Weber Says APR No Problem For Illini

NCAA mandated academic requirements are putting a pinch on college athletic programs. Each school must maintain a certain Academic Progress Rate (APR) to use its full quota of scholarships. Bruce Weber says his Illini basketball team is not at risk of losing scholarships, but that could change in the future if players leave school early for the NBA.

Illinois head basketball coach Bruce Weber is pleased with the academic progress shown by his players. He says the Illini have a high APR score and are in no immediate danger of losing scholarships.

"We've been pretty fortunate. We've been in the upper 10% or so in the country. So we haven't had to deal with it."

Players leave programs for a number of reasons. Besides the NBA draft, they may transfer to another school or simply drop out, flunk out or be kicked out. If they have not maintained their academic progress through the semesters of college they attended, their negligence can come back to haunt their college according to Weber.

"You lose 2 or 3 players over a couple years, you could be in big trouble. But the NCAA understands that. Within reason, they're trying to keep those programs where they don't lose too many scholarships."

According to Weber, a school loses one point if a player leaves but two points if he is behind academically when he leaves.

"If you have a kid that goes to the NBA, you don't have to lose all your points. If the kid leaves your school, it's one point. But if he leaves when he's eligible, you don't lose another point. The killer is the '0 for 2.' Not only do they leave, but they're ineligible at the time.

"When Deron (Williams) and Dee (Brown) were gonna leave back a few years ago, I had to beg those guys to stay in school so it wouldn't hurt us. At least finish the semester or stay eligible by passing a couple classes. Those guys were pretty cooperative about that.

"If they stay in school, you will lose a point but you won't be hurt as badly. And then when they go to the NBA, there is a waiver process you can apply for."

There are avenues available for colleges faced with the likelihood of losing one or more scholarships.

"There's different ways around it. There's some waiver processes. Also, if you know you are going to lose somebody and have a scholarship open, you can do it ahead of time.

"I think Purdue did that a couple years ago. Matt Painter knew he was gonna lose one, so he didn't fill his whole roster. He declared the year he wasn't going to use a scholarship as the year.

"What the rule says is, the first time you have an opening, you cannot fill it. If you've already signed people and all of a sudden you get your score, the next year you're gonna have to leave one open if you don't win your waiver process."

The APR is confusing, and colleges are raising concerns about it. Weber says it is a frequent topic of conversation within the Big 10.

"It will be brought up at our Big 10 meetings, and I'm sure a lot of guys will be talking about it."

Speaking on WDWS radio, Weber also commented on a potential scheduling conflict with Gonzaga. Right now, the Chicago game with the Bulldogs is scheduled the same day as the Illinois football team's final regular season game.

"We could still move Gonzaga. We're still working on some things there. It's put a little more stress in Jay Price's lap. We had a contract with Gonzaga for that Saturday. We're the ones violating the contract. That's where you run into the bind.

"When Gonzaga plays all these big games early, they want to be on national TV. So they are a little bit disappointed. Even though the Big Ten Network has good coverage, not too many people out there (Washington state) subscribe to it.

The retirement of Big 10 officiating head Rich Falk also causes concerns according to Weber.

"Rich Falk is retiring, and that's gonna be a major thing. He's the former Northwestern coach, and he's the right hand man for basketball for Jim Delaney and head of officials. So that's gonna be a big step for us.

"Officiating is an important part of our game. I know they get a lot of criticism, but they're important. Rich has been very loyal, and we hope the right guy's picked for that."


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