Tuesday, December 24, 2013

UNO Hockey Coach Dean Blais Suspended 3 Games for Improper Reimbursement of Jaycob Megna's Stolen Watch

The World-Herald reports that UNO hockey coach Dean Blais and junior defensemen Jaycob Megna have been suspended for the Mavericks' next three games because the UNO athletic department doesn't understand the NCAA's rules over theft of student-athlete property.

The abridged version of the story:  During a game against Bemidji State in October 2012, Megna's watch disappeared from the locker room. Sophomore Aaron Pearce also reported the loss of $100 at that time.  The incident was reported to MECA, the organization that operates the CenturyLink Center where the Mavs play.  The watch and the money have not been recovered.

UNO internally determined that the athletic department could not replace the watch under NCAA rules.  Sounds like one of those cases where the NCAA's rules prohibit people from doing the right thing, right?

Wrong.  In this situation, it is allowed by the NCAA.  UNO just didn't realize it.

The story continued, and over time, the story shifted from the NCAA not allowing the reimbursement to UNO not being able to afford the $400 reimbursement.  That's downright ridiculous.  Last spring, Megna went ahead and replaced the watch himself.  Blais learned of it, and gave him the $400 replacement cost.

That's the NCAA violation.  Should Dean Blais know better?  Yes.  But he was doing the right thing by the student athlete.

And in the end, UNO did eventually realize they could reimburse Megna after all, but it was too late.  And once the Ha Ha Clinton-Cix situation at Alabama became known, Blais recognized that he had also done wrong.

Bottom line:  Megna and Blais will miss the New Hampshire series the first weekend of January as well as the Friday night game against Minnesota-Duluth the week after.  Megna also has to donate $400 to charity.

UNO says that they'll improve security around their locker room, which is all fine and well.  Shouldn't that really be MECA's responsibility anyway?

But more importantly, who in the compliance department is going to be held accountable for not getting the correct answer from the NCAA in the first place?  It's a shame that Blais and Megna have to pay the price for UNO's screw-up.

A lot of good things are happening around UNO athletics.  Just look at UNO men's basketball, who now have an RPI higher than Nebraska ... and Michigan .... and UCLA, for crying out loud.
And all this in spite of administrative functions that aren't working.  This is the same organization who is trying to build a 7,500 seat arena for a hockey team that averages nearly 8,000 fans a game.  And last week sent out a survey five times to season ticketholders to gauge how much more fans want to pay to watch UNO hockey.

Here's a thought for UNO.  Put the arena plans back in the file drawer...and fix the support system for these sports first. When UNO can't do the basic things right, how can you build an $80 million arena that's already questionable?

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