The saga of the UConn basketball program and its very rich coach Jim Calhoun is starting to remind people of another state leader in sense of entitlement and being bigger than the rules. In eleven days, it will be the sixth anniversary of the announcement of the resignation of Governor John G. Rowland as an impeachment investigation and charges of corruption swirled around him.
The comparison may be a bit over the top. Rowland’s wrong-doing was certainly more personal than institutional and landed him in prison, sentenced to a year and a day. Calhoun is still only a basketball coach on the scale of things and there is certainly no allegation he broke the law. But he has, it seems, overseen a program that fosters a “we’re bigger than any rules” mentality, or as the NCAA put it, a “failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance [with NCAA rules].” UConn certainly didn’t help things by handing Calhoun a new, $13 million contract while two assistants fell on their swords—their careers ruined while Coach gets the cash. Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway still has not had to answer for his comment that the NCAA review of alleged rule-breaking in the program didn’t figure into the contract talks with Calhoun at all. Yeah, and Rowland paid for the hot tub…bought it in Torrington, he thinks.
Things got worse for the hoops program this week when the Hartford Courant’s Dave Altimari reported that Calhoun and the athletic department were warned in 1999 that a former team manager was considered a sports agent and that the basketball staff and players should have no contact with him.
But when it came to recruiting Nate Miles in 2006 and 2007, coaches appeared to not only foster a relationship between Miles and “agent’ Josh Nochimson but also placed hundreds of phone calls and text messages to Nochimson before and after Miles committed to UConn. Some calls were made by Calhoun, records show, according to Altimari’s report—rules and warnings be damned.
The charges include impermissible phone calls and text messages to recruits, impermissible benefits provided to recruits by a representative of the institution’s athletic interests and impermissible distribution of game tickets.
They both knew the rules and thought they were bigger than them.