UConn announced Thursday that the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance has denied the school's final appeal of a postseason ban because of the team's poor Academic Performance Rate scores. UConn requested a waiver in February, suggesting alternative penalties. When that waiver was denied, UConn appealed and the CAP denied that appeal on Wednesday.
It's still possible that the CAP or the Division I Board of Directors could amend existing policies but the NCAA's office of public and media relations issued a statement saying "it is not expected that either body will make any changes that could affect UConn or any other team facing a postseason restriction next season."
Previously, the NCAA had said that the CAP would take up the issue of adjusting its data collection during either its schedule April or July meetings. Now it appears that cannot be done.
"There is no further appeal," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said. "Regarding the data collection issue, CAP may examine policy issues later this year, but no changes are anticipated at this time."
The ban would keep UConn out of the NCAA and NIT tournaments. In addition, the Big East Conference has informally approved a rule that would lead to the Huskies being ineligible for the conference tournament in New York as well.
Despite Thursday's news and the multiple setbacks that will come as a result, sources said UConn coach Jim Calhoun is not expected to announce his retirement. Cahoun, who will turn 70 in May, has two years remaining on his contract. Sources also said Calhoun will be allowed to make his own decision – and will not be forced out or asked to retire.
UConn has argued that the graduation and academic rates used should include the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years, when reform measures have led to improved marks within the Huskies' program.
"We're asking them not to give us anything different from anybody else but for everybody to use the most current data and not to make this delayed by a year," UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said. "My hope is that since they retroactively applied the legislation that they will retroactively change the penalties."
Under rules approved in October, a school must have a two-year average score of 930 or a four-year average of 900 on the NCAA's annual Academic Progress Rate, which measures the academic performance of athletes.
UConn scored 826 for the 2009-10 school year and is expected to record a score of about 978 for 2010-11. With a two-year average of 902 and a four-year average of 889, UConn would not meet requirements and would be ineligible for the 2013 postseason. But by using the two most recent scores, UConn believes it would easily be eligible. That is the change would give UConn hope.
"Given where we are now, I'm not completely confident," Manuel said. "I'm hopeful, I guess would be the best word that the committee will continue to discuss the timing of the implementation and whether or not they'll use the most current two years to determine the APR for postseason play."
There doesn't seem to be much of a chance the NCAA will do that.
In its statement, the NCAA said: "Schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restrictions. The same standards are applied to each institution; to ensure all data are comparable for each team, there is a necessary lag time in calculating all the scores at a national level. Also, in UConn's first waiver denial, NCAA staff noted the men's basketball team's overall lack of academic achievement and minimal academic progress over several years."
NCAA president Mark Emmert echoed those thoughts last week at the Final Four in New Orleans.
"You know," he said. "the APR targets have been in place for a long time. Everyone's known that they're going to have to compete in a world where there's a 920 APR and we just moved it up to a 930. I don't think it's a shock to anyone that it's moved up to a 930.
"Again, the vast majority of schools and teams are performing well above that level. "
In a statement released by UConn, Calhoun said: "While we as a University and coaching staff clearly should have done a better job academically with our men's basketball student-athletes in the past, the changes we have implemented have already had a significant impact and have helped us achieve the success we expect in the classroom. We will continue to strive to maintain that success as we move forward."
Junior forward Alex Oriakhi has been granted his release from the program. He reportedly has had conversations with Kentucky, North Carolina and Missouri and is considering other schools. UConn is awaiting the decisions of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond, both of whom are weighing their options regarding entering the NBA draft. Lamb may announce his plans next week.
Calhoun told UConnPlaybook.com on Monday that he planned on meeting with Manuel and UConn president Susan Herbst this week. Manuel would not comment on any discussions he has had with Calhoun – or how the NCAA denial might impact Calhoun's future at UConn.
"Obviously Jim is not happy about [the denial], about where we find ourselves in the men's basketball program," Manuel said. "Beyond that, Jim and I have not talked about any impact of this on his decision or my decision or any part of the conversation around whether or not he will be here.
"Jim is our coach and Jim is committed to working to ensure that the student-athletes continue to do what they're doing now."