3 Points on UConn’s Alleged NCAA Violations

huskyIn today’s Hartford Courant, Paul Doyle examines the biggest story in Connecticut sports – the allegations that UConn violated NCAA rules during the recruitment of Nate Miles.  As you’ll see, I am quoted in the story (the Courant’s print version identifies me as “Daniel Fitzpatrick”, instead of Daniel Fitzgerald…which is slightly better than the first time I played football with the varsity in high school and the local paper referred to me as “Sullivan”). 

The short quote was part of a much more substantial interview.  Here is the interview in its entirety:

Paul Doyle:  If what UConn is accused of in the Yahoo story is correct, it seems close to what Indiana was penalized for last year. Can we use the punishment Indiana received as sort of a precedent for how UConn may be penalized? From what you’ve observed, is that how the NCAA works in these matters?

Dan Fitzgerald: It is critical to recognize that the only details of these alleged violations have come from a Yahoo! Sports report. The allegations are unsubstantiated to say the least. At this early juncture, there are some similarities between the allegations against UConn and the Indiana situation. First and foremost, both universities have enjoyed stellar reputations for running clean programs. Second, the allegations of misconduct against UConn and Indiana both involve seemingly innocuous violations of excessive phone calls and text messages to recruits. However, major differences exist. Indiana hired a coach, Kelvin Sampson, who was on probation with the NCAA for violations in connection with calling and texting recruits. Thus, one could argue that Indiana had a heightened duty to monitor Sampson and the basketball program at large. For UConn, there have been no prior issues involving this conduct. As for penalties, Sampson personally received a severe punishment – a five-year show-cause penalty. Indiana University received much less severe penalties, including a “failure to monitor charge”, three years probation and a variety of self-imposed penalties. If found to have violated NCAA rules, UConn could argue that the penalty should be less severe than those imposed upon Indiana, since Indiana was on notice of Sampson’s prior violations.

istock_000003767744small1.jpgPD: Are there seemingly legal loopholes in this story (if that makes sense), in that the agent/former team manager is present as a representative of UConn’s interests. But can’t the school argue that he’s not directly representing them?

DF: The definition for a “representative of UConn’s athletic interests” is incredibly broad. In fact, all UConn alumni qualify. Even season ticket holders to UConn football games who sit in the cheap seats are so-called “representatives of UConn’s athletic interests.” Under NCAA rules, a representative retains such status for life, and UConn “is ultimately responsible for the acts of all representatives of athletics interests in relation to NCAA rules and regulations.” UConn’s former student manager is no exception. UConn was clearly familiar with its former student manager. How close was he to the program? Yahoo! reports a significant amount of communication between him and the UConn staff. But was UConn dealing with the former student manager to gain a recruiting edge or because the former student manager attached himself to Miles, hoping to represent him when he turned pro? The answers to these questions, if favorable to UConn, may provide the university with mitigating factors against violations based on the manager’s actions.

PD: You’ve read the story – Are there any other possible loopholes or things that don’t add up? Assuming everything here is air tight and given what we know about the NCAA, what should UConn’s defense/approach be?

DF: UConn, as indicated in its statement, engages outside counsel to represent the university before the NCAA. These attorneys often include former NCAA compliance personnel, who are well-versed in dealing with NCAA infractions. I would expect UConn and its counsel to work closely and cooperatively with NCAA investigators on this matter. If evidence of violations is discovered, UConn may propose self-imposed sanctions to minimize the possibility or severity of a NCAA penalty. Often times universities are likely to strike an agreement with the NCAA to avoid more severe sanctions that call for the loss of scholarships, postseason tournaments, or television appearances.

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