- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Connecticut’s response and limited self-imposed sanctions a week before its scheduled hearing in Indianapolis won’t be a surprise to the NCAA Committee on Infractions, a former chair of the COI said Friday.
UConn reduced its scholarships from 13 to 12 in each of the next two seasons and put itself on two-year probation. But Tom Yeager, the CAA commissioner and former COI chair, said the committee will need to make sure the school normally doesn’t just carry 11 players and that the reduction is a real penalty.
Yeager also said by reducing scholarships now there is a chance to allow the committee to see the reduction have an effect when the early-signing period begins in mid-November.
He also said that the two-year probation that UConn put on itself “won’t carry any clout with the Committee on Infractions.” The COI will likely hand down a probationary period when it issues its final report after UConn issues a response following the hearing.
“Reducing scholarships or taking a team out of postseason, those have real substance. But the committee isn’t impressed by just saying they’re on probation,’’ Yeager said. “That doesn’t carry a lot of juice.’’
Connecticut also plans on fighting the charge that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun failed to keep an atmosphere of compliance during the two-year period (2007-09 since it was reduced from four years) that is at issue. Calhoun’s response details that he warned recruit Nate Miles about any extra benefits from former manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson.
Calhoun is scheduled to meet in front of the COI next Friday with the rest of the UConn delegation, although the Huskies have been in a request to move it to either November or December since that’s the first day of official practice and a Midnight Madness event is scheduled for the Storrs campus.
Yeager said the COI has in the past moved hearings for football programs in the fall when there was a game or when it conflicted with a Board of Trustees meeting and a president couldn’t attend.
But when the hearing occurs, Calhoun should make his case with his attorney.
“This is where it’s different than the traditional legal proceedings,’’ Yeager said. “A defendant may never open his mouth in a case. But there is real give-and-take in these hearings. I’m sure the coach would want to make his case and they often do. The attorney is there to amplify the point and drive it home.’’
UConn already pushed out the two assistant coaches most involved in the case, Patrick Sellers and Beau Archibald, who was the director of basketball operations. That will also be looked at as significant, especially since they were charged with misleading investigators.
All of that will be taken into consideration for the COI as it decides on whether or not to add further sanctions to the eight major recruiting violations that originated from the 15-month investigation. Miles never played for UConn after he was dismissed from school, so there are no games to vacate. The impermissible phone calls can be handled without any major damage to the school (loss of making calls).
The major issue for Connecticut will be whether or not the COI sides with Calhoun. If it doesn’t, then he will have the stigma of failing to monitor. If it does, then the loss of scholarships for two years shouldn’t have that much of a damaging effect.
Connecticut has already dealt with the negative recruiting associated with being investigated. If all that occurs is a loss of two scholarships, then the whole ordeal will be more of a minor stain than a mark that can’t be removed.