Colorado, Syracuse penalized

Updated: June 9, 2010, 5:39 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA's big boys have figured out how to beat up the little guys in the classroom, too.

Spend more money.

The newest Academic Progress Rate, released Wednesday, showed seven of the 137 teams facing penalties come from BCS conferences and only two power conference schools -- Colorado and Syracuse -- were sanctioned in football, men's basketball or women's basketball. Both schools said they have already taken the scholarship losses and won't be affected next season.

And there's little doubt about the reasons for the disparity between big and small schools.

"It is clear resources make a difference and the schools that do have resources can make more timely adjustments," NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon said. "We clearly have examples of low-resource institutions that were very successful academically, it's not just money, but we're trying to help."

Assistance didn't come quickly enough for Portland State, which lost an appeal to avoid a postseason ban in men's basketball. Nine other schools, none from BCS conferences, all received waivers. A year ago, football teams at Jacksonville State and Tennessee-Chattanooga and the men's basketball team at Centenary were the first schools to be banned from postseason play because of sub-par academic scores.

The APR measures the classroom performance of every Division I team and this year's data was collected from 2005-06 through 2008-09.

Syracuse and Colorado defied the trend.

Colorado was penalized one scholarship in men's basketball and four in football, while Syracuse lost two in men's basketball for falling below the NCAA's 925 cutline. Officials at both schools said they took away the scholarships last season after academically ineligible players left school.

Syracuse was one of only four NCAA tournament teams from last season to get hit with a penalty. The others were Houston, Morgan State and UTEP. Orange coach Jim Boeheim, the reigning national coach of the year, had an explanation for his team's 912 score.

"We had three students leave school early to pursue professional basketball careers last spring and that is difficult to overcome," he said. "We anticipate being back above the APR standard when the next report is compiled."

The APR is billed as a real-time academic measure of every Division I team. Each athlete receives one point per semester for remaining academically eligible and another point each semester for remaining at that school or graduating.

A mathematical formula is then used to calculate a final team score with 1,000 points being perfect. Teams falling below 925 can face conditional scholarship losses. Teams consistently falling below 900 can be penalized more harshly.

So when Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris all left for the NBA, Boeheim's team could have lost as much as six points.

Lennon and Walt Harrison, chairman of the Committee on Academic Performance, didn't buy it.

"I've learned a lot from Jim Boeheim. I understand his frustrations, but in the end, I'm not persuaded by his arguments," Harrison said.

Colorado was one of 10 schools to be sanctioned in both sports, though the other nine all compete in the Football Championship Subdivision. And four of those 10 are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

The Buffaloes scored 920 in football and 897 in men's basketball.

"Naturally, the APR score for football is of great concern to both our academic and athletic leadership," Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a statement. "It represents a challenge we are working to meet through our APR improvement plan, new academic support staff in athletics, and renewed focus in recruiting and engagement with our student-athletes."

The good news is that overall APR scores increased by three points, to 967, over last year. Scores in the three lowest scoring sports -- baseball, football and men's basketball -- also increased and the number of teams decreased for the second straight year.

Harrison said 27 percent fewer athletes are flunking out of school since 2004-05 and that more athletes are coming back to earn degrees.

But NCAA officials understand many schools do not have enough money to respond to problems like Colorado.

Two years ago, the governing body instituted grants to help supplement academic aid at low-income schools, but so far, the results haven't changed much.

• Only four BCS teams, other than those at Colorado and Syracuse, face penalties: men's outdoor track teams at Auburn and Cincinnati, the men's indoor track team at Auburn and the women's rowing team at West Virginia.

• Of the 20 schools facing reductions in scholarships or practice time or both, none are BCS schools and eight are HBCUs.

• Florida International and Southeastern Louisiana each had seven teams sanctioned, the most in Division I. McNeese State was next with six. Cal State-Fullerton, Chicago State, Delaware State, Howard and Nicholls State all had four teams on the list. Georgia Southern, Portland State, Southern University, Southern Utah, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Texas-San Antonio each had three.

• Tennessee-Chattanooga avoided a second straight postseason ban in football despite scoring 885 because the team showed "demonstrated improvement" over last year's score of 870.

"I am haunted by the challenges that low-resource institutions have in showing academic performance," Harrison said. "We are looking for ways that will help them, so we're doing everything we can, we believe, to help them. But it continues to be a nagging problem."


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