UConn: Breaking Down the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations

In Sunday’s Hartford Courant, Paul Doyle discusses the Notice of Violations that the NCAA served upon the University of Connecticut in connection with the men’s basketball program’s recruitment of Nate Miles.  I am quoted in the story along with sports law experts Michael McCann, Michael Buckner and David Swank.  It makes for an interesting read.

Here are my full observations on the issue:

First, the NCAA has only advanced allegations against UConn – the university now has an opportunity to respond and defend itself.  Of course, the allegations do arise from an investigation in which UConn was apparently a cooperative participant.

The overarching theme of the allegations against UConn is a failure to monitor. For example, UConn was allegedly aware of Josh Nochimson’s status as an agent as early as 1999, but continued to violate NCAA rules and deal with him. UConn assistants allegedly made numerous impermissible phone calls to recruits, but it appears that no one was tracking the calls to ensure compliance.

The Notice of Allegations provided some insight into the resignations of Beau Archibald and Patrick Sellers.  The NCAA alleges that each staffer “failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity associated with the administration of intercollegiate athletics.”  The NCAA takes dishonesty during its investigations very seriously. Former Oklahoma State football player Dez Bryant lost most of this past season for misleading NCAA investigators, despite the fact that he was not found to have violated any NCAA regulations.

I would expect UConn to impose penalties on itself as a result of the investigation. UConn is also likely to take corrective measures to ensure that these violations are unlikely to be repeated.  In addition, I expect that UConn might challenge some of the more vague allegations such as the claim that Coach Calhoun “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”  In the end, UConn’s penalty will be comprised of self-imposed violations and perhaps some recruiting violations imposed by the NCAA.

Also, the Kelvin Sampson case provides an interesting comparison, as we discussed last year.  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.  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.


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