THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Rubber sword: UConn's ‘punishment' a joke
I'm not much of an Eminem fan, so despite any critical acclaim 8 Mile may have received, the movie left me cold. But I do remember how cleverly Rabbit stole his rival's thunder at the final rap battle. It's a pretty slick trick to fall on the sword before your opponent can attack.
The University of Connecticut is no Rabbit. Last week, UConn imposed sanctions on itself after admitting to major NCAA recruiting violations in its men's basketball program. But what should have been a bold move was contemptibly lame, if you ask me.
If you grew up in a "progressive" family (I did not), you might have had the kind of parents who allowed you to design your own punishments. As penance for wrecking the family car, did you suggest a week of dishwashing? What about the time you set your sister's hair on fire? Were two days without television enough to satisfy your parents? I doubt it.
I also doubt UConn's self-imposed "sanctions" (I use the term loosely) are going to be enough to satisfy the NCAA. Two years probation and the loss of one scholarship for two seasons? Please! My Daddy gave me worse than that when I turned up my nose at chicken gizzards.
On Friday, October 15, the NCAA infractions committee is holding a hearing on UConn's transgressions. Whether they accept the school's sanctions or impose more penalties is frankly beyond my caring (if the NCAA let O.J. Mayo slide, what can we expect?). When it comes to improper recruiting, my cup of moral outrage runneth over and out. I've beaten my head against that brick wall too many times.
It's the salt UConn poured into the gaping wound on my forehead that has me up in arms. After acknowledging its basketball program made hundreds of inappropriate and illegal phone calls and text messages to recruits, provided free game tickets to high school coaches, and allowed a former team manager to use improper methods to recruit a prospect, UConn had the audacity to fall on a rubber sword.
UConn's violations are an affront to the NCAA and sport itself, but it's obvious that dog won't hunt. There's no use arguing that whatever transgressions occurred on Coach Jim Calhoun's watch are ultimately his responsibility. As a matter of fact, discussing UConn's transgressions is a colossal waste of time. So why bother addressing UConn at all?
Unfortunately, major NCAA violations have become so commonplace they fail to provoke outrage, but there's an aspect of the UConn situation that still has the shock of the new. Back in May, the University of Michigan imposed sanctions on itself for football program violations: a couple years' probation, a quick reprimand for Coach Rich Rodriguez, and the firing of a small-fry staff member was what the University deemed appropriate. Michigan denied that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of NCAA compliance, a tack UConn has taken with Jim Calhoun.
As offensive as all that is, it's not the insult to sports that has me so riled up; it's the insult to punishment. When Grandpa made my Daddy cut his own switch, you can bet Daddy found one that met with Grandpa's approval– woe to him if he didn't. That sword they're supposedly falling on? Suffice to say that if UConn were playing Juliet on the stage, it would be a pretty unconvincing performance; the audience would plainly see the dagger carefully inserted between her arm and ribcage.
If Rabbit's sword hadn't been honed to a keen edge, Papa Doc (not François Duvalier) would have cut him to ribbons. Falling on a rubber sword would have earned Bunny a harsher beating than he would have gotten otherwise, and that's what should happen to UConn.
But the NCAA is no Papa Doc. Not only is UConn's self-imposed punishment a mockery, the NCAA is in on the joke. And if past acceptance of self-imposed sanctions is any indication, the rubber sword is a joke that never gets old.
Juanita Giles lives on a farm Keysville with her husband, son and many dogs.