STORRS, Conn. — The NCAA has accused the storied men’s basketball program at the University of Connecticut of eight major rules violations.
The school released its notice of allegation letter Friday following a 15-month investigation into the recruiting of former player Nate Miles. The alleged violations include improper phone calls and text messages to recruits, giving recruits improper benefits and improperly distributing free tickets to high school coaches and others. Coach Jim Calhoun was cited for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
“It’s not exactly, certainly anywhere near the high point of my career, as a matter of fact it’s certainly one of the lowest points at any time that you are accused of doing something,” said Calhoun, who has led the Huskies since 1986 and twice guided them to national championships. “It’s a very serious matter.”
UConn is to appear before the governing body on Oct. 15 to respond. Attorney Rick Evrard, an outside counsel who advises UConn on NCAA-related matters, said the school likely will spend the next three months reviewing the allegations. He said if the school confirms them, it is obligated to impose its own sanctions.
Evrard said that, in cases such as UConn’s, penalties most often affect recruiting, and could include the loss of scholarships. They don’t usually include a ban on postseason play or the forfeiting of any games when there was no competitive advantage obtained from the violations, he said. In this case, Miles never suited up for UConn.
Among the allegations is that assistants Beau Archibald and Patrick Sellers provided false and misleading information to NCAA investigators. Sellers and Archibald, who served as director of basketball, have both resigned. UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway says Archibald resigned last Thursday, and Sellers quit on Sunday.
Both released statements Friday saying they needed to devote their full attention to the allegations against them.
“Coaching is my passion and something I have spent many years of enjoyment doing,” Sellers said. “I want the record to reflect this and for the people to see the respect and integrity that I will show toward the process in the months ahead.”
Calhoun, 68, just finished coaching his 38th season, and 24th at UConn, where he brought the program from obscurity to national prominence.
His teams won national championships in 1999 and 2004, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. He coached the team to its third Final Four in 2009, and recently signed a five-year, $13 million contract.
Calhoun has a career record of 823-358, though UConn was just 18-16 last season and lost in the second round of the NIT. Calhoun took a medical leave of absence in January, missing seven games with an undisclosed medial condition. Calhoun also has been treated for cancer three times during his UConn career, and last summer was hospitalized after breaking several ribs during a charity bike ride.
This is the first time the program has been accused of any major violation, Evrard said.
“I am confident that the university will appropriately address and respond to this matter and continue cooperating fully with the NCAA as this process moves forward,” school president Michael Hogan said in a statement. Hogan will be leaving the school next month to take a similar job at Illinois, leaving the investigation in the hands of interim president Philip Austin. Austin is familiar with the program, having served as UConn’s president for 10 years before retiring in 2007.
UConn as an institution was cited for not adequately monitoring “the conduct and administration of the men’s basketball staff in the areas of: telephone records, representatives of the institution’s athletics interests; and, complimentary admissions or discretionary tickets.”
Calhoun and Hathaway declined to comment specifically on the allegations, citing the ongoing investigation, but Calhoun said he won’t be defeated by the charges.
“I’m going to be educated by certain matters, if in fact we did make mistakes, which I think I said 15 months ago,” Calhoun said. “We’ll finalize some of that over the next 90 days and we will go forward.”
The NCAA and the school have been investigating the program since shortly after a report by Yahoo! Sports in March 2009 that former team manager Josh Nochimson helped guide basketball recruit Nate Miles to Connecticut, giving him lodging, transportation, meals and representation.
As a former team manager, Nochimson is considered a representative of UConn’s athletic interests by the NCAA and prohibited from having contact with Miles or giving him anything of value.
“The men’s basketball staff knew or should have known about the benefits provided by Nochimson due to their knowledge of Nochimson’s status as a professional basketball agent and his relationship and contact with [blacked out]….,” the NCAA wrote to UConn. The alleged infractions occurred between June 2005 and February 2009.
Most of the allegations appear to deal with Miles, but the names of all recruits were redacted by UConn from the NCAA letter.
The letter alleges 160 impermissible telephone calls and at least 191 impermissible text messages between recruits and coaches, including Archibald, Sellers, assistant coach Andre LeFler, associate head coach George Blaney. Documents previously released by the school also showed calls between Nochimson and Calhoun and former assistant Tom Moore, who is now the head coach at Quinnipiac.
Messages seeking comment were left at Quinnipiac for Moore.
Miles was expelled from UConn in October 2008 without ever playing a game for the Huskies after he was charged with violating a restraining order in a case involving a woman who claimed he assaulted her. He played during the 2008-09 season for the College of Southern Idaho, and was cut last November by the NBA Development League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The investigation of the men’s basketball program has no impact on UConn’s other sports programs, including its national champion women’s basketball team.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press