March 27, 2009
UConn in hot water in face of allegationsOn the eve of their Sweet Sixteen matchup against Purdue, the University of Connecticut Huskies' men's basketball program finds themselves in the middle of a controversy.
According to a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports, the University of Connecticut violated major National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules in their recruitment of former guard Nate Miles from 2006 to 2008.
Miles, who was expelled from school last October for alleged sexual assault against a female student, received representation from professional sports agent and former UConn student manager Josh Nochimson after he was informed by a former UConn assistant coach that Miles was being recruited.
Nochimson's apparent cooperation and business relationship with UConn strictly forbid him from having any contact with recruits or providing them with anything of value, according to NCAA rules. According to multiple sources contacted by Yahoo! Sports, Miles had received paid transportation, restaurant meals, lodging and professional representation since 2006, then his junior year of high school.
This information is reason enough for the NCAA to levy significant sanctions against the Huskies. To make things worse, phone records obtained by Yahoo! Sports through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the UConn basketball staff, including head coach Jim Calhoun, traded more than 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson during the two years Miles was being recruited, raising questions as to how much UConn knew about the situation. Phone records also showed that the UConn staff exceeded the maximum number of phone calls permitted by the NCAA to recruits in their junior year. Coaches are allowed to make one phone call a month to recruits, and UConn exceeded this various times, most notably December 2006 when former assistant coach Tom Moore made 26 phone calls to Miles' guardians.
This controversy comes at a bad time for UConn, which was able to advance to the Elite Eight with a win against Purdue last night.
This story of illegal recruiting is one that is all too common in college athletics.
Former Indiana and Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson was found guilty on two different occasions of making illegal phone calls to recruits. He was suspended by the NCAA in 2008 after making 100 impermissible phone calls to recruits, occurring oddly enough while he was on probation for making 577 impermissible recruiting calls between 2000 and 2004 while he was coaching at Oklahoma.
The UConn basketball program will likely see serious sanctions imposed both by the university and the NCAA, and in a statement released on Wednesday the university promised "to follow up on all of the information in the report and react accordingly," adding that they "understand and appreciate the importance of having membership with the NCAA".
Although the allegations against UConn are indeed reprehensible offenses, it is really just another example of a team trying to do all it can to get an edge on the competition, a common tactic in programs all over the country.
Coaches are generally less than honest with each other and hide information that could help other coaches prepare their teams on a regular basis.
Recently, whispers have been heard doubting the seriousness of Ty Lawson's toe injury. North Carolina's sensational junior point guard and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year has been limited by coach Roy Williams for the last few weeks.
After missing the ACC tournament and the opening round game in the NCAA tournament, Lawson returned to action in the second round against LSU, breaking loose for 21 points and six assists in the second half.
"Probably the best single half performance I have ever seen in my 21 years of coaching," said Williams. Still, Lawson described his health situation this week as "getting better."
"I'm still not 100 percent," Lawson said. "I'm walking better, but it's more sore now than it was on game day."
Some speculate that the whole episode may have been a creation dreamt up by Williams, who has been accused of doing similar routines in the past.
We will find out for sure Friday night, as Lawson is slated to start in the Tar Heels' Sweet Sixteen showdown with Gonzaga. It's all part of the dishonest, competitive nature of big-time sports.
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