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NCAA Basketball: UConn's Request Should Be Denied

Seriously, UConn? (via <a href="">Alex E. Proimos</a>)
Seriously, UConn? (via Alex E. Proimos)

ESPN's Dana O'Neil has an excellent article on the College Basketball Nation blog about the Connecticut Huskies trying to get out of their NCAA mandated punishment for low APR scores. Here are the details:

UConn has presented the NCAA with a plan that it thinks should mitigate its academic failings and allow the Huskies to overturn their 2013 NCAA tournament ban.

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.

There is more to it as well, but this is the main substance. UConn proposes these self-inflicted penalties replace the NCAA mandated ineligibility for the NCAA tournament in 2013. UConn's president, Susan Herbst, explained the justification for their request thus:

"On a personal level, and as an educator, I would be very sorry to see such harsh punishment of the outstanding young men on our current basketball team. I believe that it would be wrong to punish these students, caught in the fallout from a sudden passage of new rules -- rules that did not exist when they enrolled at UConn. That would be a fundamental injustice to our team and to our university.

More after the jump.

As you might expect, my reaction to this will not be as kind as O'Neil's, but let's first look at hers:

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.

This is meant to compare UConn to three historically black colleges, Southern, Grambling, and Jackson St., who also suffered the APR penalties. As O'Neil points out, nobody cares about their basketball programs because they aren't major players. The implication is as clear as the nose on my face (and trust me, that's pretty darn clear) from Herbst -- "We're one of the big boys, you can't do this to us!"

The hubris of UConn's request is shocking to the system. One might expect genuine contrition from the school, and acceptance of the penalty as members of the NCAA family. One might expect that they would send Calhoun to do what it offers in return for special consideration as part and parcel of that contrition, and desire to correct the deficiencies that Calhoun is in no small part responsible for creating.

But instead, Herbst and UConn not only want the NCAA to treat them as a special case, they have the audacity to use their current student athletes as pawns to try to guilt the NCAA into a complete abdication of its responsibilities. Not only that, Calhoun is ill with back problems (we all wish him a quick and complete recovery), and they will no doubt argue that his responsibilities, while still part of their proposal, needn't actually be performed due to this health.

If there has ever been a more unethical position taken by a Division I university, I don't want to know about it. In response to Herbst's absurd justification, if Ohio State, Southern California and others can be forced to surrender their post-seasons for current players because of the actions of past players and coaches, what the heck makes UConn any different? This argument is so transparently absurd it beggars belief. Since the very first NCAA sanction involving post-season play, the innocent have suffered the consequences of the guilty. UConn's players can always transfer -- I'm sure the NCAA would let them.

In sum, this is one of the more mock-worthy things I have ever seen. Herbst is a walking, talking offense to reason, and she dares call herself an "educator?" In this case, she is educating us on how not to behave, and how not to lead.