NCAA Sticks to Its Guns: UConn Appeal DeniedPosted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2012
In news today that was only surprising to those who believe the NCAA has no spine, the organization denied Connecticut‘s final appeal over its eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament based on its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. NCAA legislation enacted last October requires a four-year average APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930 in order to become eligible for next year’s Tournament — UConn’s APRs of 826 in 2009-10 and 978 in 2010-11 average out to a two-year score of 902 (well below the 930 cutoff), and its four-year average of 893 also comes up shy of the eligibility threshold (900). The Husky program argued that its proposed remedial measures, which included the possible forfeiture of NCAA Tournament revenue, greater academic support mechanisms and the existing loss of two scholarships, should be sufficient punishment for the school’s past academic failings. But that appeal was rejected, presumably on the grounds that the NCAA cannot afford to lose further credibility by backtracking on this mandate.
Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy got involved on Thursday, telling the Hartford Courant:
It’s almost as if they’ve decided to get UConn one way or the other. [The NCAA] can’t get out of their own way. I think I have the same reaction a lot of people have when they understand what’s going on. For the first time in its history, the NCAA is making a retroactive application of a new rule. They modified a rule without modifying the time in which he comes into effect. … They changed the rule and didn’t give people time to adjust to it. … They are breaking their own precedents to bring this about. UConn has cleaned up its act, and now the NCAA is punishing a bunch of kids who have absolutely nothing or very little … to do with the failures of the past.
NCAA spokesperson Eric Christiansen responded to this criticism by saying that “schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restrictions.” Of course, he’s right. UConn and other schools have known about the 900 threshold for a long time — they only started to take it seriously, though, when the NCAA gave it the necessary teeth to impact postseason eligibility through last year’s added legislation. And about the argument that the players from the 2009-10 team that caused so much of the APR problem are no longer around? No disrespect intended toward those former or current Huskies, but how is this different from other rules violations where a school is placed on probation for the actions of a former coach and/or players? The list is long of such situations on the other side of the rule-breaking fence — why should academic issues be treated any differently?
Connecticut hopes to win a last-ditch effort to effectively change the reporting period when the NCAA Committee on Academic Progress meets on April 23, with the idea being that its upcoming APR score in 2011-12 will elevate its two-year average above the 930 threshold. While great in theory, the problem with the timeline change is that it doesn’t allow for a sufficient data collection and administrative process. If it takes until November to collect all the data and analyze it, schools could theoretically be arguing with the NCAA next January and February for inclusion in March’s NCAA Tournament — that’s not a future scenario that the NCAA is likely to envisage, and therefore it would seriously throw us to see the NCAA make things harder on itself by allowing UConn’s requested “one-time” exemption.
As for the impact on the program itself, this is very difficult to prospectively examine but we’ll give it a try…
- Will There Be a Mass Exodus of Huskies? Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb are guaranteed first round NBA Draft selections if they decide to leave school, and if there’s no NCAA Tournament to play for next season, why would they stay? Alex Oriakhi has already decided to transfer elsewhere and because he is a junior he will be able to play immediately. Would sophomore Shabazz Napier and freshman Ryan Boatright be crazy enough to try to go League, or would they too seek the Oriakhi fix somewhere other than Storrs, even if they have to sit out a year? One thing is for certain, next year’s UConn squad is unlikely to look at all like this year’s underachieving group — Tyler Olander could be the best player on the team.
- Recruiting Becomes Even More Tenuous. With only one elite player committed in next year’s freshman class — NYC’s Omar Calhoun — and the recent elimination of UConn for the services of shot-blocking menace Nerlens Noel, the talent dropoff in Storrs could be cataclysmic if most or all of the above players leave campus. Furthermore, it’s much harder to sell prospects on the UConn brand when the program is in the gutter than it is when coming off a national championship. This confluence of events — APR ineligibility, mass transfers — could put Connecticut into a several-year tailspin from which a quick recovery would be very difficult.
- Where Would This Leave Calhoun? We’re of the general belief that Jim Calhoun will have to be dragged kicking and screaming from his spot on the UConn bench, but if the three-time national championship coach decided to hang up the clipboard in light of all these issues, it surely wouldn’t surprise anyone else. Consider that he’ll be 70 in May and his health issues are well-known already. Does he want to spend the better part of the next two years trying to rebuild a program that could very quickly fall to the bottom of the Big East? He’d arguably be looking at three to four years before he could realistically field another NCAA Tournament championship contender. Is that how he wants to spend these golden years? Our answer is “yes,” but we’ll allow for the possibility that he’ll decide to move on.
More questions than answers at this point, but over the next three weeks, we should have a fairly clear picture of the future of this regal program. Stay tuned.