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.