UConn is under investigation and we are buried under a pile of mail. Bag time has dual meaning now.
Mike asks: Why can’t we have nice things?
There’s definitely a “when it rains it pours” thing going on and it’s hard not to lump the news of the investigation into the ever-present misery of watching the worst UConn team of most of our lifetimes. But I’ll offer two pieces of slight consolation.
One, we still don’t know the scope or severity of the infraction — or even if an infraction occurred at all. The NCAA could come back in a few months and say they’ve looked into it and everything’s cool. That would surprise me, but who knows.
Two, this is dark but… there’s never been a better time for UConn to get whacked by the NCAA. The team has nothing to vacate — the rare silver lining to not winning anything of value in four years (before you get in our mentions yelling “AAC Tournament” think long and hard about your life decisions). A tournament ban wouldn’t be all that punitive for a team that is hovering around the .500 mark now and likely won’t improve that much in the offseason. Even (another) rash of transfers wouldn’t be the end of the world as the current roster is fairly low on talent. It’d also be another narrative we could use as an excuse for the Huskies being terrible! There’s no conference realignment on the horizon — which is actually fortunate considering UConn’s stock has never been lower. And if you’re in the “Fire Ollie” camp, you also might end up with a coaching change for the low, low cost of $0.
Obviously, I’m hopeful that it’s nothing (and hopeful that the entirety of St. John’s falls into a volcano), but really I just want it to be over fast. The quicker the NCAA renders its verdict, the quicker we can start surveying the damage.
Pyotr asks: Is this the UConn administration just trying to catch Kevin Ollie on some sort of minor violation to make it easier to fire him? How scummy would that be?
Look, I get that hearing that our team is being investigated by the NCAA for recruiting issues is the last thing we need right now (doesn’t it just figure that it came out the same night as the team’s best win of the season) and we want to find some sort of rhyme or reason for it. But I highly, highly doubt this is some Machiavellian plot by AD David Benedict to oust Kevin Ollie without having to pay his enormous buyout (and that contract, whoever wrote it, I’m looking at you, it is trash). In Jeff Jacobs’ column that broke this story, he goes into some detail about how UConn can get out of its buyout if it can show just cause, so I get where this question comes from.
To answer your second question, it would be the absolute scummiest thing an administration could do (not including those administrations that ignored and/or actively hid serious sexual assault claims by their personnel or athletes, but that’s a different story) and if that is what’s happening I’m turning in my UConn fan card immediately. Aside from how disgusting and venal it is to do something like that to someone who played here, was on the coaching staff – first as an assistant and then as the head coach – for two national championships, and is by all accounts a good guy, it means that no respectable coach would ever darken UConn’s doors again. It would also be completely unnecessary. If there is something that Ollie did that would rise to the level of just cause for firing, UConn could simply have self-reported. An NCAA investigation takes forever, and wouldn’t give UConn legal grounds until far after it would actually help them get out of the contract. It would be an assbackwards and, frankly, stupid way to get out of paying the man when you fire him.
So unless you’re really into conspiracy theories and like to hang out at InfoWars, then common sense should tell you this just doesn’t pass the smell test. And, for what it’s worth, I do not believe Kevin Ollie is paying players, based on our sources close to Ollie who swear he runs a clean program, and also given that Tremont Waters and Diamond Stone aren’t playing for UConn. If he was paying guys, we wouldn’t be losing to schools that are probably paying kids, is what I’m saying.
We all have guesses as to what is behind this, which we may share when we get saucy during a podcast this week (irresponsible rumormongering!), but there’s no reason to believe that the administration is setting Ollie up.
Penfield asks: Is there any sort of violation that could make you stop supporting UConn Mens basketball?
Any scandal on the level of Penn State, Michigan State or Baylor, where the university concealed grotesque criminal actions, would be the end. We’d use every tiny piece of influence afforded to us at ADB to loudly call for the removal of — well — everybody in UConn’s athletic department and administration. Even once the slate was clean, I think I’d just be done.
I don’t give a shit about the money-based violations. The players should be getting paid and when you try to sabotage the market to keep money out of their pockets legitimately, of course some will find an illegitimate way to compensate. It’s upsetting to see your school get punished for it — mostly because it seems pretty clear that it’s near-universal — but give the players manilla envelopes full of cash, no-show summer jobs, clothes, cars, scooters, international airports. I don’t care.
The same is true of academic scandals. I’d prefer every grade be earned (and every class actually exist) because I do think the actions of, say, North Carolina cheapen the diplomas of the students and alumni as a whole. But until the NCAA stops using coursework as a weapon against the players — a false rationale for why they can’t be compensated for their labor — it’s all a farce anyway.
TCF asks: is bunkey the ncaa’s star witness in the uconn investigation?
Bunkey would never snitch.