Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The only person hurt by the NCAA's sanction against UConn? Michael Bradley

(Ed. Note: While I was finishing up this column, Dan Wolken of The Daily decided to go off on the NCAA Managing Director of Digital Communications, Ronnie Ramos. Poor timing on our part, but I strongly urge you to go back and read through Wolken's tweets. It got ugly.)

For UConn fans, it will be tough to top what has happened in the last six months.

A surprise run to the Big East title. An even more surprising run to the national title. The emergence of Jeremy Lamb as a star-in-the-making. The late-addition of Deandre Daniels. The even-later addition of Andre Drummond. I'm not sure anyone should be happy about a man losing his job, but if Jeff Hathaway getting forced out ensures Jim Calhoun's return, well, then you can throw that one on the list as well.

For the players on the back-end of the UConn roster, the situation is quite a bit different.

You see, the way the NCAA works is that an athletic scholarship is good for a year. They are given out on July 1st, and once a player has received his scholarship, it cannot be taken away until July 1st of the next year. UConn currently has 10 players on scholarship, but since they were docked three scholarships for this season -- one for the violations committed when recruiting Nate Miles and two for their low APR -- the Huskies are currently at their maximum in terms of scholarship players.

In other words, the Huskies cannot add another scholarship player unless one of their players currently on scholarship "voluntarily" decides give up theirs and become a walk-on. Since Drummond was recruited by the Huskies, he cannot count as a walk-on player. Even if he were to pay his own way at the school, he will count against UConn's scholarship total. And given their current APR score, UConn also cannot afford to do what teams in this situation usually do and run off a player, forcing him to transfer. That will drop their APR even further.

The result is that UConn now finds themselves in the difficult position of having to "ask" either Niels Giffey or Enosch Wolf to give up their scholarship and return to Germany to play professionally or "asking" redshirt freshman Michael Bradley, a Tennessee native, to give up his scholarship, apply for loans and financial aid packages, and pay his own way for at least one season. According to NCAA bylaws, Bradley wasn't technically recruited by the Huskies, meaning that he will not count against their scholarship numbers should he pay his own way to school.

As of yesterday, no decision had yet been made.

(As an aside, its fitting that UConn AD Jeff Hathaway was forced to resign earlier this month. Could it be that he stood in the way of Calhoun's efforts to get Drummond into school? Is that why it took so long for Drummond to actually make the decision to attend UConn? He had to wait until Calhoun got the OK from his bosses that they could try and pull this scheme off?)

Personally, I don't have as big of a problem with running players off as others do. I've written about it extensively on two different occasions -- here and here -- so I won't elaborate too much in this space, but essentially what has happened is that whoever gives up their scholarship will have gotten cut. It sucks, I've been there. And I certainly don't envy being the player in that situation. But this is also big-time college basketball. As it is with every level of sport beyond your hometown's CYO leagues, if you aren't good enough to make the team, you get cut.

But the Bradley situation is slightly different. He's not being run-off the team. He's not being "asked" to transfer to a different school where he'll be put back on scholarship. He's being "asked" by the staff at UConn to either accept the fact that he no longer as a scholarship or be the person standing in the way of Andre Drummond joining the Huskies.

And all this is happening days before the start of the fall semester.

That is a terrible position for UConn to put a kid and that kid's family in.

Assuming that Bradley "volunteers" to give up his scholarship, there is one of two ways that this plays out. Either he is forced to pay some or all of the $42,594 it would cost a student from Tennessee to attend UConn, or the financial aid Bradley receives is going to force another student that needs that money to attend UConn to be forced to go to elsewhere. $42,594 is not a small amount of money, especially for a kid that spent the majority of his teenage years in a group home.

Nick Fasulo of Searching For Billy Edelin asks a very good question -- how is this acceptable? How is this allowed to happen?

Frankly, its because the NCAA is utterly toothless.

If Bradley is forced to go off scholarship, most of the anger is probably going to be directed at Calhoun, his staff and the UConn administration that allowed it to happen. And it should. I'm not trying to deflect that anger. If their staff doesn't find some way for Bradley to attend the school for free (and if you click the link above, he should theoretically qualify for complete financial aid), than I fail to see how Calhoun can go into a living room and tell a family that he has their son's best interests in mind and have them believe it.

And I fail to see how anyone in the state of Connecticut can support this move.

But think about this: the entire reason that UConn is in this situation is that they were caught redhanded using a certified agent to recruit a player to their school -- a player that lasted a month before he was kicked out for violating a restraining order in 16 minutes -- and because their program has an embarrassingly low APR score. But instead of actually being punished, UConn won the 2010 national title and landed one of the best recruits in the country.

And (I'm bolding this because the emphasis shouldn't be lost on you) the result of those scholarship reductions for poor academic performance is that a player that grew up in a group home, precisely the kind of kid that an athletic scholarship should be used on, is being taken off scholarship to make room for a one-and-done lottery pick.

That's fucking pathetic. Its pathetic that UConn would pull this stunt, but its even worse that the NCAA -- whose first concern is that these "student"-athletes get an education -- can and will allow it to happen.

The only person that the NCAA's sanctions against UConn actually negatively affected was the kid that truly needed the scholarship in the first place. That literally goes against everything that the NCAA stands for in the first place.

Think about that the next time the NCAA lauds amateurism and promotes their "student"-athletes while cashing eight and nine figure checks.

What makes this even more mind-blowing is that there is a good chance that Bradley will qualify for a very large chunk, if not complete, financial aid from the University. I mean, hell, we're talking about a kid that grew up in a group home! What more does the financial aid office need to see? And if that is the case, than Calhoun can kick his feet up and laugh. He can laugh at the fact that he was able to thumb his nose at the NCAA, keep a poor kid from paying anything while playing basketball at UConn and bringing in Drummond despite having no scholarships available.

One of these days, it will be nice to see the NCAA's enforcement staff actually be able to, you know, enforce stuff.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your opinion. Scholarship reductions do not affect the sports programs in the slightest. It's usually the kids who worked their asses off for years to be promised a scholarship after years of being a walk-on

Joe said...

I agree on every count, but I think this could hurt UConn in the long run. Other schools will definitely reference what's going on when they're in competition on the recruiting trail for non-blue chippers.

"I understand UConn is on their list, but there's something you should know about how they do things..."

Joe said...

I agree on every count, but I think this could hurt UConn in the long run. Other schools will definitely reference what's going on when they're in competition on the recruiting trail for non-blue chippers.

"I understand UConn is on your list, but there's something you should know about how they do things there..."

Anonymous said...

I've heard that Bradley will get almost complete financial aid due to his situation, and this doesn't effect other Uconn incoming kids because they would have already had there financial aid figured out earlier. The point you ignore is that Bradley is in a 6 year program and would have to pay for at least a year of it on his own anyway. This just means he's paying for year 2 instead of year 6. When he graduates a $100,000 a year job awaits him. Uconn will have no problem recruiting kids because of this because non blue chip kids choose schools as much for the team as they do for things like the pharmacy school since they know why they are really there.

Kevin said...

Louisville just had 3 guys give up their scholarships to bring in talent. Are they 3x worse than UConn for allowing it?

Rob Dauster said...

Kevin: I wrote about Louisville when it happened. The three guys that were taken off were Kyle Kuric (whose father is a neurosurgeon), Chris Smith (whose brother is JR Smith), and Elisha Justice. Justice was a walkon put on scholarship because an extra one was available. Kuric and Smith were originally walkons that received scholarships with the understanding they would be taken away if things changed.

Its far from ideal, I know. But its a much different story than what happened at UConn.