This wasn't going to end well. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun wasn't going to absolve himself of all wrongdoing. He wasn't going to walk away from a protracted NCAA investigation without hits to his reputation and sanctions to match transgressions that he committed, failed to identify or failed to rectify.
Anyone directly involved or even observing from afar knew that. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on legal representation, the pages of type that made up UConn's 700-page response to allegations, the meandering explanations of how and why - it wasn't about winning or losing. It was about damage control.
The committee on infractions finally levied its sanctions against UConn for recruiting violations, the most notable of which is a temporary separation of coach and program. Calhoun will be suspended for the first three Big East games of the 2011-12 season after the NCAA found him guilty of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failing to monitor the program in areas of phone calls, text messages and inducements provided by a booster.
Not only that, the NCAA added to the terms of the self-imposed sanctions that UConn set forth in September. There is a three-year period of probation beginning Tuesday, a reduction in scholarships through 2012-13, recruiting restrictions and more. Some will say it's not enough. Some will say it's too harsh. Either way, it's not what Calhoun expected.
"I am very disappointed with the NCAA's decision in this case," Calhoun said in a statement provided by UConn. "My lawyer and I are evaluating my options and will make a decision which way to proceed."
Anyone involved has 15 days to appeal.
UConn will be dealing with the fallout for quite some time, but the most visible and probably most embarrassing penalty will be the Huskies' starting conference play next winter without their Hall of Fame coach on the bench.
Both Calhoun and the university had argued strongly against the "failure to promote" charge Calhoun was facing. But the NCAA saw enough evidence to hold Calhoun - and the university, which was cited for a failure to monitor - responsible.
"This is deeply disappointing to the UConn community," UConn President Philip Austin said in a statement. "Let me be very clear, we will comply fully with the NCAA's sanctions and work with great resolve to restore the luster to our men's basketball program."
Incoming President Susan Herbst told the Connecticut Post in an e-mail that Calhoun's job was not in jeopardy.
The good news for UConn? There is no postseason ban.
For much of a 45-minute teleconference Tuesday afternoon, Dennis Thomas, the committee on infractions chairman, rehashed the obvious and stuck with what seemed like rehearsed answers to an array of questions. But he did make clear the severity with which the NCAA viewed UConn's violations, which centered primarily on former manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson and player Nate Miles, who enrolled at the university but was expelled in October 2008 before playing a game.
Thomas said there were "extraordinary steps taken by the university to recruit a top prospective student-athlete to its men's basketball program. The director of athletics [Jeff Hathaway] stated it was the most intense he'd ever seen [Calhoun] about the recruitment of a prospect. In his zeal to get the prospect admitted to the university, the head coach allowed a booster, who was a certified agent, served as the manager of the men's basketball team during his enrollment at UConn, to be involved in the recruitment process."
Thomas wouldn't comment on how damaging Hathaway's remark was about Calhoun's intensity in recruiting Miles, saying, "The statement is what it is."
The relationship between Nochimson, Miles and UConn was first detailed in a March 2009 Yahoo! Sports report that spawned the NCAA's investigation.
While Thomas noted that a head coach can't know everything that goes on around him, he said, "Look, you had over 2,000 phone calls between his staff with the booster during the time frame the recruiting started to commence with the prospective student-athlete. The head coach has to bear responsibility for that."
The NCAA said the case involved more than $6,000 of inducements from a booster (Nochimson) to a prospective student-athlete (Miles). Impermissible benefits allegedly provided to Miles by Nochimson were at least partial payment for a foot surgery, the cost of enrollment at a basketball academy and a registration fee for the SAT.
The committee's ruling was split on former assistant coaches Beau Archibald and Patrick Sellers, both of whom resigned after the charges were made and were cited for providing false or misleading statements during the NCAA's investigation. Sellers was cleared of any wrongdoing. Archibald, however, was hit with a two-year show-cause order that "limits his athletically related duties."
Sellers is coaching in China. Archibald, as of early December, was still in Connecticut, hoping to clear his name.
Additional penalties UConn faces include: public reprimand and censure; permanent disassociation of Nochimson; a ban on recruiting calls during the 2011-12 academic year until 30 days after the first day phone calls are allowed; a reduction in the number of coaches allowed to make phone calls from three to two, not including Calhoun, for six months after the university's response to the notice of allegations [filed Sept 7]; a reduction in the number of off-campus recruiting days from 130 to 90 through the 2012-13 recruiting periods; a limit of five official recruiting visits by prospective players for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years; and a requirement that Calhoun and staff members attend the NCAA regional rules seminar.
The program also is expected to lose at least one scholarship because of a substandard score in the Academic Performance Rate. UConn has 12 scholarship players on this season's roster. Seniors Charles Okwandu and Donnell Beverly will exhaust their eligibility, and junior Kemba Walker is considering leaving for the NBA. Ryan Boatright, a guard from East Aurora High in Illinois, has signed a national letter of intent to play for the Huskies.
UConn had been waiting for Tuesday's ruling since university representatives appeared before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Oct. 15. A 13-hour meeting that day was expected to be followed by a ruling six to eight weeks later.
"This is a very complex case and the committee wants to do a very thorough job in reviewing the case and take its time to adjudicate it and be fair to all concerned," said Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and formerly athletic director at Hampton University. "And committee members have schedules as well. We do have full-time jobs besides spending all the amount of time reviewing the cases."
UConn received the NCAA's notice of allegations May 24. The deadline for a response, which was originally Aug. 20 and then Sept. 3, was delayed to Sept. 7. A month later, on Oct. 8, UConn made public its response, which included separate defenses from the university, Calhoun and former and current assistant coaches.
UConn held a press conference at Gampel Pavilion to discuss the response. Calhoun called it "certainly one of the lowest points" of his now 39-year Hall of Fame career.
"We have worked closely with the NCAA from the time we learned of the allegations," Hathaway said Tuesday in a statement. "When we submitted our response to the NCAA Committee on Infractions acknowledging violations in the men's basketball program, we immediately self-imposed a series of penalties and corrective measures that are included as part of the NCAA Committee on Infractions report. We are disappointed that the committee determined that additional penalties needed to be imposed.
"We value the principles of the NCAA and fully recommit ourselves to running a program of impeccable integrity."
Calhoun, 68, will become the second high-profile coach in two seasons to be suspended. Tennessee's Bruce Pearl was suspended for his team's first eight SEC games for recruiting violations and an attempted cover-up that also led to the termination of his contract.
Calhoun, who has led UConn to national titles in 1999 and 2004 and another Final Four in 2009, signed a five-year, $13 million contract in May. It is retroactive to include the 2009-10 season and he is signed through 2013-14.
UConn had already admitted that the basketball staff made impermissible phone calls to recruits and improperly distributed game tickets to high school and AAU coaches. UConn also agreed with the NCAA allegation that the university failed to monitor benefits and assistance provided by an agent to a basketball recruit. But the university tried to shift blame away from Calhoun, who claimed he took appropriate measures to prevent and/or report the possibility of wrongdoing.
Not so, the NCAA said. Thomas would not explain how the committee decided on three games.
He said that given all the information the NCAA reviewed, the punishment is fair. "Now, we've banned the agent, the booster, from the institution's athletic interests for life," Thomas said.. "And we've cited the head coach for not being on top of these kinds of issues with the agent, the booster. The head coach stated that the booster was a member of the family during his days as a team manager. So it is highly incumbent upon the head coach and institution to educate all concerned as it relates to agents and boosters and the like."