Mailbag 1/29: Why Won’t Big East Relent and Let UConn In The Garden?

by Categorized: APR, Big East, Mailbag, UConn men's basketball

Q: In 1993, Syracuse was on the first year of a two-year probation for major recruiting violations, yet they were allowed to play in the Big East Tournament while being denied the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Has anyone asked Mike Aresco why there seems to be a double standard regarding UConn? This is not the first example of such selective enforcement. Furthermore, it seems counterproductive for UConn and the league, in view of the current academic standing of the team and the fact this may well be the last Big East Tournament. To play this year without the most successful team in the history of the conference may well put a stamp of finality on the league and the icing on the cake regarding all the bad decisions the league has made over the past decade that have lead it to its imminent demise.



Bluffton, S.C.


A: Hi Alex. First, a brief programming note. I get a lot of blank question forms. That may be spam. But be sure, if you want to get a question through to me, to fill out the form correctly, as Alex has obviously done.

Now, like many aspects of UConn’s postseason ban, the Big East Tournament ban is unfair to the current players, who are doing well academically, and that has been gone over many, many times. This is not the commissioner’s call, however, but the league’s school presidents. They voted last March to keep UConn out, and have not been receptive to UConn’s lobbying for a change.

I would bet, in his heart of hearts, Mike Aresco would like to see UConn participate, for all the business reasons Alex has laid out here. It will be bad for attendance, TV ratings and the prestige of the league and the tournament to have UConn out.

As to the first part: Twenty years ago, leagues were more willing to act independently of the NCAA. The Big East wanted Syracuse in and allowed it, letting the NCAA ban stand on its own. In recent years, that has not been the case. Leagues have determined it’s best to follow the NCAA line on these matters. In this case, Big East presidents are not only sensitive about the league’s relationship with the NCAA, when it has enough problems, but about the possible perception that they were softer than the NCAA on academics, if they were to allow UConn to play while it is under a postseason ban for APR/academic reasons. Again, that would be an unfair perception, but outside of Connecticut that would probably be the perception; the league would be criticized for relenting. So fair or unfair, the league presidents have taken this stand and it is not going to change. However, I would tend to agree with Alex: It’s a double standard, despite the 20-year interval. And given the revelations of the past week, this would be a good time for a conference to stand up and dare to buck the NCAA.

Also, I would wonder, with all the comings and goings, just which Big East presidents were allowed to vote and why? How about a new vote, right now – involving only the schools who are going to be in the league going forward? I bet they would want the 2013 league tournament to have as much interest and credibility as possible.

But that’s not going to happen, either. UConn, then, might as well move on and continue to think about making the most of next season.


… A reminder, our live chat will be Thursday at 10:45 a.m., as usual.


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22 thoughts on “Mailbag 1/29: Why Won’t Big East Relent and Let UConn In The Garden?

  1. Jay in the ATL

    Dom, I’ve tried sending things to you a bunch of times and everytime I get an error.

    Regarding the ban, if Aresco doesn’t have the power to make an executive decision, then fine. But if so, what does he care about how the presidents will react? They are almost all leaving after this season. The conference tournament is all about conference solidarity on the national stage.

    1. Paul Knopick

      I get error message trying to send question to any of these guys. Someone tell them it’s not us but lousy Courant technology.

  2. Hip Hop Hood

    We need to stop whing about the Big East Tournament.

    If there’s blame to be handed out, we need to put it at the feet and mouth of Jim Calhoun. He’s the one that got us banned.

  3. Tom in Coventry

    I agree completely with Hip Hop Hood, the fault lies completely with Jim Calhoun. If he had done his job and make sure his team went to class and did their work none of this would have happened.

    1. TZToronto

      Under normal circumstances, I’d agree with you. However, how do you tell a 19- or 20-year-old kid who is about to become a multi-millionaire that he has to continue to go to class for the sake of the APR and the team? You tell him, but you can’t drag him to class and force him to take his final exams. If you want to blame anyone, blame the NBA draftees who thought so little of the Huskies and the school and its students that they blew off the academics for their selfish reasons.

      1. Mark

        here’s the thing i don’t understand. UConn is a fine academic institution, but its not an IVY league school. how is it possible that its the ONLY major university to have had this problem. our kids aren’t the thugs that go to SEC and BIG 12 schools ( I know most of those schools hand out grades as they had over cash to their “student” athletes). still how is it possible that its just us???

    2. Paul

      I agree that Calhoun has as much blame as anyone but what about the NCAA? THey clear these guys academically. They let them step on the court. They take the money it brings in and then says ‘oh yeah by the way you are doing poorly academically’ based on one of the dumbest calculations I have ever seen. IF they really care if kids graduate then why not semester by semester check to see if kids are on pace to graduate, if not, dont let them play. THe NCAA is just as much to blame for this

    3. nate

      For both of you…if it wasn’t for Jim Calhoun , U-Conn basketball would be as it was when he took over…at the tail end of the conference national championships…few nationally ranked players coming to the cow town to play Basketball…

      That Calhoun should take some blame for this problem..I agree though has it ever been explained where it went all wrong ..was it the players leaving for professional careers or is a school given a wsh on that..If it is that, in any way, the early leaving for professional careers and the draft..then I would say it is out of the coaches hands..if it was players transferring but with below grades …I wonder what schools accepted these players..don’t the low grades follow them for eligibility?

      Would love to know the specifics of how and who put the school into this situation…

      1. Paul

        Nate it isnt all players leaving early. I agree the API is BS but guys like Gavin Edwards and Jonathan Madoldove hurt uconn just as much. Guys who stayed 4 years but didnt graduate. The way the API is calced the players leaving early dont hurt the program as long as they leave in good standing. It is tough for a coach after a kid decides to leave to get him to complete his second semister in good standing but other schools are doing it. Uconn isnt the only ones where kids are leaving early. Transferring kids are the same way. As long as they transfer and are in good academic standing, it doesnt hurt the program. Again out of coaches hands but I would agrue that Calhoun had a higher than average transfer rate. It seemed like every year he had 1 or 2 kids leave the program.

        I agree that Calhoun built an empire and he brought in a ton of money to the state of CT. He does deserve some blame but I think the NCAA deserves most of it. I dont know how they can look in the mirror and say he this kid is academically fine to play basketball and then 4 years later say the program isnt doing is just academically. Obiviously the NCAA wants these kids to play so they can make money but they want to look good on the back end by punishing schools for not making API. API itself is a dumb calcuation that does not predict graduation rates like it claims to do. Its a front by the NCAA to say they care about the student athlete while it sucks the money making out of them.

  4. @conn_nation

    The BIG EAST can’t allow UConn in because of the Automatic Birth the Conference gets when a team wins the BIG EAST Championship.

    The BIG EAST can’t risk UConn winning the Tournament and not getting in, perhaps knocking one of their other schools out of the NCAA Tournament in the process.

    For instance, say UConn lost to an ineligible DePaul (I’m being hypothetical here – I know DePaul WAS eligible) back in 2011. UConn was a bubble team before and after that win, but because they won and kept winning, they played their way into the Tournament with the greatest postseason accomplishment ever.

    So, if by chance UConn made the BIG EAST Tournament this year and say they beat a bubble team like Georgetown in the first round, it would stop Georgetown from making the Tournament and the BIG EAST would lose two schools instead of one.

    All in all, it still doesn’t change the fact UConn has been screwed twice by the NCAA over the same matter, when if we only offered History of Rock-n-Roll like OSU did for Greg Oden OR made up grades like UNC, we’d be in the Tournament. NCAA is so hypocritical; classes at UConn are a lot tougher than other schools, but the NCAA ignores that.

    1. TZToronto

      History of Rock ‘n’ Roll probably has a lot of reading and listening. That’s more time than a lot of busy student athletes would want to spend on their studies.

    2. UConnJack

      You are incorrect when you use the word, “can’t”. The Big East (any league for that matter) can use whatever rules they deem workable to award the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. That rule applied when the Big East allowed Syracuse to play in the BE Tournament and it applies today. All the league would have to do is notify the NCAA of the rule change whereby, say, the tournament winner or runner up, should an ineligible school win the tourney, would be the league’s representative. Having said that, I do agree with your last sentence. And lest we forget, UNC “handed out” grades like they were free samples, yet they have not been disqualified from participation in the tournament.

  5. geosfun

    I am so tired of the NCAA’s capricious treatment of UConn; but, I fully understand that the University has to bow to them or face further retribution.
    This is the job for a UConn alumn attorney who is not affiliated with the University. It’s time to fire back at the NCAA. Why not lodge a class-action suit vs the NCAA on behalf of UConn fans who are being damaged (denied the post season) unfairly?!!!

    1. TZToronto

      My objection to the whole APR issue is that the NCAA acts like all of the information they receive from their member schools arrives by freighter from Germany. OK, different schools have different reporting schedules, but whatever the latest scores are for any school have to be more recent than the scores UConn is being punished for–twice. If there were a challenge about the APR punishment, it might be made on the basis of the double punishment–first lost scholarships and then, apparently as an afterthought, the post-season ban. The ban is like an ex post facto punishment.

  6. huskyNJ

    the funny thing is UC actually tried to get us to buy tickets to the Big East tourney this year.

  7. Terry

    BE luster vanished with realignment. With the seven catholics gone and two marquees with them, what difference does it make? The sooner UCONN distances itself from the remants of what once was, the better.

  8. buddy

    A president that is given no respect by other conferences and her own, an athletic director who is monitoring the situation in the Virgin Islands, an arrogant conference commissioner, and conference of schools who are all exiting and really don’t care about anyone but themselves. Put them all together and that is the reason why UConn cannot participate in the BE tourney this year.

  9. Al

    The NCAA is the most corrupt organization in america. They are run like the mafia and use their power to settle personal vendetta’s. It’s no secret that the NCAA and Calhoun didn’t get along.

    Considering this it should not be surprising that they have different sets of rules regarding the APR. There have been other schools that have fell below the APR threshold but the NCAA either approved waiver’s as long as the school improved their score(Univ of Lousiana and UConn sent waivers and improved score but only ULM was given any leniency). NCAA also let “poorer” schools off for their below average APR scores.

    This is clearly the NCAA making a point out of UConn because they can. UConn is not the only school to have problems. Syaracuse, Ohio St, Purdue and Kansas St to name a few would have missed the APR threshold in 2011 and missed postseason play but NCAA decided to wait until 2012 to apply these new rule changes. How convenient.

    So to say its Jim Calhoun’s fault is partially right but when you really look at the whole situation its pretty clear to me that the NCAA is a mess.

    Oh and don’t get me started on the fact that UNC recently gave football players passing grades in classes that never existed but the NCAA looked the other way or the fact they were just proven to use a convicted felon to do their investigating of Miami.

  10. Hip Hop Hood

    Maybe the NCAA is punishing UCONN because we keep begging to go to another conference and embarrassing the Big East.

    There’s no doubt the league presidents voted against us because of our begging to the ACC.

  11. UconnFan

    It is time to wake up to the fact that ALL presidents and athletic directors at major universities have become whores for the almighty dollar the NCAA and TV provide and could care less about the rivilaries they are leaving behind when they change conferences or what their students want.

  12. ctmike

    Look, this was a hatred for Calhoun plain and simple. He stuck their noses in it by getting Drummond without a scholarship. You can’t tell me that Kentucky, who never has a kid stay more than 1 year, is passing APR standards. If they are then they are cheating and handing out grades. The best thing was to end the Calhoun era. He did great things but obviously we have to take our bs punsihment.

  13. Huskymaniac

    There is some serious injustice going on inside the NCAA. A book could be written about punishments the result of vendettas and non-punishments the result of cronyism. Do you hear me Dom? An energized member of the media could make a huge name for himself by investigating the history of NCAA injustices and writing a book about it. Use this post-season as a launching point by bombarding the public with knowledge and then follow up with a book.

    Everyone knows the history between Emmert and Calhoun. UConn was punished twice for the low APR score of a team from four years ago. That is anti-American. We don’t punish people twice for breaking the same rule/law. We also don’t create new laws/rules and retro-actively punish people for them. That happened here as well. They created a new punishment with new thresholds and punished UConn for not meeting them three years earlier. This is a vendetta by Emmert against UConn and Calhoun.

    And let’s talk about UNC. They satisfied the APR requirement by giving their players fake scores in fake classes. This came out in legal proceedings and the NCAA looked the other way because UNC is not UConn and Williams is not Calhoun. And we have similar academic fraud at Syracuse. Is the NCAA doing anything about that? Are we to believe that the NCAA is saying it is OK to cheat so long as the scores you report meet their requirements?

    And speaking of Syracuse, doesn’t the NCAA have a rule that players who break eligibility rules of their own university should not be allowed to play? How many Syracuse players failed how many drug tests? Syracuse, like they always do, looked the other way and the NCAA is Ok with it…because Syracuse is not UConn and Boeheim is not Calhoun.

    And let’s talk about the Nate Miles fiasco. Yeah, the coaches broke phone/texting rules. Those rules were later eliminated due to the fact that they couldn’t be enforced. OK, fine, UConn did the wrong thing at the wrong time. Life is unfair and we move on. But whatever happened to Duke on the Corey Maggette fiasco? Nothing? We all know Duke is one of the favorite children of the NCAA. And now we hear about players being given jewelry prior to the end of their career? What did the NCAA do about that? Vacate wins and force Duke to give back money for their part in the NCAA tournament? Put them on probation for lack of institutional control? No. The NCAA looked the other way, again.

    But Miami is going to get crushed for their multiple and grievous violations, right? Nope. They are, like Duke, getting off on a technicality. Could it have anything to do with the political power wielded by the Miami President and former member of Bill Clinton’s staff?

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