STORRS, Conn. — UConn coach Jim Calhoun will skip the No. 14 Huskies’ game vs. Marquette on Thursday night in Hartford, and also missed practice on Wednesday afternoon.
But it had nothing to do with the sanctions levied against the coach and his program one day earlier by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Rather, Calhoun will attend a memorial service in Nashua, N.H., for his sister-in-law, Eileen McDevitt Fucile, who died on Monday.
Associate George Blaney will coach UConn (20-6, 8-6 Big East) vs. the Golden Eagles (16-11, 7-7).
Meanwhile, with the conference season winding down and a postseason bid to prepare for, the Huskies tried to focus on basketball as talk of the NCAA decisions hovered over them.
“Yeah, we saw all that stuff, but there wasn’t really any type of mood on the team about it,” junior Kemba Walker said. “It’s great that they didn’t take postseason play away from us, but other than that. … I know coach Calhoun as a person. I know him very well and I know he wouldn’t cheat to do anything. But it is what it is.”
Among the penalties given UConn is a three-game suspension of Calhoun for next season’s first three Big East games. Calhoun was cited for failing to monitor and promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program.
UConn was charged with recruiting violations, including allowing impermissible benefits from a booster, making impermissible phone calls and text messages, and providing impermissible complimentary tickets to individuals responsible for teaching or directing activities with prospective athletes.
Besides Calhoun’s suspension, the penalties included three years of probation, permanent disassociation with the booster, reduction of a scholarship for three years, and recruiting restrictions.
Calhoun said on Tuesday he had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision. And on Wednesday, most of the Huskies said they simply ignored the NCAA’s announcement.
“I didn’t pay attention to it at all,” freshman Jeremy Lamb said. “I didn’t even know it was coming out. I was in the student union, and people were saying it was coming out. But I didn’t pay much attention to it. And I’m not going to think about it now.”
Calhoun’s absence is nothing new. He missed seven games last season while on an undisclosed medical leave, and has missed parts of 20 games in previous seasons due to illness.
“We’re not worried, we’re still going to be under a great coach,” Lamb said. “It’s going to be a different voice, but the same stuff will be said.”
Calhoun did speak to the team before leaving for New Hampshire, but didn’t bring up the sanctions.
“He’s got bigger things to worry about,” Walker said. “It’s not going to affect us at all, anyway. We’re just going to play basketball, that’s it.”