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

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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.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.