Monday, September 12, 2011

Mark Emmert: It ain't our fault, blame Calhoun

Mark Emmert's tenure as the president of the NCAA hasn't exactly gotten off to a smooth start.

From the overload of scandals we had this summer -- Miami's partying and Ohio State's tattoos to Cam Newton's payday and North Carolina's "tutors" -- to the shifting conference alignment that could one day make his job obsolete, there is no doubt that Emmert has had plenty on is mind this year.

But as much as he should be concerned about players getting paid and students skipping out on school work, you have to figure that he would be bothered by what has happened with UConn over the past year. I'm paraphrasing here (I suggest you go and read through this), but essentially, after being disciplined for poor APR numbers and a serious recruiting violation, UConn's punishment has involved winning a national title, having their head coach force out their AD, and landing the No. 1 recruit in the country despite scholarship reductions while forcing a less-talented player (and more legitimate student) that grew up in a group home to go off scholarship and on financial aid.

That does go against everything the NCAA is supposed to stand for, right? I can't be the only one that sees that, am I?

Jeff Jacobs, a columnist for the Hartford Courant that isn't afraid to sharpen the knives when writing about Calhoun, tried to get in touch with Emmert regarding Calhoun's actions. The response he got?

"We do not know the specific details of this situation, so we encourage you to contact the institution for that information."

That was it. No call back from Emmert. No comment on the situation. Just a sentence from the NCAA director of public and media relations.

Deflect, deflect, deflect.

And I had such high hopes for Emmert, the guy that so passionately and at such length about the need for change in college athletics. But like his predecessors, Emmert simply doesn't get it.

Every coach in the country would have done what Jim Calhoun did in order to get Andre Drummond, the best big man in the country, into school for a year. Every. Single. One. And as despicable as it seems from our point of view, remember what we are dealing with. Bradley is a kid that comes from a troubled background, having grown up in a group home in Tennessee. He's going to get a significant amount of financial aid. There's a chance that Bradley ends up going to school for free -- or close to it -- even if he isn't on scholarship.

Regardless of what happens with Bradley, the bottom line is that Calhoun and UConn -- for all intents and purposes -- did not receive a punishment from the NCAA. They didn't even use a loophole. They manipulated the system to their benefit, taking advantage of the NCAA.

And Emmert doesn't see anything wrong with this?

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."

Because that's how Mark Emmert and his staff look right now.


He's trying to push the blame onto Calhoun. He's trying to deflect responsibility away from himself and his office. In his mind, college basketball coaches should be the beacon of moral responsibility. In reality, allowing them to choose between enrolling talent and keeping marginal players that need a free education on scholarship is about as smart as the detectives on Law & Order: SVU allowing a serial molester to coach their 11 year old's soccer team.


Anonymous said...

In addition to creating an entitlement for a student to retain the scholarship for four years, they ought to count it against the limit for four years regardless of what the student does. Then coaches have an interest in recruiting players who intend to graduate. Then players have an interest in preparing themselves academically for college so the coaches will recruit them... and so on.

Rob Dauster said...

That's a terrific idea.

Marcus said...

So if the improbable happens and the NCAA goes with longer-term scholarships, what happens when a player wants to transfer due to conditions out of the institution's control of the institution? I'm thinking of cases like Momo Jones, where decisions are driven by familial factors rather than basketball/collegiate ones.

Also, what happens when players leave early for the pros? In essence, how willing are you to make exceptions?

I agree that what Calhoun/the NCAA have allowed him to do is reprehensible, but I'm just trying to play a little Devil's Advocate here.

Anonymous said...

(anon 9/12 1:20, here)

I don't think you should make exceptions for players going to the pros. The whole idea is create an incentive to give the scholarship to the player who actually intends to go to college.

Or don't. Go the other way until "college" basketball is just a minor professional league with college logos on the uniforms. I know that's what ESPN wants, and they rule the universe, so... yeah.