In a perfect world, University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long would have went on and on about all 19 sports and their NCAA Academic Progress Report scores during Wednesday's teleconference with the media.
He did take time to laud the women's golf team for posting a perfect score of 1,000, the women's gymnastics team total of 991 and the fact that the baseball and men's golf teams had made great strides while 16 sports maintained or improved.
But most of the questions were about the basketball program's score of 888, far below the NCAA's cutoff score of 925 - something that earned it a public notice - and the only one of the 19 sports to have a sub-par score.
"Certainly men's basketball is an area that many of you are focused on and we are concerned about that score being below 925," Long said. "They are subject to penalties if we have any 0-for-2 student athletes (ineligible and not retained) at the end of this (school) year."
The score is made up from the 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years, not the current one.
"A couple of things I want to point out so that everyone understands is that this is a four-year score so we are looking back and the past four years and looking at the cumulative scores of those four years," Long said. "This is not a one-year situation. We didn't get this score in one year, we got it in four years and consequently it is going to take three to four years to pull it back up where we want it to be and that's above the 925 cutline."
Bottom line is that while Arkansas will not have any scholarships taken away for next year, but could have that done in the future along with practice time taken away and even a post-season ban if the score didn't improve.
"We are concerned and it is a very real potential for us," Long said. "If you look across the country today you will be seeing schools already realizing losses in scholarships. We are not there, we haven't lost a scholarship, we hope that we don't and we are going to be working very hard to not, but we are going to be in jeopardy of losing a scholarship for the next two to three years."
Arkansas head basketball coach John Pelphrey, who is in his second season, had this to say in a press release.
"As a basketball program, we are committed to the development of student-athletes academically and athletically," Pelphrey is quoted as saying. "Our current APR score is a reflection of many factors including a significant amount of transition in the time period evaluated.
"Just as we have taken steps to lay the groundwork for an even stronger team on the court, our coaches and academic support staff have worked with our student-athletes to help them enhance their academic progress," Pelphrey added. "I am optimistic that our continued emphasis and proactive approach will result in an improved team APR rating."
Less than 10 percent of teams had scores below 925, less than 4 percent below 900 and 177 teams at 107 school will receive an immediate or historical (public warning) penalty.
The Tennessee basketball program is losing a basketball scholarship and Ole Miss football will be without three of its grants.
"We are concerned about it and we are proactively working to manage it," Long said. "People have to remember that in the end, the student-athletes have to do the work to achieve the grades and receive the credit. The second piece is retention and we need to do our best to retain the student athletes that want to be here."
Long couldn't say for certain that none of the current Razorbacks won't be 0-for-2 guys.
"I really can't put a gauge on it because it all depends in the student-athletes and they are in their exam period now," Long said. "I really can't venture a guess. I think they have been performing well although that doesn't mean we won't have somebody slip up and not get a grade in a course that we anticipate."
Former Arkansas center Steven Hill has made it known publicly that he has signed up for an online course that will complete his degree.
He is one of seven guys – six seniors and junior Patrick Beverley – that all left the program last season and all were eligible, but none have graduated so far.
The UA could receive bonus points of those guys did return and graduate.
"We are working in all of our sports, but particularly basketball since it is a real concern, we are encouraging them to come back and finish the degree and complete things," Long said.
Long was happy about the rest of the sports, including football's 925 despite a coaching change.
"I am overall very pleased with our performance on the APR," Long said. "Our coaches, our staff and particularly most importantly our student–athletes are understanding the importance of working toward their degree, attending class and doing the things that ultimately result in our ultimate goal, which is for them to receive a degree from the University of Arkansas."
Long also noted that 16 of the 19 programs maintained or improved their score.
"While 925 is the cut-off scored for the NCAA," Long said. "we monitor our programs and anyone under a 935, we do some extra work with that program to identify what we can be doing strategically to improve going forward."
The Arkansas APR
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