When the NCAA released Academic Progress Rates for all Division I athletic programs Wednesday, the Huskies were the headliners as the first major-conference program to receive a ban from postseason play in football or men's basketball. UConn was one of 10 men's basketball teams and 15 teams overall to be banned from postseason play in 2012-13.
UConn and the other banned teams face additional sanctions that include losing a minimum of four hours of practice time per week – to be replaced by academic activities.
All of this negative publicity, despite the fact the UConn men received a near perfect score of 978 for 2010-11, easily the best mark for the program in the past four years – as UConnPlaybook.com reported on Tuesday. But mixed with an 826 score in 2009-10 and an 844 in 2008-09, the Huskies still face a postseason ban in 2013 which will include the Big East tournament, the NIT and the NCAA tournament in the upcoming season.
Under rules approved by the NCAA membership in October, a school must have a two-year average APR score of 930 or a four-year average of 900. UConn's two-year average is far short at 902, as is the four-year average at 889.
"I believe very strongly that this is a game-changer," NCAA Committee on Academic Performance chairman and University of Hartford president Walter Harrison said on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. "It sends a message to our teams and to our critics that we mean business. Teams need to take care of [academic] things first things first, or they won't be able to play in the postseason. Those teams not eligible for the postseason need to think hard about who they recruit and how they support their student-athletes."
UConn athletic director Warde Manuel, in Cromwell, Conn., to participate in the pro-am event at the PGA's Travelers Championship, called the score recorded by the men's program on Wednesday "outstanding." He also said UConn will continue to urge the NCAA to use data from the 2011-12 academic year as part of the two-year data collection period. The team is expected to receive another high score, even though that data is not complete.
Twice the NCAA has rejected appeals from UConn concerning the penalty. The Committee on Academic Performance will meet again in July and may discuss changing the data collection process. But no decisions are expected to be retroactive, leaving the Huskies out of postseason play.
"I do not expect us to make any changes retrospectively," Harrison said. "If we make changes - and I'm not sure that we will make any - that would be done prospectively, I believe. And I think there's very little chance we're going to change anything."
Big East Conference presidents have approved a measure that says any team ineligible for the NCAA tournament will not be allowed to compete in conference tournaments. That will require a change in the championship format at Madison Square Garden in New York but will also protect other Big East teams trying to reach the postseason.
But the Big East is waiting to see what happens next month. "We'll have to adjust the bracket accordingly," Big East associate commissioner for men's basketball Dan Gavitt said Wednesday. "Until CAP makes that final determination, we're not going to have any comment. We wouldn't change the brackets. We would accommodate it in such a way that it would work. We would just have to eliminate a game and move someone up on the line."
Gavitt said the goal of the presidents is to make the penalties "more impactful, more meaningful."
Three UConn players have transferred since the NCAA denied the school's appeal for a waiver. Alex Oriakhi transferred to Missouri and will be able to play his senior season without sitting out a year. Sophomore forward Roscoe Smith transferred to UNLV and redshirt freshman center Michael Bradley has moved on to Western Kentucky.
In a statement released by UConn, Manuel said, "All of us are disappointed in this potential postseason ban, but this is a time that we need all Husky fans to support our men's basketball team more than they ever have before. We have a championship men's basketball program here at Connecticut and it is going to stay that way. We need our fans to come to games this season and cheer louder than they ever have before. Our student-athletes are wearing the UConn jersey, competing hard for our school and are great people."
In addition to the high score made official Wednesday, there are other good signs at UConn. Jeremy Lamb, who has entered the NBA Draft after his sophomore season, completed his spring schoolwork and left the university in good academic standing. His departure will not have a negative impact on UConn's 2011-12 APR.
And Gavin Edwards, whose eligibility ended in 2010, has returned to the hope of earning his degree in sociology by September. That would restore a point to UConn's score in future APR calculations.
Reports from The Associated Press were included in this story.