UConn isn't going to the 2013 NCAA tournament. Its APR was too low, its appeal to the NCAA Committee on Academic Progress fell flat, and that's the harsh but deserved reality: UConn isn't going to the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Naturally, Connecticut fans aren't happy about this. And why would they be? But it's one thing to have fans loudly complain about an NCAA rule that will spoil their typical March fun in 11 months' time. It's another to hear members of Congress take those whinges to the public record.
First, it was Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. John Larson, both Connecticut Democrats, who complained. Then, this week, six members of Connecticut's Congressional delegation got involved, writing a letter to the NCAA "expressing similar concerns with how the [Academic Progress Rate] rule was implemented," according to the Associated Press. From that letter:
"While we understand and support the goals of ensuring quality educational opportunities for student-athletes and the need for strong sanctions for failure to meet those goals, we have misgivings about the retroactive implementation of the penalty," the members of Congress wrote. "In particular, the NCAA appears to have imposed an overly harsh and unfair penalty by imposing APR sanctions retroactively for conduct and circumstances that had already occurred."
Reading through this, I was all but ready to take to the blog and write a scathing breakdown of why the rule is fair, why UConn could only blame itself, why coach Jim Calhoun's response ("We've made mistakes ... We're going forward to make sure this never happens again," he said) was the appropriate one, and so on and so forth. I was ready to work up a lather, I really was.
And then I read a little further down in the AP's story, where it included comment from NCAA spokesman Bob Williams. Bob, the floor is yours:
"Every other team at the University of Connecticut met the standard," Williams said. "Every other team in the entire Northeast did. So obviously the standard was well known and others met the standard. The real issue is the academic performance of the UConn men's basketball team."
Boom. Roasted. (Miss you, Steve Carrell.)
Williams nailed it: UConn has had plenty of time to get its academic house in order. It failed to do so. That is Connecticut's fault. Calhoun has admitted as much. For all the talk of arbitrary penalties and which scores the NCAA should examine, UConn's inherent academic failure is the story here.
Of course, it is not popular to chastise what is either the most popular or second most popular entity in the state of Connecticut -- UConn men's basketball or UConn women's basketball, in some order -- so Blumenthal and Larson and the rest of the Connecticut Congressional delegation decided to pick on that old hobbyhorse, the NCAA. Many times, this brand of political pander wouldn't just be blatantly self-serving; it would also be warranted. This is not one of those times.
So please, politicians from Connecticut, stop. Just stop. I know you're representing your constituents and everything, and they're mad about this, but stop. This is the part where most would write some version of the hackneyed Don't these people have better things to do?! line, which is true: These people do (or should) have better things to do.
But I don't even care about that. I'm talking about baseline annoyance here. Connecticut Congressional delegation, this is annoying. Please stop.