As it stands today, the #1 West seed UConn mens’ basketball team is sitting in Glendale, Arizona, awaiting its Sweet Sixteen matchup against Purdue on Friday night, having obliterated its sub-regional opponents by roughly 1000 points in two blowout wins. It’s still relatively early, but the Huskies appear to be the favorite going into the rest of the Tournament, with their scoring threats at every position and their game-changing defensive presence in the middle known as Hasheem Thabeet. Scarily, UConn isn’t even at full strength, as two players who were on the roster at the beginning of the school year are no longer playing for the Huskies - we all know about Jerome Dyson’s injury, but what about the other guy… Nate Miles?
You remember Miles, right? Jim Calhoun brought the troubled-but-talented 6’7 wing player in from Toledo as a freshman, but he was expelled from UConn in early October for violating a restraining order based on an accusation that he assaulted a female student. Sixteen minutes after the restraining order was issued, mind you. He then re-surfaced at a JuCo in Idaho, where he dropped in 19 ppg this season. So why is this all relevant now?
A Yahoo Sports investigation led by Dan Wetzel and Adrian Wojnarowski issued a comprehensive report today outlining the sordid tale of how Miles was ‘delivered’ to UConn by a former team manager turned agent named Josh Nochimson, and how current and former UConn coaches (including Jim Calhoun) may have pulled a Kelvin Sampson and egregiously violated the recruiting contact provisions with Miles throughout 2006 and 2007. From the report:
The University of Connecticut violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles, a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found. Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson – a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager – between 2006 and 2008, according to multiple sources. As a representative of UConn’s athletic interests, Nochimson was prohibited by NCAA rules from having contact with Miles and from providing him with anything of value. The UConn basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five different UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from head coach Jim Calhoun. UConn may have committed major recruiting violations by exceeding NCAA limits on phone calls to Miles and those closest to him, records show. The NCAA allows a single phone call per month to a prospect or his family in a player’s junior year of high school. That limit was exceeded over several months from late 2006 into 2007.
This makes the Kelvin Sampson and Rob Senderoff thing at Indiana look tame by comparison.
UConn released a statement that doesn’t really say much, but what they should be saying (at least privately) is THANK THE F#%&ING LORD! Consider… the Huskies may well be on their way to their third national title in the last eleven seasons. At worst, they appear a strong contender for another F4 appearance. If Miles was still on this team, suddenly the entire house of cards could have come crumbling down. Even if UConn ultimately won the 2009 championship, there would be a strong likelihood that much of their season would be later vacated, Chris Webber-style.
Ironically, Miles' Restraining Order May Have Saved UConn's Season (Unlike C-Webb's Michigan Teams)
Not now. Now any punishment that UConn will take over this admittedly serious set of violations will be prospective, and it should not affect this year’s Husky team (unless the NCAA digs up some other violations impacting current players). We don’t mean to be callous, but in a tradeoff, wouldn’t most UConn fans take that deal? You can win the 2009 title, but you’ll have to face a 1-year postseason ban and scholarship reductions at some future point. Yeah, thought so. So congratulations, Connecticut fans, there is a silver lining in what was otherwise not your best day.
Final thought here: it’s nice to see that Yahoo Sports took it upon itself to do the NCAA’s work here. A simple FOIA request – that’s all it took? You’d think that the NCAA’s army of investigators could figure out that one by themselves. Easy, low-hanging fruit at these public universities. Or, maybe not.