Here’s the text of my interview with the Hartford Courant’s Paul Doyle regarding UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun’s response to the NCAA. The interview was part of the article “UConn’s Testimony Before NCAA Over, Now It’s Time To Wait.” For an anaylsis of the university’s response, see Breaking Down UConn’s Response to NCAA Allegations.
Paul Doyle: Specifically, were you surprised that Jim Calhoun did not seem to take full responsibility for the violations?
Dan Fitzgerald: In my opinion, the idea that Coach Calhoun didn’t take full responsibility for the alleged violations is misleading. Coach Calhoun admitted his involvement in providing complimentary tickets to high school and AAU coaches. He admitted that impermissible recruiting calls were made. But Coach Calhoun denied the allegation that he failed to monitor the program or failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. These are major violations and he was right to deny them. Coach Calhoun wasn’t oblivious to the issues with Nochimson; he addressed the issues and reported them to the AD and to counsel for the university. I also agree with his position that a coach has no duty to conduct an investigation of the relationship between an agent and a player.
It is also worth noting that Coach Calhoun and the university were represented by separate counsel. Coach Calhoun’s counsel took a strong position on behalf of his client – a position that was affirmed by the university’s counsel. While the response may not play well in the court of public opinion, it was a prudent legal strategy.
PD: Do you think the NCAA expects the head coach (in this case, Calhoun) to sort of take responsibility and could that be a factor in how they respond to UConn’s response?
DF: As demonstrated with Pete Carroll and USC, the NCAA is emphasizing the role of the head coach in compliance. The NCAA is unlikely to accept a coach’s defense that he or she was unaware that a violation has occurred. But in this case, Coach Calhoun isn’t claiming that he was unaware. It doesn’t appear that he has been uncooperative. He’s just unwilling to admit to a major violation, for which he argues the NCAA hasn’t met its burden of proof. Also, Coach Calhoun is justifiably bothered by the fact that he was the only individual named, when other other UConn administrators were involved in these allegations. In this regard, I think Coach Calhoun is resisting what he perceives to be the NCAA’s overemphasis of a coach’s responsibility for any action of the basketball program.