Benedict: UConn very committed to compliance

UConn athletic director David Benedict takes questions about an NCAA investigation into the school’s men’s basketball program during a news conference on Tuesday in Storrs. (Pat Eaton-Robb/AP Photo)
UConn athletic director David Benedict takes questions about an NCAA investigation into the school’s men’s basketball program during a news conference on Tuesday in Storrs. (Pat Eaton-Robb/AP Photo)

Storrs — UConn athletic director David Benedict stressed the importance of creating a culture of compliance within his department and also addressed the state of the men's basketball program on Tuesday.

During an informal meeting with the media, Benedict covered a wide range of topics, including the recent news that the men's basketball program is under NCAA investigation for potential recruiting violations.

Benedict declined to shed any more light on the NCAA inquiry, referring back to the school's previously released statement, instead talking about the school's approach to compliance and protecting the school's image.

"The thing we need to do is wake up every day and have a commitment to compliance," Benedict said. "That means that we're doing the proper education for all of our coaches, all of our student-athletes and staff. It means that we're constantly pushing ourselves to learn how to manage those things.

"For our coaches, it can be challenging. There's so many rules; the rule book is extremely thick. But as we like to say, it's important to ask the question. If you have a question, ask the question so our compliance staff can help out.

"As it relates to the other aspect of that, we're going to fight to protect our university brand. We're going to fight to protect our men's basketball program because we believe that we've been doing all of those things and we're very committed to compliance."

Benedict also fielded questions about the men's basketball program and coach Kevin Ollie, who's been the target of constant criticism from some Husky fans.

With eight regular-season games remaining, the Huskies are in jeopardy of posting a losing record for the second straight year, something that hasn't happened since 1985-86 and 1986-87.

They carry an 11-12 overall record into Wednesday's American Athletic Conference game against South Florida at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies are in a funk, losing five of their last six. They're tied for ninth place in the league with Tulane at 4-6.

Benedict started off by praising the fan base for coming out in force for recent home games against nationally ranked teams Cincinnati, Villanova and Wichita State, which all drew near capacity crowds.

"Our fans are passionate," Benedict said. "My message to the fan base is, look, we've got to work together, we've got to stick together and we've got to all pull in the same direction. We understand the expectations that we all have for our men's basketball program at UConn and we're going to continue to do everything we can to meet those expectations."

Benedict added that he has a good relationship with Ollie and believes that the UConn coach wants to do things the right way.

As far as evaluating his coaches, that's an ongoing process that will be completed after the season ends, according to Benedict.

Ollie is in his second year of a five-year contract.

"The evaluation isn't over until the season is over," Benedict said, "so we're going to get to the end of the season. Anybody who knows the history of our men's basketball program, we've had some unbelievable finishes to our seasons. Therefore, let's not jump out and get ahead of ourselves. Let's continue to evaluate.

"When the season is over, that will be the appropriate time that we start to look at all aspects of the program."

The topic of the AAC also came up Tuesday. Benedict has had heard the cry of UConn fans longing for the Big East glory days.

UConn remains committed to the AAC.

"We've got to focus on winning and competing for conference championships in the conference that we're in," Benedict said. "This isn't to suggest that people shouldn't long for the days of the old Big East. I get that. We all understand how important rivalries are. And when you start talking about the history that we have, it's very understandable that our fan base would long for those days.

"But let's not take anything away from the unbelievable success that this conference has had in a very short period of time. ... There's a lot of great things going on in our conference. The basketball piece is also making strides. It's not to say we have the same type of rivalries that we did in the Big East. But you can't deny that things have improved on an annual basis within this conference in a very short period of time."

g.keefe@theday.com

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