Stupid things irritate me. If you need proof, check our my reaction to Pat Forde's column about UConn's APR petition, or, better yet, just read our twitter feed during a UConn game. But stupidity doesn't get to me as much as wasted potential, which is why Dana O'Neil's column about UConn's situation has me so enflamed.
O'Neil's piece, while centered on UConn, actually tried to attack a real and important issue: the impact of NCAA rules on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCUs, which often face extreme resource constraints, are disproportionately hurt by NCAA sanctions. It's a shame, the problem needs more attention, and while the NCAA is working with the schools to address it, it's nice to see a national columnist like O'Neil tackle the issue.
The problem is that O'Neil plays a rigged game of compare-and-contrast, where the harsh realities facings HBCUs mean that UConn's situation can be nothing but black and white, yes and no. Like Forde she does not mention the retroactive nature of the NCAA's tournament ban, nor does she talk about the punishments UConn has already received and she writes off UConn's very real plan to improve as a luxury of UConn's Big East largesse, as if that somehow makes it less effective. Here's O'Neil:
Note what [NCAA President Mark] Emmert didn't say: he never suggested coming up with new penalties to alleviate the postseason ban. He never suggested the schools be allowed to circumvent their academic medicine by offering to play less games.
And if that's the case for Grambling and Southern, it ought to be the case for Connecticut.
Well, no, it shouldn't. The NCAA has an appeal and waiver process for a reason, and it's something that all of the schools should have access to. Here's O'Neil again, writing off UConn's plan:
The plan includes cutting the number of games UConn will participate in, including exhibitions -- but not that boondoggle trip to the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands -- forfeiting money earned at the 2013 Big East Tournament, and suggesting Jim Calhoun would bring current or former NBA players to inner-city schools to discuss the importance of academics.
(Just a thought -- perhaps Calhoun ought to bring those guys to his own study table. No one is saying inner-city kids aren't studying. They're saying his players don't, at least not enough).
Well, Calhoun is bringing plenty of people to his study table -- in fact, UConn's plan calls for the athletic department to pay for former players to come back and finish their degrees -- furthermore, just because UConn is focusing on it's own academic problems doesn't make promoting inner city education a bad goal, and writing it off is just a lazy cheap shot.
Well, no one cared about the innocent parties in the SWAC or the MEAC. In fact, until the APR took dead aim at a name brand like UConn, no one said much of anything.
The sad reality is, no one will care whether Grambling or Southern make the Big Dance. They'll care whether UConn does.
Listen, Dana, you know who is supposed to care about the innocent parties? YOU ARE. That's your job as a national basketball columnist. Where was this column last spring when those schools got hit with penalties? Furthermore, it's not like there was a giant swell of press attention that brought UConn to the forefront. UConn brought UConn to the forefront, because it's in their own self interest to have a dialogue with the NCAA on this. It makes no sense to criticize them for trying to address the problem.
But here's another cold reality. UConn, with its big budget and Big East money, is afforded every benefit for its "student" athletes. Tutors and academic advisors are not only available at the big-time level, they often travel with the team.
They travel, by the way, on the chartered planes the Huskies use in order to get back to class the next day.
I spent a few days walking in the HBCU's shoes, and let me tell you, they are well-worn. These schools take long bus rides, with little more than the bare bones of basketball staffs, let alone ancillary support people. Team meals often are at a mall food court, not an elaborate spread in a hotel conference room, and when these players return to campus, it's in the middle of the night after an uncomfortable ride on a bus.
Could they have come up with such a grand plan to plead their case? Sure, if they had the team of lawyers on the payroll to concoct such a plan.
Now that's a hell of a sequence there, and I mean that. UConn does get a lot of benefits, and if someone (*cough* Dana O'Neil *cough*) wanted to write a long series or magazine piece on it I bet that it'd get a lot of attention and have a real impact. But that's not the story O'Neil is telling here. Instead she's claiming that UConn should somehow get less credit for their case because they have resources. It's the bureaucratic equivalent of telling UConn they have to double Fairfield's score if they want to win because Gampel is a nicer facility than anything the Stags have.
There is no innocence lost in Storrs, Conn., here, just academic laziness.
And if the NCAA allows UConn to exchange games for bad coursework, it can stop, once and for all, preaching about academic integrity and student-athletes.
Oh come on. O'Neil had a perfectly good lazy column going here and she just had to go and turn it into complete lazy shit. "Exchange games for bad coursework," is that really what you see here? At least UConn is honest enough to actually fail their players, it could be a lot worse. And when was the last time anyone believed the NCAA on academic integrity and student-athletes, if you were still listening to their preaching it is your own damn fault.
That would be the end of the last shred of innocence in college sports.