At UConn, Calhoun clearly comes first

During a historic afternoon Friday at the University of Connecticut, the men's basketball coach implicated his own compliance department and athletic director, apparently with the university's blessing, in response to the NCAA's 15-month investigation. Meanwhile, the university found it permissible to release the information on the day of a nationally televised football game, placing the football coach in the line of friendly fire.

The football coach, Randy Edsall, discovered the information thanks to a phone call from his wife, who learned of it through a news account.

That means nobody had the decency, or communication skills, to alert Edsall that his team's Big East opener wouldn't be the biggest sports news of the day at his own school.

And so it is with considerable venom that I suggest it's time to back up the truck at State U and start over.

Blow it up.


Clearly, there is no leadership. There is no attempt to communicate. There is no respect for anybody's plight outside of the men's basketball coach, for whom countless, countless, countless excuses are made because he wins.

That makes the University of Connecticut an institution more interested in pandering to a basketball coach than supporting its staff. You know. The staffers who adhere to NCAA rules.

The treatment of Edsall on Friday was reprehensible. I understand why the university authorized the release of its response to NCAA allegations on the day of a football game. It minimizes the explosion. Damage control. Many of the writers who cover UConn sports were en route to Rutgers for a night of deadline writing, thus making it more difficult to organize decent coverage.

It's nothing new. UConn chose to release its initial response to the NCAA review on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It's about as subtle as a chain saw.

Except that on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the football coach - the guy whose kids go to class and who didn't inspire a 700-page NCAA review - didn't have a game. The university made Randy Edsall and his program collateral damage in an effort to protect its men's basketball coach.

If you find this acceptable, you are a weak-minded fool who is more interested in protecting the university's image than identifying right and wrong. Sadly, many of you exist. But I'd like to think that beyond the riders of the gravy train and the handful of fans wrapped in the school flag, the preponderance of observers in Connecticut see this episode as a cosmic embarrassment.

And leave it to UConn to make the process of the response a bigger joke than the response itself. Two years' probation, the loss of one scholarship for the next two seasons and it was all somebody else's fault. No word whether anyone has to go to bed without dinner.

Straight up: It would require off-the-charts naïveté to think that UConn coaches didn't know Josh Nochimson's exact role in the recruitment of Nate Miles, which sits at the heart of the entire mess. And if Jim Calhoun wants the credit for two national championships, he gets the blame for failure to promote an atmosphere for anything but preserving his legacy.

Is anyone out there obtuse enough to believe the coaches were unaware of Nochimson's status? A former team manager is associated with a coveted recruit and it's just a giant coincidence?

The UConn coaches knew exactly what they were doing. They knew it was wrong and they did it anyway. It is entirely Jim Calhoun's responsibility.

Andy Katz reported on Saturday that former NCAA Committee On Infractions chair Tom Yeager said the two-year probation that UConn put on itself "won't carry any clout with the Committee on Infractions." Essentially, the committee will have a chance to further punish UConn if it sees fit.

My guess is that the next peep we hear from State U on this will be either Friday, Oct. 29 (the day of the West Virginia football game) or Thursday, Nov. 11 (the day of the Pittsburgh game).

UConn fans seem to enjoy sitting in judgment of athletic programs at other universities. Note to all of you: Yours is a laughingstock at the moment. And the only ones who don't see it are the ones who don't realize that protecting the image of one man is ruining everything else.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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