Yesterday the AP reported that UConn has proposed self-imposed penalties to the NCAA as part of a petition to become eligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament. This has brought on the expected wailing and gnashing of teeth, with Pat Forde and Dana O'Neil stepping to the front of the line to express their shock, outrage and consternation.
Let's get two things clear up top: first, the academic record of UConn basketball is shameful. The school can, has and hopefully will do better. Second, despite the fact that Forde and O'neil downplay UConn's request as a do-anything appeal to get back into the tournament, it has several real and substantial policy changes that either have been enacted already or will be enacted. UConn has faltered, but they're getting back on track.
Ultimately though, those are things for the NCAA to consider and beside the point for this discussion, because right now, as everything stands, UConn won't be in the 2013 tournament. To both Forde and O'Neil this merits a simple response to UConn's plea: the NCAA should say no. UConn fell below the guidelines and that's that. End of story.
The problem, of course, is that that's not the whole story. Neither Forde nor O'Neil acknowledge this, but UConn wasn't in danger of missing the NCAA tournament until late October, when the NCAA decided to put new qualification rules in effect for the 2013 tournament. Yes, schools new that new rules were coming down the pipe at some point, but they did not know that in 2008-09 and 2009-10 the academic years which are currently dragging UConn's scores down to unacceptable levels.
The NCAA has raised the bar for entry into the tournament, but they're doing so using numbers from before the bar was raised. What's more, UConn is currently being punished under the old standard with scholarship losses. So if the Huskies aren't granted a waiver, the effect will both be that they're being double-punished and punished under an ex post facto rule.
But again, Forde and O'Neil don't mention this. Instead they both opted to use their considerable platforms to take irrational shots at UConn.
Let's start with Forde:
If there ever were a time I'd love to hear Jim Calhoun speak publicly, it's today.
That won't happen, of course. The coach is dealing with a spinal issue that has forced him to miss Connecticut's past two games, so he's off-radar and presumably recuperating and/or being treated. Hopefully, he gets well soon because we need to hear from him.
Seriously, what's that asshole's problem. Back pain? Inability to walk or coach? Fuck that, I want him to answer Pat Forde's questions and I want him to answer them now.
I would love to hear the eternally unapologetic Calhoun feign penitence for the academic underachievement of his program - underachievement profound enough that it has the Huskies falling short of NCAA Academic Progress Rate minimums in order to be eligible for March Madness.
Again, all underachievement happened before the bar was raised to 930. In case you were wondering, UConn is on track to have a 2011-12 Overall APR of 975 and a eligibility APR score of 1000 (i.e. perfect).
I would be fascinated to hear Calhoun, without reading a script through gritted teeth, toe the company line of concessions in exchange for the chance to play for the '13 national title. Those concessions include reducing the number of regular-season games from 27 to 23; forfeiting a Big East postseason revenue share; no head-coach recruiting off-campus in the fall of 2012; extra time in study hall; and a Calhoun-led tour of inner-city schools to stress the importance of education.
Yeah, let's here it from him, especially after his program has openly acknowledge problems and taken very real steps to fix it, steps that you just outlined.
Listening to Calhoun pleading for UConn's postseason life would be like Bob Knight's Indiana news conference in 2000, when he half-heartedly tried to apologize for choking Neil Reed. The alternative was a firing, so he tried his best, but let's just say he didn't score too high on the contrition meter. It was just enough to earn another chance, but sure enough, Knight grabbed a student a few months later and summarily was fired.
That's right, Jonathan Mandledove's shitty grades are roughly equivalent to Bobby Knight hitting a kid. I also don't remember the comprehensive Bobby-Knight-Won't-Assault-People-Going-Forward plan that Indiana laid out that is equivalent to what UConn has done.
But even if Calhoun himself never begs out loud, there is an easy answer from the NCAA to this request for an APR waiver from UConn.
The rules are the rules. Abide by them. Take the penalty.
The rules are the rules, even if they were changed ex post facto. Pat Forde filed one column about basketball today, so here's hoping that tomorrow Yahoo! doesn't institute a rule requiring him to file two a day, because in Pat Forde's world that would mean he could be fired. Sorry Pat, the rules are the rules.
Herbst harped on the fact that the APR penalizes current players for the misdeeds of past players. Well, welcome to NCAA justice. It's not ideal, but it's the way of the college athletics world. USC, for one, doesn't want to hear your whining.
Ah yeah, that situation is totally analogous. I remember that controversial "boosters can't buy houses for players" rule they instituted on the eve of the 2004 Orange Bowl. Came out of fucking nowhere.
It's not the fault of the governing body, which enacts and enforces rules passed by its membership. It's the fault of an institution of higher education for failing to educate its most high-profile students. Own it.
See, it's the enacting that's at issue here, why don't you understand that? And UConn has owned it. No one is denying responsibility. The school has taken blame and made efforts to fix the situation. It's the rules that are messed up, not UConn.
I wonder whether Herbst was pained when other schools were falling short of the APR number. Did she grieve for the athletes at Southwestern Athletic Conference schools Jackson State and Southern when they were banned from competing for the 2011 SWAC football championship?
Perhaps she was, but I missed the comments. More likely, the APR is an injustice only when its UConn's ox being gored.
Yeah, why is the president of UConn only talking about UConn and not screaming about the SWAC. STOP FAILING AT YOUR JOB HERBST.
Making a mockery of education while in pursuit of athletic glory should have consequences. And now it does, in the form of the APR and its penalties for underachievers.
In Pat Forde's world the APR was invented in October. It didn't exist before, its penalties haven't been levied against UConn and cost the team scholarships and Jim Calhoun hasn't lost thousands and thousands of dollars because of an APR-related contract provision that was hailed by, who else, Yahoo! sports.
There should be no bargaining to avoid those penalties, no switching the rules when the results aren't in your favor. Most of us learn that as children; hopefully UConn will learn it now.
Does anyone here know the Heimlich? Because I'm choking on the irony here. Remember everyone, no switching the rules, unless you're the NCAA, in which case, fuck everything.
This got longer than I planned, so it's going into two posts. O'Neil's column is up next.