Huskies don't anticipate postseason ban

February, 10, 2011

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun gave his impassioned defense on a charge that he lacked an atmosphere of compliance in front of the Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Oct. 15, the first official day of practice.

According to those in the room, committee chair Dennis Thomas, the MEAC commissioner, informed UConn that it would hear the results of the case in 5-7 weeks.

It will be four months next week, and there's still no word.

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Jim Calhoun
Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireConnecticut's case was heard on Oct. 15, but Jim Calhoun and the Huskies are still waiting for the final decision from the Committee on Infractions.

Thomas told Thursday that he could not comment on the case in any manner.

But Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications, told that "the committee's work is progressing, and we expect they will be able to announce their findings in the very near future. Although approximately 5-7 weeks was the stated target timeline for completion of cases, each case is different and has different requirements. This particular case is complex and as such has taken longer to complete."

According to those close to the situation at the school, there has been no request for additional information that would have slowed the process.

Former COI chair Tom Yeager, who is the commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association, doesn't have knowledge pertaining to the Connecticut recruiting violation case that dealt with former student Nate Miles (who never played for the Huskies because he was dismissed from school for violating a restraining order against a woman), but he can't understand why it has taken so long to render a decision.

Yeager said standard operating procedure is for the COI to render its decision on the case before it leaves the hearing site that weekend. Then a report is drafted by NCAA staffers Shep Cooper and/or Jim Ellsworth. Yeager said both of those men receive a court transcript of the hearing and they put together the wording of the decision. The reason it can take up to a month is because they need to be careful in the verbiage and each member of the committee has to read every page before it is published.

"The first draft gets out to a committee member, he or she goes over it, makes corrections and then the full committee does," Yeager said. "It's a painstaking process. Then, once it's released, the school is notified that it's ready to go."

"[The UConn] case is on the lengthy side, to be charitable. Normally when a case drags out it's because there are additional requests post-hearing."

But multiple sources say that's not the case.

Officials with knowledge of the situation said UConn was told that the findings would be released prior to Christmas. Then it was updated to just after the holidays. Every Monday, UConn called the NCAA hoping to get an answer on if it was going to be released during the week.

Still, no update.

The NCAA won't comment on pending cases or timetable for releases.

Meanwhile, Big East associate commissioner Dan Gavitt told the New York Times that the league has discussed making contingency plans for the conference tournament in case UConn received a postseason ban.

Yet, another senior Big East official told Thursday that the league, and Gavitt specifically, wasn't expecting a postseason ban for Connecticut. Why? The precedent doesn't exist.

"The university and outside council, in preparing our report to the NCAA, reviewed many similar cases and there was no precedent for postseason ban, and that's why we didn't include it in self sanctions,'' UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway said in a statement through the school Thursday.

UConn is not anticipating any disruption to this season. There is, according to multiple school officials, no fear that its season could end with the last regular-season game, March 5 against Notre Dame. No one associated with UConn believes that potential Big East and national player of the year candidate Kemba Walker, who's averaging 23.2 points per game, will miss out on the Big East or NCAA tournaments because of this case.

The Huskies, picked 10th in the Big East preseason poll, have been a top-10 team for much of the season after they won the Maui Invitational with victories over Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky. Connecticut, ranked No. 9 this week, also knocked off No. 3 Texas in overtime in Austin and heads into Thursday's game at St. John's with an 18-4 record overall, 6-4 in the league.

Yeager said a postseason ban can't be ruled out for a recruiting case even if the player never competed for the school. But he didn't understand why the Big East would need to fret over the case because even if an ineligible Connecticut was to participate, it wouldn't affect the NCAA-bid selection. The Big East gets a number of at-large bids on a yearly basis, so having an ineligible team isn't going to hurt the league. But a conference like the CAA, which can be a one-bid league, would run the risk of losing its one bid if its automatic qualifier (tournament winner) was ineligible for the postseason.

"If I had a school at risk, then I'm not bringing them to my championship because I can't run that risk, but that's not the same issue in the Big East,'' Yeager said. "It's not their only team.''

The COI met in December and will meet again this weekend to hear other cases. Yeager said it would be in the best interest to close out the Connecticut case to avoid a backlog of cases.

NCAA president Mark Emmert spoke about transparency and expediency during a chat with reporters in December. But if the COI waits to unload a report on Connecticut in the days or weeks prior to the start of the postseason, then it would open itself up to questionable timing considering this case was heard Oct. 15.

Even if the Huskies get news of any possible additional sanctions more than the scholarship reduction they already put on themselves (one per year for two years) or jettisoning two assistant coaches that allegedly misled investigators, there is no fear of a postseason ban. Calhoun, who has three more seasons left on a four-year contract extension (it was five but the first year was last season), is a candidate for Big East and national coach of the year.

This case has had no effect on the season. And based on the timing of the hearing, it shouldn't have an effect on the postseason. The case should have been closed by New Year's Day. Instead, it remains open, but the Huskies aren't concerned about the outcome having any short-term effects on the program.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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