Foul Trouble: UConn May Have Violated Rules

School may have gone too far for Miles

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    NEWSLETTERS

    File video of Nate Miles (Published Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009)

    Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said he and the university are looking into a Yahoo! Sports report claiming the school broke NCAA rules during the recruitment of former basketball player Nate Miles, but added Miles is not at UConn and his team remains focused on the NCAA tournament.

    Yahoo reported Wednesday that Miles, a 6-7 guard from Toledo, Ohio, was given lodging, transportation, meals and representation by sports agent Josh Nochimson, and a UConn assistant coach knew about the relationship between the player and the agent. The story cited interviews, documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws and other sources.

    Nate Miles

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    File video of Nate Miles (Published Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009)

    Nochimson, a former student manager for UConn, was considered a representative of UConn's athletic interests by the NCAA and was prohibited from having contact with Miles or giving him anything of value, Yahoo reported.

    Records also show that five UConn coaches called Nochimson and text-messaged him at least 1,565 times during a nearly two-year period before and after Miles' recruitment in 2006 and early 2007. Calhoun had 16 of those communications, Yahoo reported.

    Miles was expelled from UConn in October without ever playing a game for the Huskies after he was charged with violating a restraining order in a case involving a woman who claimed he assaulted her. He is now attending the College of Southern Idaho and plays for the school's basketball team.

    Miles could not be reached for comment. A cell phone number used by The Associated Press to contact him in the past was answered Wednesday by his uncle, Thomas Pettigrew of Toledo, Ohio, who said the NCAA needs to do more to prevent recruiting violations.

    "I just think he got mixed up with the wrong people," Pettigrew said. "There was a whole bunch of adults who should have been doing their job instead of doing what they did.

    "That's how society is," he said. "They chew you up and spit you out. If they can use you, they use you. I think the whole situation is funny, because I'm sure there are people who are supposed to be looking over that."

    Pettigrew added, "No matter what anybody says about him, my nephew is a great basketball player and a good person."

    Calhoun, in Glendale, Ariz., Wednesday as the team prepared for an NCAA regional semifinal against Purdue Thursday night, did not specifically respond to the story's allegations. He pointed out that Miles is "not involved with our program" and said he is not concerned about the issue distracting the Huskies' quest for a third national title.

    "We can keep our kids focused on what we're going to do, let them understand that the university ... will handle anything else that needs to be handled," Calhoun said. "We can't do anything about it. The only thing we can do is play basketball and hopefully advance our way to Saturday."

    UConn is the No. 1 seed in the tournament's West Regional.

    Calhoun's comments echoed a statement released by UConn Wednesday, saying that when it began recruiting Miles, it consulted its outside counsel, who worked with NCAA staff to examine everything about Miles' amateur status.

    "The NCAA's Eligibility Center reviewed all information that it had concerning the student-athlete's eligibility status and determined that he was eligible for his freshman year. The student-athlete departed from the university before ever participating in athletics competition," the statement said.

    The university, which said it released numerous public documents to Yahoo, said it is reviewing the article to determine whether action is required.

    "The University takes very seriously its responsibilities of NCAA membership and will do all that is expected to follow up on any information related to possible NCAA rules violations," the statement said.

    UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, in Boston at the East Regional as an NCAA site representative, declined to comment and referred to the university statement.

    Nochimson did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday. The NCAA declined to comment.

    Yahoo reported that NCAA rules allow only one phone call per month to a prospect or his family in the player's junior year of high school, but said UConn exceeded that limit from late 2006 into 2007, which may be a major recruiting violation.

    Former UConn assistant coach Tom Moore, now head coach at Quinnipiac, made three calls to Miles and 27 other calls to Miles' guardian and a person Miles said was his uncle, all in December 2006, Yahoo reported.

    Moore acknowledged to Yahoo Sports that he knew Nochimson had contacted Miles "a couple of times," although the documents Yahoo obtained show pages and pages of phone and text message correspondence.

    Moore would have no comment. Jack McDonald, a Quinnipiac spokesman, said Wednesday that the university is cooperating even though the allegations do not involve the university. UConn did not respond to the allegations regarding improper contact.

    Yahoo reported that Nochimson's relationship with Miles began on Nov. 11, 2006, at a high school tournament in suburban Chicago, and that Nochimson and Moore knew each other from Nochimson's days as a UConn basketball manager.

    Moore told Nochimson that UConn was recruiting Miles as the two men sat watching Miles play, Yahoo reported. Miles was introduced to Nochimson later that day, the report said.

    Moore exchanged several text messages with both Miles and Nochimson on the nights of Nov. 11 and 12, 2006, Yahoo reported. Miles committed to UConn about a week later.

    Miles initially said that he had never heard of Nochimson, then said the agent advised him on his education and told him what college coaches and scouts are looking for, Yahoo said.

    Calhoun, when asked about Nochimson, said, "He was with our program for six years, got his master's degree, but beyond that -- while he was within our program, he was a good kid, worked hard, etc. That was my relationship with him during that particular point in time."

    Nochimson also was the business manager and personal assistant for former UConn standout and current NBA star Richard Hamilton, having gone with Hamilton when he was drafted in 1999 by the Washington Wizards. But Nochimson filed paperwork in June 2008 to decertify himself as an agent with the NBA Players Association, after Hamilton fired him and accused him of stealing more than $1 million.

    The NCAA views impermissible contact as a major violation because it creates an unfair advantage that, left unchecked, would lead to student-athletes being inundated with calls from recruiters.

    Former Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson and his staff made more than 500 improper calls to 17 recruits over a five-year period, leading to Sampson being barred in 2006 from calling recruits or recruiting off-campus for one year. The university also issued self-imposed sanctions, including scholarship reductions and fewer visits to campus by prospective players.

    The penalties followed Sampson when he became coach at Indiana in March 2006. Within two years, the NCAA found Sampson again involved in improper calls, having participated in conference calls with prospective Hoosier recruits, and that he misled NCAA and Indiana officials who investigated. He resigned in February 2008 and Indiana was later placed on three years NCAA probation along with self-imposed sanctions.

    The NCAA also hit Sampson with a five-year "show-cause" order, one of the harshest penalties it can apply to an individual. It means no NCAA institution can hire Sampson without first showing cause he has served his punishment, effectively preventing him from coaching in the college ranks. Sampson is now an assistant with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.