The UConn men's basketball team is currently ineligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament because of low Academic Progress Rate scores in recent years. The university appealed the NCAA's ban and on Thursday the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance informed Connecticut that their appeal has been denied.
“I want to be clear that everyone at UConn is and will always be committed to academic excellence for all of our student-athletes and in particular our men’s basketball players,” UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel, a past member of the NCAA’s Academic Cabinet and Academic Eligibility and Compliance Committee, said in a statement released by the school. “Before we even began this appeal process, the University and its Division of Athletics began to implement changes that were designed to positively impact the academic performance of our men’s basketball student-athletes. We have and will continue to make adjustments designed to help these young men succeed.”
The problem is that the NCAA doesn't use the most recent year's data when calculating cumulative APR scores, and it's the reason the Huskies have fallen short of expectations. Since implementing changes, the men's basketball team registered a perfect APR score for the 2010-11 season, and another perfect score for the Fall 2011 semester.
“While we as a University and coaching staff clearly should have done a better job academically with our men’s basketball student-athletes in the past, the changes we have implemented have already had a significant impact and have helped us achieve the success we expect in the classroom,” said men’s basketball Coach Jim Calhoun. “We will continue to strive to maintain that success as we move forward.”
Ultimately, the buck stops with Calhoun, who ignored -- either conveniently or willfully -- the academic warning signs and it took NCAA intervention in the form of two lost scholarships and now no '13 tournament appearance, to get his attention. That said, the manner in which the NCAA has decided to administer the APR sanctions is unprecedented. Not the severity of the punishment, but its swiftness.
According to the university's official statement, the 2013 tourney ban is the result of APR scores calculated over two- and four-year periods from 2007-08, '08-09, '09-10 and '10-11. Data from 2011-12 won't be used when considering punishments for 2012-13.
“When this change in legislation was adopted by the NCAA Board in October 2011 and made effective for the 2012-13 academic year, it gave the illusion that institutions had time to adjust to the legislation," Manuel said. "Yet the data had already been submitted under a different penalty structure, one that would not have excluded our men’s basketball team from participating in the post-season. The approach to APR marks the first time in the history of the NCAA that it has ever implemented an academic rule significantly impacting current student-athletes without allowing the members time to adjust to the adoption of the legislation."
And in 53 weeks, the Huskies have gone from national champs to a program on the brink of -- if not irrelevancy than certainly prolonged mediocrity. Perhaps that's still overstating it but the reality is this: Alex Oriakhi has already left because of the impending sanctions, and the latest news could push Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond into the NBA Draft. It could also signal an end to the Calhoun era. And while the Huskies' biggest recruit, Omar Calhoun, said he's still coming to Storrs, he's also the only recruit in the 2012-13 class. You can't compete with the nation's elite with a one-man recruiting classes.
What this means for the Huskies over the long haul remains unclear but it certainly looks grim from where we're standing.