NCAA turns down UConn waiver

Updated: February 10, 2012, 7:33 PM ET
Associated Press

STORRS, Conn. -- The NCAA on Friday turned down the University of Connecticut's request for a waiver that would allow its men's basketball team to play in the 2013 national championship tournament.

UConn doesn't qualify for the tournament because of below-standard academic results, but it requested a waiver last month.

The school proposed alternate penalties, including playing a shorter schedule next season, forfeiting the revenue awarded to the Big East for participating in the 2013 tournament, and barring coach Jim Calhoun from meeting off-campus with prospective recruits during the fall 2012 contact period.

University president Susan Herbst said she's disappointed by the decision of NCAA staff to reject that proposal, but said the school will appeal.

"I want to be clear that during my entire career as a scholar and a teacher, I have been in full support of high academic standards in collegiate athletics," she said. "However, in this case, there are good students who could be penalized for the problematic behavior of students who have not been enrolled for years. Educators and parents need to do what is right for their students, and not allow them to be caught in the dynamics of public relations."

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 student athletes.

Connecticut's men's basketball scored 826 for the 2009-10 school year. UConn's score for the 2010-11 school year is expected to be about 975.

That would not be high enough. It would give Connecticut a two-year score of 900.5 and a four-year average of 888.5.

In its waiver request, obtained this week by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information request, UConn proposes it be allowed to play in the tournament if it agrees to forfeit the tournament revenue, reduce the number of regular-season games played in the 2012-13 season from 27 to 23 and bar Calhoun from meeting off-campus with prospective recruits during the fall 2012 contact period.

The schedule changes also would include eliminating exhibition games next season, but would not impact the team's play at the in-season Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands. So the actual number of games played would be 26 rather than 30. The school said all hours that would have been spent in competition will instead transfer to study hall, tutor sessions or meetings with advisers.

The school said Calhoun will bring a current or former NBA player to inner-city schools for at least five educational sessions on the importance of academic achievement.

The waiver request outlines the school's Academic Improvement Plan -- new programs and penalties the school has in place to improve the team's academic standing.

That includes mandated sanctions for any player who misses three or more classes during the academic year and daily checks of course work for student-athletes who have a grade-point average of 2.3 or lower.

The defending national champions would be academically ineligible in 2013, because the NCAA plans to use data from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years.

Walter Harrison, the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance has said that the body will be meeting on Feb. 20 to discuss whether to adjust reporting dates to allow schools to use their most recent data in qualifying for tournaments. For the 2013 men's basketball tournament, that would mean scores from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic year.

UConn would qualify for the tournament under that scenario.

The university pointed out in the waiver request that the team attained perfect APR eligibility and retention scores for the Fall 2011 semester. The school also noted that it has just one player on the team left from the group that scored low enough to warrant sanctions.

"We continue to believe that we have made a very compelling case in our waiver to the NCAA and we are pleased with the recent outstanding academic success of our men's basketball student-athletes," Herbst said.

The school's appeal now goes before a subcommittee of the Committee on Academic Performance and could be further appealed to Harrison.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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