Making sense of the NCAA’s ruling on Jim Calhoun

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Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun finally found out what the NCAA thought about recruiting violations committed under his watch.

And he doesn’t like it.

“I am very disappointed with the NCAA’s decision in this case,” Calhoun said Wednesday. “My lawyer and I are evaluating my options and will make a decision which way to proceed. In the meantime, I will not make any further statements about the case as our program prepares for what I hope will be an exciting and successful postseason.”

Here’s what happened:

The coach was suspended for the first three Big East games next season, cited for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within his program, and added scholarship reductions for three academic years, recruiting restrictions, permanent disassociation of a booster and three years’ probation.

On the plus side, the school was spared a postseason ban.

“We think the penalty is appropriate,” said Dennis Thomas, chairman of the Committee on Infractions. “The head coach should be aware, but, also in the same frame, the head coach obviously cannot be aware of everything that goes on within the program. However, the head coach bears that responsibility.”

Various college hoops writers have weighed in with responses. Gary Parrish thinks Calhoun got off easy. Dana O’Neil says the punishment hurt Calhoun’s ego more than his program. Rob Dauster says it’s good the NCAA spared the current players. And Pat Forde thinks the decision chips away a little at the “Cult of the Head Coach” which is a good thing for college hoops.

But those are all national onlookers. What about someone who’s covered Calhoun for years? Let’s ask Ken Davis for his reaction to the announcement.

Q: Fans seem relived that there’s no postseason ban, but was that ever really a possibility?

A: Connecticut’s NBC affiliate, WVIT-Ch. 30 had a reporter on campus and the UConn students interviewed were just happy that there was no postseason sanction for the Huskies, especially since they are ranked this season and almost assured of an at-large bid. Remember all of this started in March 2009 with the Yahoo! report and it really put a damper on UConn’s Final Four appearance that season. In some ways, UConn fans are just happy this is over after two years.

From the time UConn received the NCAA notice of allegations in May 2010, I didn’t think a postseason ban would be part of the penalty. You can look at past actions taken by the Committee on Infractions and figure that out. If Nate Miles had ever actually played a game at UConn, there might have been forfeiture of games or postseason issues. Those penalties didn’t fit this crime, so I don’t think anyone was surprised.

Q: Did the NCAA provide an explanation for why Calhoun only got three games and how his involvement differs from Beau Archibald’s?

A: During a telephonic press conference that lasted just shy of 37 minutes, there was no clear answer to any of that, other than the statement that the Committee on Infractions passed down penalties they thought were “adequate and fair.”

Beau Archibald, the former director of operations who resigned last May, is cited for violating the principles of conduct when he “provided false and misleading information to NCAA enforcement staff during two separate interviews.” There’s no doubt that contributed to the two-year show-cause order for Archibald.

Asked by Seth Davis to address the disparity in penalties, committee chairman Dennis Thomas said, “I guess that’s your perception in terms of disparity in the penalties. Obviously, the head coach is responsible for what goes on in his program. When you have an individual who has a show-cause for a certain reason, obviously that is a serious violation in terms of being forthcoming with the enforcement staff and institution. We do not feel there is a disparity based on the information presented.”

When I asked Mr. Thomas how the committee arrived at a three-game suspension for Jim Calhoun, he answered, “I can’t go into how you decide about five games, 10 games, three games or whatever. But the committee felt after reviewing the information that the three-game conference suspension was appropriate.” When I asked about options available, Mr. Thomas said, “As I indicated earlier, the committee has at its disposal an array of penalties. I call it a quiver. And we decided upon the penalties we imposed.”

So who knows? Maybe they shoot an arrow from the quiver and there are targets with numbers on them. Calhoun’s arrow fell on a 3.

Q: Is Calhoun happy with this result?

A: It’s safe to say Coach Calhoun isn’t happy. UConn did not hold a news conference. Statements were released from UConn president Philip E. Austin and AD Jef Hathaway. Both said they were disappointed with the sanctions but there was no mention of an appeal.

Calhoun’s statement said: “I am very disappointed with the NCAA’s decision in this case. My lawyer and I are evaluating my options and will make a decision which way to proceed.” I think it is unfortunate that UConn’s statements didn’t present a unified front. The fact that Calhoun wants to challenge his suspension makes it all about him and opens the door for this to drag on.

The best option for Calhoun in all of this would be to accept responsibility and move on. But he is extremely determined the remove the term “cheater” from his legacy. Almost as determined as he was to land Nate Miles.

And finally, Jim Calhoun knows everything that goes on within his program. All coaches do – especially those who win national championships and are inducted in the Hall of Fame.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.