NCAA Rules: Bemoaning Calhoun, The NCAA, Or The Facts Of Life?

Rob Dauster of Ballin' Is A Habit is a daily read for me, and today he comes out swinging at several people in general and nobody in particular, and I completely sympathize with him.  I have called for UConn coach Jim Calhoun to resign, not because he was breaking any rules other than the ones he's been gigged for by the NCAA, but I thought (and still think) he pulled a power play and forced out the UConn AD with whom he had a testy relationship by convincing the new UConn president, Susan Herbst, that would be a good thing to do.  My argument is that coaches should not have the power, or so much influence that it equates to power, to fire their boss.

Rob's indictment isn't so much aimed at Jim Calhoun, although you can tell he really, really wants to go there.  Instead, he takes a whack at Mark Emmert, everyone's favorite punching bag:

Frankly, the issue here isn't that Calhoun fudged the scholarship numbers, the issue is that he was allowed to do it by the NCAA. The problem is that what happened here isn't against NCAA rules. How do you fix it? Make scholarships be four or five-year contracts, not renewable every year. Or make a requirement that once a player receives a scholarship for a season, he'll always be a scholarship player. Or simply give the NCAA's president the power to veto a move, to say "Nice try, but we ain't dumb."

As much as I sympathize with this position, we generally don't go back and rewrite the rules to fit particular situations here in America, and we frown on selective enforcement.  Calhoun took advantage of the rules as they are written, and quite frankly, as bad as this scenario looks -- and the optics are really, really bad, which is why Rob is in high dudgeon -- there was simply nothing done here which hasn't been done before, just not in this particular situation.  Calhoun stepped up to four aces and drew a straight flush.  It happens.  Just because his hands are grimy doesn't mean you don't have to pay the bet.

Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant has it exactly right:

My argument on this issue is not with UConn. It's with the NCAA. UConn did not beat the system. UConn played within the system. UConn did not find a loophole. UConn drove through a gaping hole that's there for everyone. The proposal to change the current scholarship rule from one-year renewable to a full four years, something that might have prevented this move, has been on the table for some time. In fact, it was discussed at the NCAA presidents' retreat.

What is galling everybody is that Calhoun broke the rules and the "punishment" didn't cost him a thing.  No money, no prestige (he's not coming out of that hall of fame), not the NCAA Tournament championship, and he even spotted the NCAA three scholarships and got one of the best players in America without one.

Dauster and Jacobs are not happy because Calhoun got away with it: got his AD fired, pressured an underprivileged kid into giving up his scholarship so he could land the Big Kahuna, and thumbed his nose at the NCAA's punishment.

Why Mark Emmert should be blamed for the fact that the NCAA has been talking about changing the scholarship rules for 20 years and hasn't done so one year into his administration is beyond me -- his turn in the barrel, I guess.  But we can't "get" Calhoun back for making the NCAA look stupid, and we can't blame Emmert for not being able to change how the NCAA scholarship rule reads in one year when several previous presidents couldn't, either.

Houston, do we have a problem?  Assuredly.  Let's put the blame where it belongs -- on the member institutions who pass the rules.  After all, this one-year scholarship thing was their idea to begin with.  Okay, blame Emmert for being a good dodgeball player, but what is the guy supposed to say?  He can't do a thing, and his hands are tied -- at least the scholarship rule is on the table, which it hasn't been since time immemorial. 

Would Emmert excoriating Calhoun make everyone feel better? It sure won't change UConn's team, or Calhoun's  paycheck.  When you can fire your boss, you can be pretty sanguine about your job security.

Maybe this will be the impetus for meaningful change.  Then we can all thank Calhoun for being the straw that broke the camel's back.

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