NCAA's bungled decision leaves more questions than answers

The National Confusing Athletic Association (NCAA) struck again Tuesday, turning transgressions within the UConn men's basketball program into a cacophony of contradictions, applying penalties with all the proficiency of a drunk falling down a flight of stairs.

Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and chair of the NCAA's committee on infractions, said several times during a rambling teleconference that UConn coach Jim Calhoun bears the responsibility for all aspects of his program. And yet the NCAA's punishment was more severe for Beau Archibald, the erstwhile director of basketball operations who is no longer affiliated with the school.

Archibald was issued a two-year "show cause" penalty, an order saying that a coach involved in major rules violations at a university's athletic program may not be hired by any other NCAA school without permission from the Infractions Committee. Calhoun, meanwhile, gets some recruiting restrictions and a suspension for three Big East games next season.

So Archibald gets a two-year death sentence for carrying out orders and his former boss comes back after three games?

And nothing else becomes of UConn's dysfunctional athletic department, which bears significant responsibility here?

Perfectly good questions, I know. But then this is the same organization that decided Cam Newton just had no idea what his father was doing.

The same organization that has decided impermissible phone calls and texts are worse than "give me 200 grand and my kid will play for you."

I'm not trying to diminish what happened at UConn. There's no denying - UConn's absurd stance that tried to absolve Calhoun of wrongdoing in October notwithstanding - that Calhoun didn't know the exact role Josh Nochimson played in the recruitment of Nate Miles. Calhoun knew Nochimson was exactly what the NCAA deemed him: "a booster and certified agent." What followed were impermissible phone calls, text messages and "$6,000 in impermissible recruiting inducements" Nochimson paid for.

It calls for punishment.

But the application is warped. Archibald more than his boss? Calhoun more than his boss? They want to talk about Calhoun's "failure to monitor an atmosphere of compliance?"

That's the definition of the athletic department.

While all the calling and texting was transpiring, UConn's compliance department consisted of two people. Still does. Two people for an entire athletic program. Just so you know: Ohio State has eight: six full time and two interns. Tennessee has five. UConn has two. Why does UConn have two? Beats me. Another question nobody can seem to get Jeff Hathaway to answer, right behind why he never hired anyone to replace Paul Pendergast, the former fundraiser who left in 2006 after bringing in millions and millions of dollars to the athletic department.

Not enough compliance, not enough fundraising, not enough answers and yet Hathaway somehow walks between the raindrops.

A more cynical fellow might wonder whether the NCAA is protecting Hathaway, who will be the chairman of the Division I basketball committee next season, the guy Jim Nantz interviews on Selection Sunday.

A more cynical fellow might conclude that the NCAA is really great at enforcing its rules until one of its own - or its revenues - get in the way.

This gets better. A writer on the teleconference asked Thomas why Calhoun wasn't the most severely punished individual, since Calhoun, in Thomas' words, "is responsible for things going on in his own program."

This was his answer: "We think the penalty is appropriate. Obviously, the head coach should be aware. In the same frame, the head coach cannot be aware of everything that goes on within the program. However, the head coach bears that responsibility."

So the coach should be aware, but can't be aware, but has the responsibility to be aware.

Can you make this stuff up?

When this began in March of 2009, I thought Calhoun deserved severe punishment for using Nochimson to recruit Miles and willfully thumbing his nose at the rules. In two years since, we've seen so many bigger rules get broken, all the while the NCAA has practiced benign neglect.

Maybe it would have been better if Calhoun coached a football team going to a BCS game.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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