If no news is good news then the UConn men's basketball team could stand some silence. Instead, the 2011 NCAA champs have endured one of the most difficult seasons in recent history. Forget the inconsistent basketball or the first-round tournament loss to Iowa State. The Huskies have now lost five players to either the NBA or transfer, only have one freshman recruit for 2012-13 and, oh yeah, they're ineligible for postseason play next spring due to low Academic Progress Rate scores.
And it's that last point that has not only the school concerned, but also some Connecticut lawmakers. At issue: the NCAA uses several years of data to create an aggregate APR score, just not the most recent data. Consequently, the Huskies fall below the minimum threshold, though they would clear it and would be eligible to play in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments if the most recent academic data were included.
UConn appealed the decision, the NCAA denied it, which prompted six members of Connecticut's Congressional delegation to write a letter to the NCAA. Details via the Associated Press by way of ESPN.com's College Basketball Blog:
"While we understand and support the goals of ensuring quality educational opportunities for student-athletes and the need for strong sanctions for failure to meet those goals, we have misgivings about the retroactive implementation of the penalty," the members of Congress wrote. "In particular, the NCAA appears to have imposed an overly harsh and unfair penalty by imposing APR sanctions retroactively for conduct and circumstances that had already occurred."
It's basically the same talking points we've heard from the university and the basketball program since the ruling. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams offered this response: "Every other team at the University of Connecticut met the standard," he said. "Every other team in the entire Northeast did. So obviously the standard was well known and others met the standard. The real issue is the academic performance of the UConn men's basketball team."
That's a very polite way of saying "Yep, you guys brought this on yourself and we're not changing our minds. Live with it." Which means that things will likely get worse in the short term before they get better down the road.