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Long night for UCF

by - Published November 12, 2011 in Conference Notes

The NCAA has made major allegations about the athletic department of Central Florida. According to ESPN, Ken Caldwell, who is identified by the NCAA as “a recruiter for a professional sports agency” and his associate Brandon Bender were said to have given improper benefits to players and recruits, as well as having illegal contact with recruits.

According to the allegations, Caldwell and Bender helped to recruit six men’s basketball players and five football prospects. Central Florida’s Athletic Director Keith Tribble, as well as football coach David Kelly and men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones, were aware of this contact, according to the NCAA.

The NCAA also claims that Caldwell and Bender paid the tuition and fees for Central Florida’s men’s basketball players, provided funding for transportation of men’s basketball recruits, and provided a laptop to a football recruit.

Amid these allegations, Tribble and Kelly have both resigned. Jones is suspended for three conference games without pay.

The NCAA has recently cleared Jeff Jordan to play, but A.J. Rompza is still sitting out as his eligibility has yet to be determined. Marcus Jordan, P.J. Gaynor, and Josh Crittle are also not playing due to an unspecified violation of team rules. The have no timetable for return.

The loss of these players is a major hit to UCF’s mens basketball team. They were poised to have a breakout season. Last year, they spent some time in the top 25, going undefeated before conference play. As conference play hit, injuries contributed to their collapse.

And here we go…

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Today marks the official start of the 2011-12 season, though we’ve already had a few games in action this week as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic tourney.

The highlight of today’s action will be the North Carolina vs. Michigan State match up, which — if you somehow haven’t heard yet — will be played on an aircraft carrier in San Diego. The move is a fantastic way to honor our military services on Veterans Day and kick off the season with two of the sport’s premier programs.

In addition to the top-ranked Tar Heels and Spartans, here’s a  list of other noteworthy games.

  1. Marist at No. 2 Kentucky, one of the frontrunners for this year’s national championshipWright State at No. 3 Ohio State, which returns Jared Sullinger, possibly the best big man in the country
  2. Columbia at defending national champs No. 4 Connecticut
  3. Belmont at No. 6 Duke, which needs two wins for coach Mike Krzyzewski to match his mentor, Bob Knight, for most Division I wins in NCAA history
  4. Oregon at No. 7 Vanderbilt, one of the only match ups between power conference teams
  5. North Florida at No. 17 Alabama, a potential sleeper in the top-heavy SEC
  6. Rhode Island at George Mason, a solid match up of mid-majors in Paul Hewitt’s first game as the Colonials’ coach
  7. BYU at Utah State, the in-state battle continues to rage on, even without Jimmer-mania in effect in 2011-12
  8. Army at Air Force, on Veterans Day, the two services look to claim a little bragging rights for superiority on the hardwood
  9. Citadel at VMI, another military-centric match up worth highlighting

Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Stacey Poole were in a car accident at 2:30 a.m. last night when a driver crossed into their lane on the road and hit the car they were in, according to Sports Illustrated.com. Everyone was fine, and the driver of the vehicle that hit Poole and Jones has been charged with driving under the influence.

The bad luck continues for Jim Larranaga in Coral Gables. Miami’s new coach will be without DeQuan Jones for the entire season as the NCAA investigates allegations that Jones received $10,000 from a booster while he was a recruit, according to a report at Rivals.com. Jones figured to play a bigger role for the Hurricanes this season, especially with Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble injured.

Connecticut Flaunts Compliance Rules

by - Published May 31, 2010 in Columns

The Connecticut Huskies are conducting damage control after the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions released a notice of allegations that contains eight major violations. And the university can only thank itself for allowing this public relations volcano to erupt.

According to the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, two members of coach Jim Calhoun’s coaching staff made hundreds of impermissible phone calls and text messages to Husky recruits. Then they lied to NCAA investigators to cover their tracks.

In addition, the coaching staff improperly passed along tickets to recruits’ coaches, teachers or friends. The infractions committee also cited Connecticut for allowing Josh Nochimson, a former Husky student manager who became a professional agent, to interact with recruits on Connecticut’s behalf.

In sum, the infractions committee said Calhoun and the university failed to promote compliance and adequately monitor the program’s conduct. Those are pretty serious charges against a program that spends $55 million of taxpayers’ money on its athletics, according to the Hartford Courant.

But with Connecticut’s blatant disregard of compliance, an incident like this was bound to happen.

Connecticut is a powerhouse in men’s and women’s basketball and has recently emerged as a major player in the imminently profitable world of Division I football. The recruiting trail is filled with shady figures representing cutthroat competitors. In addition, the NCAA has legislated enough landmines to keep the Committee on Infractions permanently well staffed.

And if you’re a Connecticut executive, you might want to beef up the compliance office when your coach demonstrates a cavalier attitude toward compliance with statements like, “The [rules] manual is 508 pages. Someone could’ve made a mistake,” as reported by Yahoo’s Jason King.

Instead, as of May 2009, Connecticut had the smallest compliance office of any Big East team that plays Division I-A football, as reported by Dave Altimari and Paul Doyle for the Hartford Courant. The Huskies lumped the massive workload of overseeing the conduct of hundreds of student-athletes and dozens of coaches onto two employees. In comparison, Connecticut has already spent $338,000 on law services from Kansas City-based Bond, Schoeneck and King, according to the Hartford Courant, to defend the men’s basketball program against the recent allegations. To do so, the university had to ask the state to double the original three-year contract of $300,000, initiated in April 2009.

Someone in the athletics department — and even the university president or board of directors — should receive some of the blame for this mess. A major program of the Huskies’ magnitude needs major dedication to compliance. Yes, Calhoun has a dubious attitude toward the rules, and he should reconsider publicly antagonizing the NCAA. But the compliance office needs to have more clout and support. If Calhoun is concerned that he or his staff are not following all 508 pages of rules, he should be able to consult the experts and receive a quick reply.

In comparison, journalists have hundreds of Associated Press style guidelines that we’re supposed to follow. I don’t know anyone who has all of them memorized — why even try? But nearly every writer I know has the spiral-bound style guide within reaching distance of their computer. We might not know all the rules, but we know where to look.

Thankfully, the Associated Press doesn’t have an infractions committee to hunt down journalists who write that a game is underway — which is perfectly acceptable according to Merriam-Webster — instead of under way. But if AP style was a requirement for journalists’ performance, we’d be consulting the guide all the time. Writers who opted not to flip through the guide — or worse, knowingly wrote however they wanted regardless of AP style — would be risking professional condemnation.

At this stage, it’s difficult to determine whether Connecticut’s latest embarrassment is a product of negligence or intentional malfeasance. However, these matters likely would not be as prevalent — certainly not as public — if Connecticut’s power brokers placed more emphasis on compliance.

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