Monday, June 25, 2012

A Tale of Two APR Casualties

By Jean Neuberger

It's a situation where Jim Calhoun can't win, yet Tod Kowalcyzk should.

The NCAA tournament will go on as scheduled in March 2013. Connecticut will not be there. Neither will nine other schools that the NCAA announced failed to meet Academic Progress Ratings standards. The APR, which call for a two year average score of 930 and a four-year average score of 900, seem to work for most athletic programs.

However, men's basketball continues to take a beating when it comes to the NCAA's academic standards. Two-thirds of the postseason bans handed out were men's basketball teams (three FCS football schools, one men's soccer team and one men's wrestling team are banned from postseason play). And, while debates can be held about how to fix the problem, there is one quick fix that the NCAA needs to address.

Notably, Connecticut and Toledo appealed vehemently to the NCAA. Though their situations were quite different, their pleas were identical in that they want the NCAA to evaluate programs on the most recent of academic years.

One team has a point. The other? Nope.

Toledo has a legitimate gripe. Despite a miserable APR score of 869 over four years, the Rocket program has improved drastically under the guidance of second year coach Kowalczyk. Though Toledo barely missed the two year benchmark, the noted improvement should have kept them from being banned from postseason play.

"I fully support the NCAA and its efforts to improve academic integrity, but I don't believe coaches and student-athletes who are doing the right thing should be penalized like this," Kowalczyk said in reference to Toledo's appeal to the NCAA being denied.

Kowalczyk is right. The APR should hold players and coaches accountable. If a coaching staff neglects to guide his players academically, they should be punished accordingly. However, when a new coaching staff is installed, the APR should reset for the coach. If there is noted improvement in a two year period, such as the case with Toledo, the NCAA should cut some slack and award the Rockets a chance for postseason play, although with watchful eyes. However, the new staff should be given four years to bring the numbers back to APR standards. If they fail to do so, even upon entering a bad situation, they should accept buyer's remorse and take the medicine.

Meanwhile, UConn's story centers around their legendary coach. Calhoun, while admitting he wasn't as watchful in the past as he should've been, stressed that the NCAA should weigh on a two year scale so that current, not former players, affect the postseason ban of the team. And, while Calhoun has a point, UConn's postseason ban is certainly justifiable.

Calhoun knew the rules. He's led the Huskies program for decades. He dropped the ball. His bosses let it continue and didn't come close to dousing the flames. And, while some of his past players have affected things for the current team, the burden lies squarely on Calhoun's shoulders. The drop in academic progress was completely under his watch.

The APR isn't perfect by any means but it also isn't going anywhere. And, while it might take some time to get most all the kinks straightened out, the NCAA should address the progress of new leadership and place it under serious consideration when passing out scholarship cuts or postseason bans. It's one thing to pass it to a program whose coaching staff helped bring it on themselves. It's another to hand it to a coach who was willing to plug the holes in a sinking ship.

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