UAB Fines Athletes to Improve Academic Standards; Slippery Slope?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 21st, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Earlier this year, Connecticut was one of 10 college basketball teams to receive a one-year postseason ban for not meeting the NCAA’s minimum four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) threshold of 900. The Huskies filed an appeal, arguing that recent reforms had produced increased scores over the past two years. In the end, though, the NCAA stuck to its guns and reaffirmed its initial ruling. And so it was that UConn – a program that has experienced a rapid rise into the college hoops elite under coach Jim Calhoun – just one and a half years removed from winning a national championship, was banned from the sport’s pre-eminent postseason tournament. The Huskies probably won’t feel any measurable downturn in recruiting success or national cachet as a result, but the sentencing proved that even the sport’s marquee brands are vulnerable to the NCAA’s increased academic standards.

After struggling to keep up with the NCAA’s APR standards, UAB is going new lengths to improve its academic standing in the coming years.

A one-year postseason ban in men’s basketball doesn’t come close to the sort of multi-faceted, crippling atom bomb the NCAA dropped on Penn State.  Alabama-Birmingham is nonetheless determined to avoid a UConn-esque fate, and it’s adopting a unique approach to work toward that end. The program has endured a rough history of keeping up with the NCAA’s academic reforms. During the last measured four-year APR period (2003-07), UAB had six teams fail to meet the minimum mark and was the second-most penalized program in the nation for its academic shortcomings. With that spotty track record, it comes as no surprise that the Blazers are seeking new ways to enforce academic responsibility. In a formal Q & A with the Birmingham News, athletic director Brian Mackin outlined his plan to keep UAB’s various teams above the APR cutline. Along with increased academic support, study time and access to student-athlete advisors, UAB has laced its academic compliance code with monetary disincentives.

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Morning Five: 08.16.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2012

  1. As we’ve discussed in this space all week long, the Big East has a new negotiating team and a new commissioner, both brought on board with one clear goal in mind — to get the best possible television deal for its member institutions during the upcoming TV negotiation window. Mike Aresco was introduced as the new commish at the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday, and his overarching theme in his opening speech was one of stability and unity. With a ragtag group of schools playing different sports in different leagues all over the country, he certainly has his work cut out for him; but, the good news for Aresco’s vision of conference stability is that there aren’t all that many valuable and poachable schools left in his league. Only two-sport schools Connecticut (ACC) and Louisville (Big 12) could reasonably be expected to receive future offers, and although either would jump at the chance, at least Aresco will have an opportunity to put all the Big East’s financial cards on the table before those offers come to pass.
  2. Julius Peppers has been the topic du jour in the ACC this week, and prominent writers from around the country continue to weigh in on the depth and the breadth of the developing scandal. Mike DeCourcy is the latest to note that UNC absolutely must take the lead in thoroughly investigating and extensively reporting the situation, dating back as far as it needs to go (translation: even before 1998, if the evidence points in that direction). This statement says it all: “It is essential North Carolina commence the sort of comprehensive self-examination Penn State undertook in regards to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. For all the pain and embarrassment that resulted from the Freeh report, Penn State is much closer to recapturing its soul today than Carolina.” And therein lies the rub. Like Penn State before it, UNC has long been quick to tell anyone who will listen that it does things differently. The evidence that we’ve now seen suggests otherwise — Carolina must get its head out of the sand and show that they’re serious about finding the truth here, even if that veracity stains the very premise of sanctity on which the whole house was built.
  3.’s survey of coaches has caused quite a bit of buzz over the past 10 days, but its most recent key question resulted in nearly as many different responses as their were respondents. Well, not really, but asking coaches an open-ended question about what rule they’d like to see changed was certain to produce a great deal of variance. The most popular response was a desire to reduce the 35-second shot clock to something approaching the NBA’s 24-second limit, but eight different answers received at least five percent of the vote. John Infante at the Bylaw Blog broke down each of the prominent responses (our favorite: “No postseason ban for APR: That tells me the penalty is effective.”) but his greater point is that college basketball coaches, unlike other sports, have no consistency in their message because they’re not even sure what they want as a group. He suggests that the NABC should make itself useful by putting together a comprehensive and logically consistent platform about how to regulate the sport of college basketball. It’s a good read, and makes too much sense for it to actually happen.
  4. Have you guys heard that Indiana is back? Apparently the students of IU have gotten the memo, as the Indianapolis Star reported this week that the school has already sold out its entire allotment of student tickets for the 2012-13 season. A total of 12,400 tickets were sold for the largest student section in the country of 7,800 seats, ensuring that every student ticket-holder will be able to attend at least 10 of the Hoosiers’ 16 home games. This is all fine and well, but at a school like Indiana with its extremely rich history and an ingrained statewide basketball culture, it shouldn’t take 10 years for student seats to sell out (the last time was 2002-03). We understand that demand always rises with winning, but the fact that it’s been since before the Iraq War started for the students to fully support their team is just shy of ridiculous. We expect fair-weather that stuff at places like Auburn or USC, not Indiana.
  5. In the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, Jim Boeheim‘s Syracuse Orangemen matched up against Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels two times, and the results were not pretty. UNC spanked Boeheim’s team twice, coincidentally by the same score, 87-64, each time. A guard by the name of Michael Jordan led the Heels in both games — dropping 18/7/4 stls in the first game (in Charlotte), and 19/5 in the second (in Syracuse). Perhaps Boeheim has never forgiven His Airness for those dual beatdowns, as he recently gave an interview to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio where, in light of his experience with Team USA and LeBron James, he dared to say that he’s “not so sure anymore” that Jordan was the best player he’s ever seen. We’re only being silly about Boeheim holding a grudge against MJ 30 years later, but there’s no question that King James has had a fantastic 12 months — the question that needs to be answered, though, is whether he will sustain it.
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