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Finally, the NCAA is going to hold the right people accountable

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published November 01. 2012 4:00AM

News item: A governing body, in this case the NCAA, has instituted new rules calling for more personal responsibility.

You know. That old thing.

Go figure. In a time when it's always somebody else's fault. Personal responsibility lives. It's cause for either convulsive weeps of joyful tears or one of Fred G. Sanford's mock heart attacks, where he tells Elizabeth he's coming to join her.

The NCAA earlier this week approved a proposal that will require coaches to take more responsibility for following the rules and punish violators more swiftly. It adopted a four-tiered violation structure ranging from severe to incidental, with potential punishments of million-dollar fines and extended postseason bans.

The best part: No more fall guys. It's all on the head coach. His or her program, his or her responsibility. A more cynical fellow might ask what took so long. But the past is prologue. The NCAA calls its new standard "presumed responsibility."

Makes you wonder about the state of UConn men's basketball had the NCAA enacted this legislation a little sooner. What would have become of the program had the NCAA digested UConn's academic shortcomings so soon after the Nate Miles disaster? It might have even (gulp) tarnished Jim Calhoun's legacy.

Not here in Connecticut, of course. It's hard to find somebody here anybody willing to lay blame at the erstwhile head coach's door for last week's news of the 11 percent graduate rate. That's right. Eleven percent of the players who entered the program from 2002-2005 graduated. Eleven percent.

Let's take time to digest that again: 11 percent.

An up-to-date list of excuses:

• Why dig up such old news when the current academic progress is so encouraging?

• The numbers are skewed because all of his players went to the NBA.

• The numbers are skewed because the NCAA's application of the GSR and APR is flawed.

• The numbers are skewed because Jay Bilas said so.

• The NCAA had it in for him from the beginning.

• It's a media vendetta.

• Who cares if they ever went to class? Calhoun prepared them for life.

• They'll really miss that degree when they're trying to decide which Bentley to buy.

(If I missed any excuses, you can always text, tweet, Facebook, e-mail or call. Or if you're still victimized by Connecticut Light & Power, open the window and shout).

My feeling has never wavered: If you're going to rain hosannas on Calhoun for four Final Fours, three national championships and an NBA pipeline, you need to rain hailstones on him for the aforementioned boo-boos, including the recent 11 percent graduation rate.

Seems fair, no?

Now I get how there's always a segment of dullards out there unwilling to accept new evidence and changing circumstances. But the NCAA's new legislation all but demands that coaching legacies from this moment forward are all-encompassing. It's the glory ... and the gory.

You want to recruit a lad or lass of questionable character? It is your responsibility that said lad or lass behaves to societal norms. You want to practice benign neglect of academics? You bear the consequences. Not some assistant coach. Or compliance officer. There are no more campus entities that can act as your own Kevlar.

I love it.

"We have sought all along to remove the 'risk-reward' analysis that has tempted people often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs to break the rules in the hopes that either they won't be caught or that the consequences won't be very harsh if they do get caught," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement on ncaa.org earlier this week.

It's been risk-reward for too long. Certainly, the rewards at UConn have been almost hilariously greater than the consequences. The consequences, really, are nothing more than one imperiled basketball season. And there are enough pom pom wavers out there who think it's all NCAA-sized vengeance anyway.

I'm a happier guy right now knowing that the process of investigating violations is stronger, clearer and more of a priority. It means that the cheaters are on notice.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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