NCAA allegations could ignite long-term problems for Connecticut
Friday was a really bad day for UConn basketball. But here's the really,
It's only going to get worse.
The penalties will be severe, though there are two reasons to believe they will fall short of a school's biggest nightmare in these cases, which is a postseason ban. The first is that the recruit at the center of this probe,
Still, the fallout will not be pretty. Even before the NCAA weighs in with its ultimate decision, UConn's coaching staff will be short two bodies because assistants
This is especially problematic because recruiting was already becoming a problem at UConn. Following a difficult season in which the team failed to reach the NCAA tournament, you would expect Calhoun to rebound with a monster haul. Yet, the only player in the Class of 2010 ranked in the top 50 on Rivals.com who committed to UConn is No. 37
Usually, a lackluster recruiting cycle by Jim Calhoun would look like a one-year aberration. In this case, it feels like the start of a pattern. Calhoun is 68 years old, and last January he had to take an in-season temporary leave of absence for the fourth time in two years. He did sign a five-year, $13 million contract extension earlier this month, but that deal took so long to get done, it made the program appear to be less stable, not more. The contract includes a clause to permit the school to terminate Calhoun for "significant or repetitive [NCAA] violations," and though it is inconceivable that the school would actually fire Calhoun (especially considering he was not linked to any of the really major allegations), the existence of that clause will be just one more weapon that rival recruiters can use against Calhoun this summer.
Moreover, there is no obvious heir apparent to convince prospects that UConn basketball will continue to thrive after Calhoun steps down. He does have several former assistants currently coaching in Division I, but none has built a pedigree that makes you believe he is ready to take on the awesome challenge of following the man who literally built this program out of the dirt. Nor has the school designated a successor from among the current staff the way Syracuse has done with associate head coach
Jim Calhoun is a proud man and a great coach, and lots of people have gone poor by betting against him. But the trend lines around his program were heading in a bad direction long before Friday's revelations. At the very moment when UConn basketball needed a fresh jolt, it was delivered a devastating blow. I suspect it will be a long, long while before it fully recovers.