Connecticut admits men’s basketball violations; school imposes loss of scholarship, probation

By Pat Eaton-robb, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Connecticut admits violations in men’s basketball

HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Connecticut has admitted its men’s basketball program committed major NCAA recruiting violations and has imposed its own sanctions, including two years’ probation and a loss of one scholarship for the next two seasons.

But the university says the evidence does not support the NCAA allegation that coach Jim Calhoun — who has won two national titles with the Huskies — failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance.

In a report released Friday, the school acknowledges its basketball staff made impermissible telephone calls and text messages as cited by the NCAA in a May report that followed a 15-month investigation. It also admits it improperly provided free game tickets to high school coaches and others.

A hearing is set for Oct. 15 before the NCAA infractions committee, which could accept UConn’s decision or impose additional penalties.

“I am deeply disappointed the university is in this position,” University of Connecticut President Philip E. Austin said in a statement. “It is clear mistakes have been made. This is a serious matter, and we have worked in full cooperation with the NCAA. We look forward to fully resolving these issues and restoring our men’s basketball program to a level of unquestioned integrity.”

The allegations stem from the recruitment of former player Nate Miles, who was expelled from UConn in October 2008 without ever playing a game for the Huskies. He was charged with violating a restraining order in a case involving a woman who claimed he assaulted her.

The NCAA and the school have been investigating the program since shortly after a report by Yahoo! Sports in March 2009 that former team manager Josh Nochimson helped guide Miles to Connecticut, giving him lodging, transportation, meals and representation.

As a former team manager, Nochimson is considered a representative of UConn’s athletic interests by the NCAA and prohibited from having contact with Miles or giving him anything of value.

The school said it found that the basketball staff exchanged more than 1,400 calls and 1,100 text messages with Nochimson between June 2005 and December 2008.

The school’s responses to the allegations, totaling more than 700 pages, were given to the NCAA on Sept. 7, but made public Friday after the school redacted items to comply with federal education privacy laws.

Calhoun said in his own response that he investigated whether there was an improper relationship between Nochimson and the recruit, and warned the player against getting involved with Nochimson.

“If a prospect and an agent are going to engage in conduct violative of NCAA legislation hundreds and thousands of miles away from campus, there is only so much a head coach can do to prevent the conduct,” his attorney wrote.

The school sided with Calhoun saying it does not agree that he “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance,” because he took steps to deter the recruit’s relationship with Nochimson and did not know that Nochimson provided any benefits.

“The university believes that (Calhoun) has made it a priority to work hard and within the rules and that he has encouraged compliance with student-athletes, fellow coaches, university personnel and members of the community,” the school wrote in its response.

The school said improper calls were made to fewer than 10 recruits and found that Calhoun made only two improper calls.

Neither Nochimson nor Miles cooperated in the NCAA and school investigations.

Calhoun’s response also said he was not involved with the vast majority of the improper benefits, did not know they were being provided and “made reasonable efforts” to try to avoid the situation.

“Calhoun understands his obligation to monitor his staff and to report his knowledge of potential violations,” wrote his attorney, Scott Tompsett.

The coach also questioned why he was singled out by investigators, when neither athletic director Jeff Hathaway nor the UConn compliance staff is “even referenced in the (allegations), much less charged with a major violation and put at risk for an individual penalty.”

In 1996, UConn was stripped of its NCAA tournament run to the regional semifinals and ordered to return $90,970 in tournament revenue because two players accepted plane tickets from a sports agent.

But this is the first time the program has received a letter from the NCAA accusing the school of major violations. The case has no impact on the other athletic programs at UConn, such as its national champion women’s basketball team.

In the May report, UConn was cited as an institution for not adequately monitoring “the conduct and administration of the men’s basketball staff.” The school acknowledged that violation, but said the NCAA has agreed to reduce the time period for that violation from four years to two, spanning 2007-09.

Among the allegations against UConn is that staff members Beau Archibald and Patrick Sellers provided false and misleading information to NCAA investigators. Sellers, an assistant coach, and Archibald, who served as director of basketball operations, have resigned. They also filed their own responses to the NCAA.

Archibald denies wrongdoing in his response, and said his contacts with recruits were permissible under NCAA rules. His lawyers wrote that the charges are based on “unfair supposition, untrue characterizations and the flimsiest of information.”

Sellers acknowledges making some improper calls, but said they were inadvertent, and is requesting that they be considered secondary violations.

The documents include some new information, including that five current players received impermissible phone calls. The report says those players, whose names were redacted, were declared ineligible when the calls were discovered, then reinstated by the NCAA last November.

Guards Jerome Dyson, who has since graduated, Donnell Beverly and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel all missed UConn’s opening preseason game last year because of what the university said were problems with their eligibility paperwork.

Under the self-imposed sanctions, the scholarships for the men’s basketball program have been reduced from 13 to 12 for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years. The school also has agreed to reduce the number of coaches to make calls to recruits and the number of “recruiting person days.”

UConn was just 18-16 last season and lost in the second round of the NIT.

Associated Press Writer Stephanie Reitz contributed to this report.

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