Centenary, Tenn.-Chattanooga penalized
INDIANAPOLIS -- Centenary's men's basketball team and Tennessee-Chattanooga's football squad didn't make the grade with the NCAA and it cost them a chance to compete for a national championship next season.
Those teams became the first to be banned from postseason play because of poor Academic Progress Rate scores. Jacksonville State's football team, which is appealing a postseason ban, could join them. A decision is expected within six weeks.
NCAA president Myles Brand said Wednesday's announcement sends a message to the nation's college teams: Repeatedly failing to make grades comes at a heavy cost.
"I think it is a watershed because it shows the depth and severity of the penalties for schools that cannot come into compliance with academic performance," Brand said during a conference call. "Think back as a mode of comparison to when we have recruiting infractions, and we withhold them from postseason play, that's a big deal."
Consider, too, that the NCAA has backed away from handing down postseason bans for rules infractions over the past decade, a move that made Wednesday's announcement more emphatic.
It was a tough day for Centenary.
While the NCAA was making its announcement, Summit League commissioner Tom Douple said the Gents would be banned from playing in the season-ending conference tournament, too.
The scores are calculated based on data from the fall semester in 2004 through the spring semester in 2008. 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 used to correlate a final team score, with 1,000 points being perfect. Teams that fall below 925 annually can be subjected to immediate penalties. Those consistently falling below 900, such as Centenary and Tennessee-Chattanooga, face harsher sanctions.
Next year, schools with four straight years of poor scores could face the NCAA's most severe penalty, restricted Division I membership for the entire athletic department.
Centenary coach Greg Gary, who just completed his first season at the school and lost five players after being hired, is trying to turn things around with a stronger emphasis on academics.
Tennessee-Chattanooga, which competes in Division I football's second tier, contends it has consistently improved its APR number over the past several years, and hopes a better score in October will staunch the penalties next year.
"We can't do anything about the first three bad scores," Chattanooga associate athletic director Laura Herron said. "We improve year-to-year and we'll get out of this cycle."
Not all of the news was bad Wednesday.
The overall scores in baseball, football and men's basketball all showed improvement over the 2003-04 numbers. There was also a 23 percent drop among student-athletes leaving school in poor academic standing since 03-04.
The list of underachieving teams also showed a distinct delineation between programs with a lot of money and those with less funds.
Of the 85 teams penalized in football and men's basketball, only 10 came from the six traditional power conferences (Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Pacific-10) , and none received the two most severe penalties -- a reduction in practice time or a postseason ban.
"I think it [money] will always be a problem because when you take those who come in and are at risk, it is an expensive ordeal," Brand said. "Those schools who can't afford it are more likely to run into trouble, and I expect that will continue. It takes an investment to make sure the students are able to succeed academically."
One hundred seventy-seven teams overall were penalized.
Football and men's basketball accounted for 76 teams, discounting Jacksonville State.
Ten schools were cited in both football and men's basketball but only two -- Alabama-Birmingham and New Mexico State -- play in college football's top level. UAB was the only school in the major football to receive a reduction in practice times in both sports.
The SEC led the six biggest conferences with five teams penalized. Mississippi and Minnesota were the only BCS schools sanctioned in football.
McNeese State led all schools with eight teams sanctioned, while Nicholls State was next with six.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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