The Huskies were looking to defend their 2011 NCAA title post-Kemba Walker era but couldn't get past Iowa State in the first round of this year's tournament, ending their postseason on a sour note in the first round. What they didn't know at the time, however, was that it would be their last March Madness game for a while, seeing as they won't be on the big stage until 2014 again at the earliest.
Poor academic performance among the team has prompted the NCAA to suspend Jim Calhoun's squad from the 2013 men's tournament. The suspension is a result of UConn's low scores on the Academic Progress Rate.
UConn is a prestigious university and has a reputation to uphold when it comes to academics. Maybe last season's squad didn't make schoolwork such a priority or maybe they were so focused on defending their title. Whatever their reason is, it's a bad one because they fully deserve this suspension.
The University of Connecticut is an academic institution before anything else. The athletes don't just represent the athletic department, but they are a reflection on the university in all areas, and that includes academics. However, those involved in the program appear to be operating with the belief that basketball is all that matters.
The truth remains that this belief is wrong. Student-athletes have a job other than to play basketball, even though it may appear otherwise at times. The master narrative might be that student athletes only care about their sports and don't put an hour of effort into their studies, which may be the case at some schools and with some student athletes, but it's not always the case. UConn is a university built on high standards for their students and preparation to achieve success.
In order to achieve success, though, one must have the mental and physical strength to balance priorities. Some student athletes might have a hard time balancing their schoolwork with practices, travel and games. In that situation, it is the university's responsibility to help make sure such athletic suspensions do not happen.
We don't know the whole story in this case. If UConn did what they could to prevent this problem by providing better assistance to at-risk players, this punishment is on the players. If UConn did not provide any extra help for their struggling students, the suspension is on the university. Regardless, someone screwed up in a big way.
The men's basketball program at UConn is one of the best in the nation, led by the legendary Calhoun. While it's a shame that this had to happen, and even though the school is expected to ask for a review of the case, the decision is not likely to change.
Dan Gavitt, an associate commissioner in the Big East conference, expressed his disappointment in this because of what it means for the rest of the conference.
"Any team that's ineligible would be a huge loss to the tournament, particularly a program like Connecticut," Gavitt said.
This punishment changes the whole nature of the tournament. It's unlikely that will change the nature of regular season play because it would be ridiculous if UConn didn't have the same work ethic despite knowing no matter how well they perform, they won't be in the tournament.
It's unfortunate that UConn's national championship team is now tarnished somewhat. But it's important to note that key members of that 2010-11 team like Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier did not play a role in this. Want to point fingers? Look at the likes of Walker, Alex Oriakhi and other members of the 2008-09 team to find the real culprits.
Last season during a game in Connecticut against Syracuse, a fan held up a sign that read, 'Fab Melo failed Spanish.' It's pretty apparent, though, that it was UConn's players who were failing more than just Spanish to find themselves in this situation.
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