Bloomington – The basketball season has been over nearly a month, but IU's players are frequent visitors to Assembly Hall these days.
Some of their time has certainly been spent getting to know new IU coach Tom Crean and his staff, but a larger segment of it is likely being spent with the academic counseling staff and in the academic center trying to finish out the semester strong.
By the sounds of it, that's a must if some of the current players want to remain eligible.
"We're not here to major in eligibility," Crean said. "And right now, that's the situation we have to deal with a little bit."
After less than a week on the job, Crean learned of his new team's academic situation and classified it as "not good." The basketball team posted a 2.89 GPA in the first semester when half of the players were at 3.0 or above, but it appears the second semester has been a completely different story.
While players were dealing with the Kelvin Sampson firestorm for much of the semester, Crean doesn't think that's a suitable explanation for what has apparently transpired.
"It was too easy for student-athletes to make excuses," Crean said. "Even though there was a lot going on here and there were a lot of changes made, there's no reason to not be doing a great job in school."
A late-semester turnaround in the classroom is also critical for the program if it hopes to avoid landing in hot water with NCAA and potentially losing scholarships due to a substandard Academic Progress Rate (APR) score.
The APR measures a program's ability to retain players and keep them eligible, and IU's latest score is expected to be released in May. The Indianapolis Star reported last week that IU's score will be 899, below the "cut" score of 925.
While stringing together a couple of substandard APR scores can result in NCAA penalties, Indiana could, hypothetically, be in jeopardy of squandering a couple of scholarships this year due to the Armon Bassett/Jamarcus Ellis situation. If those players aren't reinstated to the team and decide to leave the school, Indiana wouldn't be allowed to use their scholarships for another player next season if Bassett and/or Ellis were academically ineligible at the time of their departure.
The reason is this – if a team's APR is below the cut off of 925, then the institution isn't allowed to re-issue the scholarship of a departing ineligible player for the following year. It's the "contemporaneous penalty" portion of the NCAA's academic requirements, and it's what recently cost the Kansas football program a couple of scholarships in 2008.
In defense of Bassett and Ellis, there's been nothing to suggest that they are among those in academic difficulty, and Ellis was one of the seven Hoosiers with a 3.0-plus GPA in the first semester. But IU's academics troubles sounded as if they were widespread, and if one or both of them are among those in academic trouble, it's created a dilemma for Crean.
If he dismisses them and they aren't eligible, then he can't replace them on the roster next season. But if they aren't eligible and Crean opts to keep one or both of them, they could presumably regain their eligibility over the summer and Indiana wouldn't be down that scholarship next fall.
On top of that, if Crean had immediately shut the door on bringing one or both players back, they would have had very little motivation to ensure their eligibility was in tact at the end of the semester. They would have been sitting out next season regardless of their academic standing due to their decision to transfer.
While that's only a hypothetical, it's clear that the academic situation is one of great concern to Crean. He is making every effort to make sure the current crop of players do everything they can to get on track academically.
"We have to make progress there," Crean said. "As long as the daily attention to detail is there, the daily time is spent, the objectives are met, then we'll make progress."
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Remedying Academic Situation A Top Priority
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