gavin Edwards is two courses away, the coach said, and Stanley Robinson is due to come back this summer and finish things up.

"We've had more kids go early, Calhoun continued. "You can understand the ramifications of that. We've never lost a scholarship because of that, but we've had to do an awful lot of work because many of these kids leave, teams have to try them out. It's been very difficult to manage.

"It's not me. It's me, Jeff, everybody that's involved here at UConn, trying to make sure this works and that (players) are making normal progress towards a degree ... and eventually these kids graduate."

Calhoun also noted that Kemba Walker will be staying on campus all summer to work on both basketball and his academics so that he can graduate in three years.

"It's a Herculean task, but if anybody can it's Kemba, because of his work ethic."

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Calhoun's Contract Details

Here's how Jim Calhoun's new contract breaks down:

7/1/09 - 6/30/10: $325,000
7/1/10 - 6/30/11: $350,000
7/1/11 - 6/30/12: $375,000
7/1/12 - 6/30/13: $400,000
7/1/13 - 6/30/14: $425,000

Then there's speaking, consulting and media fees:

7/1/09 - 6/30/10: $837,500 (Payment 1) $837,500 (Payment 2)
7/1/10 - 6/30/11: $975,000 (Payment 1) $975,000 (Payment 2)
7/1/11 - 6/30/12: $1,162,500 (Payment 1) $1,162,500 (Payment 2)
7/1/12 - 6/30/13: $1,300,000 (Payment 1) $1,300,500 (Payment 2)
7/1/13 - 6/30/14: $1,287,500 (Payment 1) $1,287,500 (Payment 2)

So, the combined totals for speaking, consulting and media fees are: $2 million for 2009-10; $2.3 million for 2010-11; $2.7 million for 2011-12; $3 million for 2012-13 and 2013-14.

That adds up to $13 million over five years.

Calhoun will also receive one month of ase salary for participation int he NCAA tournament, two months of base salary for advancement to the FFinal Four or three months of base salary for winning the NCAA championship. He is also eligible for additional compensation if named Big East and/or national coach of the year. Thes payments will only be made if the NCAA academic progress report (APR) standard for the men's basketball team has been met for both the most recently completed academic year and the last reported four-year rolling average.

Upon Calhoun's resignation or retirement, he'll receive either a one-time payment of $1 million or secure emplo yment in a full-time position in the school's division of athletics for a maximum of five years at an annual salary of $300,000.

More to come ...


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Calhoun Presser Tomorrow

UConn will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10:45 a.m. to announce a new contract for Jim Calhoun. Both Calhoun and athletic director Jeff Hathaway will be in attendance.

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