College Basketball: UConn Admits Cheating, Calhoun's Criminal Culture

TJ CorbsCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2010

The University of Connecticut admits that it cheated on the recruiting trail.
The University of Connecticut admits that it cheated on the recruiting trail.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

UConn officials admitted today that the school cheated on the recruiting trail. 

To this fan of sports in the Northeast Corridor, it was a sad day.  UConn has given themselves a slap on the wrist.  The NCAA will hand out their real punishment later this year, likely a multiple-year ban on postseason play.

Jim Calhoun is a Hall of Fame coach.  He took a traditionally poor former Yankee Conference nobody and transformed them into a national basketball power.

People will remember his coaching career for the two national championships and many deep trips into the NCAA tournament.

Nobody will ever question Calhoun's on-court accomplishments.  However the off-court issues may raise some eyebrows.  Now before the UConn faithful litter this comment section with posts about me being unfair to their leader, let me make it clear that Jim Calhoun is not as big a slime-ball as others in the business, such as Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

Caron Butler is an accomplished NBA player.  Butler played his college ball at UConn.  Butler became a drug dealer at the age of 11 and was arrested 15 times before he was 15-years-old.  His basketball career began at a youth detention center in Wisconsin. 

Butler is one of the positive stories of a kid turning his life around, and Calhoun should be commended for how he helped this young man.  But Calhoun should also be questioned for the criminal element that hovers around UConn's athletic programs.

Ben Gordon is an NBA All-Star.  He was a national champion at UConn.  On or around Valentine's day of 2003, while a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, Gordon was arrested for assaulting a female student.  You might ask yourself what type of man hits a woman?  Perhaps you should have asked yourself, what type of coach plays a kid 36 minutes on national television the day after he is arrested for hitting a woman?  So much for disciplining players.

No single incident brought more attention to the lack of discipline that has plagued UConn's men's basketball program more than laptop-gate 2005.  In the summer of 2005, Marcus Williams, AJ Price and an associate who was not affiliated with the university broke into the dorm rooms of co-ed students and stole their laptops.  Tens of thousands of dollars were stolen from these young girls so that these privileged athletes, already at the school for free, could have some extra spending cash for lord knows what.  Nice guys, huh. 

So what punishment did Calhoun issue to Price and Williams?  Well, Price was not cleared to play basketball for that season, so his suspension was a given.  Williams, however, was a key part to the UConn team that was a No. 1 seed that season, and if you look at Marcus' game log for that season you may scratch your head wondering what punishment he actually received.  Marcus played 23 minutes in the Big East conference opener against Marquette that season.  Way to hold these students accountable, Mr. Calhoun.

By now you see the lack of accountability that Jim Calhoun held his players to, and in turn, the lack of accountability to which the University of Connecticut officials held Jim Calhoun.  One can only wonder what type of culture a decade of this type of criminal behavior and slaps on the wrist has created at the University of Connecticut.

Laptop-gate also introduced a new element into the mix: non-UConn students involved in the criminal behavior.  We already knew that violence and crime against female students was something accepted within the UConn athletic department, but now having friends come from off campus and commit crimes was also a minor situation.

Sad to say, but if UConn doesn't try to calm down this criminal culture within their athletic department, something tragic may happen again. 

The tragic death of former football player Jasper Howard should have been enough.

Calhoun is a great basketball coach.  But maybe it is time he and UConn officials reevaluate the manner in which they hold student athletes accountable for criminal action and coaches accountable for cheating.

- TJ Corbs, tackling the hard hitting issues of the Northeast Corridor.