Making sense of the NCAA’s ruling on Jim Calhoun


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.