UConn, Southern take hits in new APR reports

The NCAA has put Connecticut on notice – improve in the
classroom or face tougher penalties.

The Huskies men’s basketball team was one of six BCS teams
sanctioned Tuesday for sub-par marks in the NCAA’s annual Academic
Progress Rates report. The Associated Press reported last week that
UConn will lose two scholarships for the upcoming season because of
the APR report.

And if the grades don’t get better, the Huskies’ punishment
could get worse.

Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., became the first school
to get a postseason ban in two programs – men’s basketball and
football – because of academics.

The APR measures classroom performance of student-athletes on
every Division I team. Teams scoring below the 925 cutline can face
penalties, though the NCAA does grant waivers. This year’s data
covers 2006-07 through 2009-10. A perfect score is 1,000.

The average APR number for all athletes jumped three points to
970 in the latest report. Baseball (959) and men’s basketball
players (945) each had a five-point increase while the football
score (946) improved by two points.

That news was tempered by the record number of teams receiving
postseason bans. Since the bans became part of the penalty
structure in 2008, only four had received the punishment.

This year, eight teams were sanctioned. The contingent consists
of men’s basketball teams at Cal State-Northridge, Chicago State,
Grambling, Louisiana-Monroe and Southern, and football teams at
Idaho State, Southern and Jackson State, Walter Payton’s alma
mater.

”Instead of reform, we look to academic success and academic
performance as a natural and automatic expectation of being a
student-athlete,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
”We need to keep working on that performance, just as a team works
to improve its athletics performance, so their academics continue
to rise as well.”

The NCAA handed out 58 penalties this year to schools that have
had consistently poor showings over more than one year. These
harshest penalties – postseason bans, practice reductions or
guaranteed scholarship cuts – affected only one BCS conference
teams: Arkansas, which will lose one scholarship in men’s
basketball.

Five other BCS teams will lose scholarships only if an equal
number of academically ineligible players leave school. Football
teams at Maryland and Louisville could lose up to three
scholarships. Men’s basketball teams at Georgia Tech and LSU could
each lose one.

A seventh BCS team, Southern Cal men’s basketball, fell below
the cutline at 912, but was not penalized.

Then there’s UConn, which posted the second-lowest score of any
BCS team in the three major sports: football, men’s basketball and
women’s basketball. Jim Calhoun’s Huskies posted an 893, down from
930 last year and only one point higher than Arkansas’ men’s
basketball team (892). Butler, the national runner-up, had a
perfect 1,000.

UConn’s score also prompted the NCAA to notify the school it was
in danger of facing the harsher historical penalties if the APR
number doesn’t go up next year.

Other findings:

– Historically black colleges and universities, including
Southern, accounted for 29 of the 58 harshest penalties. Teams at
more than 300 schools were measured in this year’s APR, and only 24
of those were HBCUs.

– Four teams missed the cutline in the big three sports. They
were Jackson State, Prairie View A&M, Southern and Texas
Southern, all members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Nineteen schools had football and men’s basketball teams fall below
the cutline and 10 had both their men’s and women’s basketball
teams miss the mark.

– Colorado, the only BCS school to face scholarship losses in
football and men’s basketball because of last year’s APR scores,
made the cut this time. The Buffaloes had a 929 in football and a
926 in men’s basketball. Syracuse was the only other BCS school
penalized in 2010. Its score improved from 912 to 928 in men’s
basketball.

– When combining the two penalty structures, 103 teams were
penalized, down from 137 last year. Two years ago, the number was
177.