Stick to the real issues, please ...

News item: Two Connecticut Democrats, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. John Larson, are multitasking: They are threatening the NCAA, all while waving the banner for the aggrieved UConn men's basketball program, whose academic shortcomings have rendered it ineligible for the 2013 postseason.

Blumenthal and Larson issued a joint statement late last week saying the system used to enforce NCAA standards "often appears arbitrary and unfair."

The statement read, in part, "We believe these issues demand Congressional attention because the questions regarding fairness for student-athletes have gone on too long and the reforms that have been made are not yet sufficient. Over the coming days we will be working together and with our colleagues to shine a light on the way the NCAA enforces its rules and review all possible courses of action to compel reform with the goal of ensuring the welfare of student-athletes."

Reaction to the news item: Now THAT would be a meeting for the ages. Congress on one side and the NCAA on the other. The poor bagels and cups of coffee on the table between them could break into a rousing rendition of "Stuck In The Middle."

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Such news items often prompt us cattle, otherwise known as the regular, thinking people, to wonder why the politicos can't tackle more pressing issues. You know: economy, education, health care, budget deficits, better roadways, border protection, gas prices. Those old things.

But then, they're not as juicy, apparently, as carrying the torch for the aggrieved men's basketball program at State U.

Maybe, though, this is an opportunity for two esteemed politicians to answer a question to which I just can't get a response:

How come adhering to the standards of the Academic Progress Rate wasn't an issue for any other athletic program at UConn except men's basketball?

No, really. I'd like an answer to that. It continues to get swept away in the volcanic bluster of the "unfairness" of it all. Oh, the humanity.

I mean, had Sen. Blumenthal or Sen. Larson attended the UConn women's game in February against Georgetown, they'd have seen hundreds and hundreds of student-athletes introduced to the crowd at Gampel Pavilion. The student-athletes were honored for various academic achievements.

They might have left impressed.

And they might have left with a better understanding of this: When student-athletes honor their academic commitments, their levels of achievement are a source of pride for the university. When they do not, the university bears the responsibility for the consequences.


So I respectfully suggest that Blumenthal and Larson look around campus at the preponderance of athletes who have achieved, rather than make excuses for those who didn't.

This is not about the NCAA's application of its rules nearly as much as it is about a program that thumbed its nose at them.

Because again, I ask: How come adhering to the standards of the Academic Progress Rate isn't an issue for any other athletic program at UConn except men's basketball?

My guess is that the root of this newfound interest in NCAA policy is not social conscience. It's about how a potentially meaningless season gives The Important People fewer chances to be seen in the front row at the XL Center.

It means fewer butts in the seats and fewer patrons in downtown Hartford. It's bad for business.

So now instead of laying blame at the head coach who allowed this to happen, they grandstand and blame the NCAA.

No one's denying that the NCAA needs to implement a policy that demands use of more current data. But does that merit congressional interference?

Perhaps other members Congress have a more balanced perspective and can alert the Connecticut delegation of its misguided anger. Or perhaps voters out there will remember this at election time.

The dizzying levels of success within the men's program naturally engender a fair list of terminal apologists and gullible saps. But must that include two politicians who can't make better use of their time?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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