UConn Got What They Deserved

This is the place where I was going to post the second part of my review of the 2012 season for the mid-major conferences.  However, being by trade a person that is paid to defend and argue the causes of individuals with whom I may or may not personally agree, and given David Griggs’ posting last week about the stupidity of the APR rules, I think it is only appropriate if someone speaks out in favor of the NCAA’s rulings.

First, let’s start with the APR, or Academic Progress Rate, calculations.  You begin with the total number of scholarships being given in a particular sport.  Each student-athlete that receives a scholarship can get up to 2 APR points.  1 point is given for staying in school and a second point is given for remaining academically eligible.  Therefore, if a team has 13 scholarship athletes and all 13 remain in school and academically eligible, the school would score 26/26 which equals 100% or a perfect 1000 score.  If, however, 2 of the 13 players become academically ineligible and leave the school early, they would only score 22/26 or 84.6% — an APR of 846.  If those 2 players remained in school despite poor academics, however, the score with be 24/26 or 92.3%/923.

There are two exceptions to the APR.  Any student that transfers to another school OR that leaves a school to turn professional in his sport, and maintained a 2.6 GPA or higher, does not count towards calculating the APR.  Thus, if a teams with 13 scholarships has three players leave early while keeping 2.8 GPAs, and the other 10 students are all academically eligible and stay in school, the school’s APR would be 20/20, or 1000, with the 3 players that left not counting at all.

If a school failed to meet a four year average of 900, penalties came in, beginning with scholarship reductions and eventually going up to postseason bans (or even possibly worse, suspension from Division I, though this has not been applied yet).  The NCAA is increasing the number to 930 over a multi-year change which means that for 2012-13, in addition to the 900 four year average, a 930 two year average was required.  In 2013-14 it will be a 930 four year average or 940 two year, and after that just a four year 930 average.  During the transition period, schools which historically have financial issues, such as Jackson State, have been granted lower standards though they will have to reach the 930 four year average by 2015-16.

APR’s are calculated a year after grades are final.  Therefore, any penalties assessed in 2011-12 were for four year averages from 2006-07 through 2009-10.  UConn’s four year average heading into last season was only 893.  As a result, the school lost two scholarships.  The reason for the low four year average was a frankly pathetic 823 APR for 2009-10.  For next season, while UConn will gets its four year average back over 900, the 823 will be added to a 978 for 2010-11, giving them a two year average of only 902, well below the 930 two year average required.

UConn’s argument is that the rules were changed on them.  The paid the penalty for the lousy 2009-10 numbers by losing two scholarships.  However, even if they scored a perfect 1000 for 2010-11, they could not get to a 930 two year average.  Further, when the 823 hit, the rules did not exist that required a 930 average over two years.  If not for the rule change, which happened after the 823 year, they would be eligible for the 2013 championship.

The argument is a strong one for UConn,  However, in my opinion, it fails on one very important point.  That point is quite simply that the NCAA rules, since 2005 when APRs were adopted, clearly stated that the goal was to obtain an average APR of 900.  In other words, schools were all clearly on notice that they had to get their scores over 900 on a yearly basis.  Essentially, schools were told that the better make sure they are recruiting student-athletes and not just athletes, because if they bring in a bunch of kids that go to classes for the fall semester, play hoops and goof off in the spring and then quit school, they won’t get to play in the championship.  UConn scored an 823 in 2009-10.  That is a pathetically low score brought on because UConn brought in exactly the type of student that the NCAA had told schools not to bring on.  I do not buy for one second the argument that UConn is in some unique place because it has athletes good enough to start for other schools sitting on its bench.  As I stated earlier, if the student has a solid grades, if they leave to play pro ball or to transfer to another school, they will not count in the APR at all.

UConn lost 2 scholarships last season and is banned from postseason play this season, all because of the actions of kids back in 2009-10 that aren’t even on the team anymore.  However, UConn is not a financially disadvantaged school that needs the breaks that a school like Jackson State is getting.  Additionally, they knew very well that they needed to try to have every year at or as close to 900 as possible and did not come close in 2009-10.  The only flaw I see in the system is the fact that UConn had no way at all to get its two year APR high enough to avoid the postseason ban next season.  With that fact known heading into this year [(823 + 1000)/2 = 911], the NCAA should have just given UConn its ban last season.

In any event, UConn knew the rules back in 2009-10.  They knew they needed their student-athletes to post something close to 900.  If they have just posted a number in the high 800s (882 or higher would have done it based on their 978 in 2010-11), they would not have been in this situation.  Instead, they have to pay the price.  As long as college athletics has the word “college” in it and student-athlete has the word “student” in it, schools need to learn that their athletes are not just money-making pawns but instead they have an obligation to the NCAA, and more importantly to every paying student at their school to make certain educations are being provided.  And they need to avoid allowing kids that have no intention of going to class from stepping foot on campus.  UConn is, deservedly, the poster child for just what can and should happen if a school forgets that.

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