Lots of comments floating around regarding UConn’s signing of Andre Drummond, most of it negative. The primary sentiment seems to be “how does a program that’s being punished get away with this?”
As a UConn fan, of course I love that the Huskies have landed arguably the best freshman this season. Had he been signed before DeAndre Daniels, not requiring the scholarship adjustments that were required, I’d be even happier. He wasn’t signed earlier, though, because he couldn’t make up his mind what he wanted to do.
As for the notion that the scholarship reduction isn’t much of a punishment for UConn, let me say this. UConn has a scholarship limit, just like every other team. Because of two separate issues, they were limited to 10 scholarships, 3 fewer than nearly every other program. Like every other program, they are required to work within this limit, and need to balance their needs over a several year period. If they had their full allotment of 13 scholarships awarded, they would still have been in this boat.
What should the Huskies have done in this case? Told Drummond “too late”, or explored any reasonable possibility to see if they could bring him on board? I guarantee you that any basketball program would have evaluated the opportunity and would have made every reasonable effort to bring him on board. The Huskies worked within the rules, found a solution, and brought him on board.
Scholarship “adjustments” are an unfortunate part of the game. They usually take one of three different forms: player transfers; players staying but ‘voluntarily’ giving up their scholarship; and bringing players in as walk-ons.
To the first case, we’ve all seen several less talented players transfer out of the UConn program. In many cases, they probably left ‘voluntarily’ after being told they weren’t going to get a lot of playing time. Rob Garrison, Jamaal Trice, Darius Smith are recent examples. This happens to a larger or lesser degree at every program. How many prep superstars have arrived at Duke, not panned out, and abruptly transferred, thus freeing up scholarships?
Regarding the second case, there have been several examples over the last few seasons of players giving up scholarships. The first that comes to mind is Washington guard Taylor Rochestie, who gave up his scholarship so that the team could sign a highly rated recruit. This past offseason, Louisville players Kyle Kuric, Elisha Justice and Chris Smith all agreed to play as walk-ons so that the Cardinals could sign recruits. Admittedly, that’s a bit different since each of those players originally came on board as walk-ons. Missouri player Josh Kroenke gave up his scholarship several years ago. His wasn’t exactly a hardship case; he was and is an heir to the Wal-Mart empire.
To the last point: does anyone remember how Duke circumvented the 5/8 rule (teams were only allowed to sign a maximum of 5 players each year, and 8 over a two year period)? They had Lee Melchionni come on board as a walk-on, again, allowing the Blue Devils to circumvent the rule. Clearly there was interest in having him on scholarship — I even read on Scout.com, “and he’ll be on scholarship for three years.”
By the way, if you don’t think the 10 scholarship limit is hurting the Huskies, look at the roster. Not counting Kyle Bailey, there are two guards listed: Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, and two guard/forwards: Jeremy Lamb and Niels Giffey. Lamb is a guard who can swing to forward when the Huskies go small (which may be their best lineup). Giffey is a forward who is going to be forced to play guard on occasion out of necessity. The Huskies would have been better off with another guard or two on the roster.
Two other points: I’ve read in several places that Bradley is enrolled in a 6 year Pharmacy program, and that as a result, he’d have to pay for one of those years anyway. There certainly is a 6 year Pharmacy program at UConn; I haven’t figured out yet whether every Pharmacy major goes 6 years or whether there’s still a 5 year program also. But I’m skeptical that Bradley would be able to use his scholarship in year 6 – I believe that an athlete has 4 years of eligibility spread over 5 years, with very rare exceptions allowed to have a 6th year. But if it’s true, then from Bradley’s perspective this is ‘no harm, no foul’.
Second, I’m not sure that I understand another NCAA rule that UConn has interpreted as ‘since the Huskies were recruiting Andre Drummond, he couldn’t come in as a walk on’. I assume this means ‘since he was offered a scholarship, he can’t come in as a walk on’. I have to believe the Duke was recruiting Lee Melchionni, and he ended up as a walk on. How do you define who can and can’t play as a walk-on? Personally, I would like such a rule, but it would seem to be very difficult to arbitrate.
If there are loopholes, it’s fair to say, the NCAA should close the loopholes. When Duke brought in Melchionni, it was a similar loophole. When Duke used to take an overseas trip during the first semester (being one of the few schools that had/have a break during the first semester), it allowed them two extra weeks of practice right before the season started – and allow them to bring their freshman, something that no other program could do at the time during the summer.
To refresh my memory about the details, I did some searching on line, and found this entry from “The encyclopedia of Duke basketball”:
“In October 2002 Krzyzewski too his team to London for a long weekend during Duke’s fall break. The Blue Devils scrimmaged against a team from Belgium and played four games against British pro teams, winning three. Dahntay Jones led Duke in scoring with 64 points in the four games. This trip differed from the first two in that the entire team was able to participate, a key factor for a freshman-dominated club. On the previous summer tours, incoming freshman were not permitted to participate because they were not yet enrolled in school. In this unique instance, Duke was able to practice 10 days in advance of the trip and play four games while other schools were just beginning preseason drills.”
The point is, even the sainted programs take advantage of loopholes.
Source: The encyclopedia of Duke basketball, by John Roth, Ned Hinshaw