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Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The curious case of Jeff Hathaway

By Eamonn Brennan

It's a question to perplex the greatest minds of our generation. And no, I'm not talking about "What should I have for lunch today?" That's good one, to be sure, and I always struggle with it. But this is something different.

The question is: Why did the NCAA appoint Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway to chair the Division I men's basketball committee beginning in 2012? Or, at least, why did it appoint him now?

Make no mistake, Hathaway is qualified. He was former UConn athletic director Lew Perkins' top lieutenant for years before taking his own head AD position at Colorado State. In 2003, he returned to the Huskies to command an athletics department with 200 employees and a $55 million annual budget, according to the Sports Business Journal. Those are the sorts of credentials you're (presumably) looking for when you're trying to find someone to chair your men's basketball committee.

The only problem with this is that Hathaway has another responsibility at present: Preparing a response to allegations of eight major rules infractions in the Huskies men's hoops program, due next month. Hathaway and company will appear before the NCAA committee on infractions on Oct. 15 and 16. That means Hathaway could be the chair-elect (or whatever) of the men's basketball committee while he is appearing before -- and potentially receiving punishment from -- the committee on infractions. Awk. Ward.

Except it's more than just that. Besides being a strange and no doubt surreal moment for Hathaway, such a circumstance would also make the NCAA look downright silly. It's possible Hathaway had nothing to do with the alleged recruiting violations that took place on his and Jim Calhoun's watch at UConn; Calhoun got an extension amidst the turmoil of the announcement, and if the coach himself isn't likely to be punished, the athletic director has probably kept a safe distance, too.

There's also the potential, cited by many, that Hathaway leaves UConn to take the open Maryland athletic director's position. Hathaway graduated from Maryland and has long been mentioned in connection with the job. If he did leave Connecticut after his appointment to the men's basketball committee, the Big East would appoint its own new representative and the committee would select a chair from the new pool of candidates. This whole conversation would be moot.

Still, the point remains. According to the NCAA, Connecticut incurred eight major violations under Jeff Hathaway. And now it wants that same man to chair its men's basketball committee.

Maybe there's nothing wrong with that. I don't know. But it does seem awfully weird.