So this is what it feels like. A fan’s doomsday scenario. This is the Pete Rose supporter finding out about the gambling. It’s the Sonics diehard learning his favorite team is leaving Seattle. If suddenly Derek Jeter’s name replaced ARod’s in all the recent headlines, this is what a Yankees fan would be going through.
I like sports a little less today.
By now, recruitment violations by any coach or any program should come as no surprise. We all realize that the movie Blue Chips could very well have been a work of nonfiction. But yesterday when Yahoo! Sports reported that UConn broke NCAA rules in its courting of Nate Miles, I didn’t want to believe the story. And when I learned that the guys who broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski and Dan Wetzel, had covered the program in the past (Wajnarowski for the Waterbury Republican and Wetzel for Husky Blue & White) I figured they were just reporters with an agenda.
That’s called denial. UConn fans have been living in it for years.
When Jim Calhoun recruits a kid with a questionable background, like Miles and Caron Butler before him, we call him the father those kids never had. When outsiders start to complain about his recruiting style, like the University of Maryland did with Rudy Gay, we call it sour grapes. And when the media labels him a bully, we call him a bulldog.
Now it appears we’ve been had.
As I see it, there are only two possible explanations for what Calhoun and his staff have done. One is that in 2006, when UConn allegedly began to contact Miles illegally, the program was at a crossroads. The most talented team Calhoun had ever coached was shocked by George Mason in the regional final the season before, and the current team was about to miss the postseason entirely for the first time in 20 years.
Maybe Calhoun got nervous. Maybe he was worried that his program was about to fall off the national radar. Maybe he saw Miles as the next Butler, Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton. Maybe he was desperate.
Or maybe, and this makes me sick just thinking about it, Calhoun has been cheating all along.
That’s the second explanation and it’s completely plausible. It’s hard to believe a guy who had done it right for over 30 years needed to break the rules now. After all, could Calhoun really be that desperate? That same team who struggled in 2006/07 has a chance to reach the final four this weekend. It’s not like he was suddenly coaching St. John’s.
Was Miles, a kid who got expelled about five minutes into college, worth risking a legacy over? Of course not. But if this is how Calhoun had been doing it forever, then it was just business as usual.
Either way, even the most loyal Husky apologist shouldn’t forgive Calhoun if the allegations prove true.