Jim Calhoun: 'We've made mistakes'
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Friday he has no problem with next season's only possible goal being the Big East regular-season title if the Huskies are banned from the postseason.
"There's no question that it would become a heck of a lot more important to us," Calhoun said. "There's no question that Louisville will be good and Syracuse will still be good."
But he's still holding out some hope, as is his new boss, athletic director Warde Manuel, that the NCAA will adjust its Academic Progress Rate (APR) calculations and use the most recent four-year period, instead of the time frame that started in 2007 and is keeping the Huskies below the required level to participate in the postseason.
"We're still hoping that there is an outside possibility that we can be a part of the whole shooting match," Calhoun said. "We would love to (be in the Big East tournament). But you can have a bad year and miss the (NCAA) tournament. We have had years where we've played only one game in the Big East tournament. This year, we played only one game in the NCAA tournament. The season is the season."
Katz: UConn Faces Tough Year Ahead
UConn faces a stiff test next season, but don't expect Jim Calhoun to back down from the challenge of motivating his team without the opportunity to play in the postseason, writes Andy Katz. Blog
The Big East adopted a rule for all sports last month that states if a team is ineligible for NCAA postseason competition, then it can't compete in the conference postseason, either.
Calhoun said he is meeting with Manuel and UConn president Susan Herbst next week to discuss more approaches going forward.
"We've made mistakes," Calhoun said. "If they use the current data, then we'll be fully set to go for next year."
An NCAA committee is expected to meet on the matter sometime in the early summer to review whether the most recent four-year period would be used to determine the APR. Manuel contests the penalty phase was changed in October to include the postseason ban for the offense.
"We think that they'll look at the most recent data, and if they do, it could affect 20 schools," Calhoun said. "We're going forward to make sure this never happens again. At the same time, we've had two years of hard work to rectify this and we hope they use the most recent data."
The situation has two members of Congress saying they will take a closer look at the NCAA.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Rep. John Larson, both Connecticut Democrats, said Friday the system used to enforce NCAA standards "often appears arbitrary and unfair."
Blumenthal and Larson said they plan to "shine a light on the way the NCAA enforces its rules and review all possible courses of action to compel reform."
UConn's APR for 2009-10 was 826, but for the 2010-11 year it was 978. Under the rule adopted in October, each school must have a two-year average of 930 or a four-year average of 900 on a scale that measures the academic performance of the players.
UConn's two-year score of that period from 2009 to 2011 would be 902 and a four-year score below 890, which keeps UConn out of the 2013 postseason. But if the most recent scores from the past two school years are used, including this season, then UConn contests it would be eligible.
Calhoun said he was in his office at 8 a.m. ET Friday working on all issues with the program.
"We're here, we're trying to be here for the players and advising them," Calhoun said.
Calhoun said he has been in contact with the Huskies' top-signed recruit, Omar Calhoun of Christ the King High in New York. The coach said he fully expects Omar Calhoun to remain committed to the program. Calhoun scored 26 points at the All-American Championship in New Orleans and was named MVP.
"He's a great kid and been really positive and we're close to adding another kid," Jim Calhoun said. "We've added two more scholarships. We're off the penalty (of losing two scholarships due to a poor APR). We had 10 scholarships last year and now we're back up to 12."
Calhoun said he and sophomore wing Jeremy Lamb will meet late Friday. Lamb is expected to declare for the NBA draft and likely would be a lottery pick.
Calhoun said he is going to meet with freshman center Andre Drummond on Monday. He isn't sure what Drummond will do.
Calhoun said the Huskies have given junior forward Alex Oriakhi his release. He's being recruited by a number of schools in the SEC, including national champion Kentucky, and Duke and North Carolina in the ACC.
The SEC has a rule that prohibits schools from taking players with only one year of eligibility remaining. But schools are seeking an interpretation given this special circumstance to receive a waiver to allow Oriakhi to play.
"He has indicated he's going to leave, he did all his work in school," Calhoun said. "He definitely wants to take advantage of playing right away. If it turns around, he indicated he would sit a year."
Oriakhi wouldn't need a waiver -- outside of the SEC -- to play immediately if UConn isn't eligible for the postseason. For any other player who has more than one year remaining in college, they would have to seek a waiver to play immediately without sitting a year in residence.
Calhoun said no other players have asked to transfer. That means the rest of the roster: Enosch Wolf, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander, Boatright, Napier, Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley all would return. Adding Omar Calhoun gives the Huskies nine scholarship players.
"There is a lot of optimism," said Jim Calhoun, who has two years remaining on his contract. "We have had obstacles beyond our control. For 25 years here, we've done pretty good, we're recruited here and have a good staff for next year. We're not the first program to have difficulties."
Calhoun said having former players Glenn Miller, Kevin Ollie, Kevin Freeman and Karl Hobbs on the staff has kept the Huskies even closer.
"We went from an 18-16 season to being picked 10th to winning the Big East tournament and the national title," Calhoun said of the 2011 season that was led by Kemba Walker.
UConn was 20-14 this past season, 8-10 in the Big East and lost to No. 8 seed Iowa State in Louisville in the NCAA second round.
Calhoun, who turns 70 on May 10, has won three national titles and 873 games in his career. He has survived two bouts of cancer, eight broken ribs from a bike accident and most recently, in February, had to have a piece of a disk removed from his lower back that was pressing on a nerve that forced him to miss eight games. He also had to sit the first three games of the Big East season for violations related to the recruitment of former player Nate Miles.
"We believe in what we're doing," Calhoun said. "Right now, we're making sure the kids in the program and the couple of kids we're talking to that are coming in like Omar are prepared. We're finishing the semester with three more weeks. We have a lot of work to do but we're all looking forward to the future."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.