Tuesday, October 25, 2011

UConn Can Play in '12 Tourney; '13 Still a Question

Countering a report by USA Today, NCAA president Mark Emmert assured that teams with substandard Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores will not be ineligible to compete in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Emmert said there was a “miscommunication” in his speech to the Knight Commission on Interscholastic Athletics on Monday in Washington, D.C., in which he was quoted as saying that teams that have fallen short of the 900 APR threshold could be banned from this season’s Big Dance, depending on a vote by the NCAA board of directors on Friday. That, of course, would have included UConn, whose four-year rolling average – released in May – is 893.

However, UConn isn’t out of the woods yet. Emmert stated that the postseason penalty would likely take effect for the 2013 tournament. Although UConn’s APR number is expected to be vastly improved for the 2010-11 season – in the 950-970 range, according to a source – it won’t be enough to lift the Huskies’ four-year rolling average above 900.

That would mean UConn wouldn’t be able to compete in the 2013 NCAA tournament, unless it successfully applied for a waiver.

Currently, teams can be granted waivers if considerable progress has been shown in improving its academic situation. However, Walt Harrison, chairman of the committee on academic performance and president of the University of Hartford, said in August that waivers may not be granted so freely anymore.

“The direction I'm getting from the board is not too much leverage there,” Harrison said two months ago. “If there is any appeal at all, it is going to be tightly defined and there may not be any.”

UConn president Susan Herbst, however, hopes that the recent steps the school has taken to improve the academics of all of its athletic programs – under her leadership – would be taken into account.

“Probably the most important thing is that the president is involved,” she said. “I think that’s happening more and more around the country, (presidents) getting involved with faculty and coaches, getting student-athletes the right time and place to study, support from faculty to travel and myriad of other things.”

Upon taking over as school president in June, Herbst created a President’s Athletic Advisory Committee, comprised by some of the university’s most well-respected faculty members. The committee has implemented a plan aimed to improve UConn’s APR in men’s basketball – and, indeed, for all sports – moving forward.

The five-point plan looks to make sure players who leave to turn pro are academically eligible when they depart; encourage former players who have exhausted their eligibility to return to complete their degrees through the National Consortium for Academic and Sport Degree Completion program; require all players to enroll in a minimum of nine credit hours during summer school; provide enhanced academic support services in the summer prior to and the fall semester of a player’s freshman year; and, decrease the number of players who transfer with eligibility remaining.

While it’s obviously too early for these new guidelines to have had much of an effect on UConn’s current APR situation, there have already been some tangible signs of progress. UConn’s APR for the 2010-11 hasn’t been completely calculated yet due to a couple of working points, but it should wind up in the 950-970 range.

“One of the things I bring is a strong interest in faculty monitoring success in the athletic department, a very good, devoted faculty who has high standards and also love sports,” Herbst said. “That’s the kind of faculty member I was.”

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October 27, 2011 at 1:45 PM 

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