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

3 Comments

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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.