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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA has put Connecticut on notice — improve in the classroom or face tougher penalties.The Huskies men’s basketball team was one of six BCS teams sanctioned Tuesday for sub-par marks in the NCAA’s annual Academic Progress Rates report. The Associated Press reported last week that UConn will lose two scholarships for the upcoming season because of the APR report.
And if the grades don’t get better, the Huskies’ punishment could get worse.
Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., became the first school to get a postseason ban in two programs — men’s basketball and football — because of academics.
The APR measures classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team. Teams scoring below the 925 cutline can face penalties, though the NCAA does grant waivers. This year’s data covers 2006-07 through 2009-10. A perfect score is 1,000.
The average APR number for all athletes jumped three points to 970 in the latest report. Baseball (959) and men’s basketball players (945) each had a five-point increase while the football score (946) improved by two points.
That news was tempered by the record number of teams receiving postseason bans. Since the bans became part of the penalty structure in 2008, only four had received the punishment.
This year, eight teams were sanctioned. The contingent consists of men’s basketball teams at Cal State-Northridge, Chicago State, Grambling, Louisiana-Monroe and Southern, and football teams at Idaho State, Southern and Jackson State, Walter Payton’s alma mater.
“Instead of reform, we look to academic success and academic performance as a natural and automatic expectation of being a student-athlete,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “We need to keep working on that performance, just as a team works to improve its athletics performance, so their academics continue to rise as well.”
The NCAA handed out 58 penalties this year to schools that have had consistently poor showings over more than one year. These harshest penalties — postseason bans, practice reductions or guaranteed scholarship cuts — affected only one BCS conference teams: Arkansas, which will lose one scholarship in men’s basketball.
Five other BCS teams will lose scholarships only if an equal number of academically ineligible players leave school. Football teams at Maryland and Louisville could lose up to three scholarships. Men’s basketball teams at Georgia Tech and LSU could each lose one.
A seventh BCS team, Southern Cal men’s basketball, fell below the cutline at 912, but was not penalised.
Then there’s UConn, which posted the second-lowest score of any BCS team in the three major sports: football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. Jim Calhoun’s Huskies posted an 893, down from 930 last year and only one point higher than Arkansas’ men’s basketball team (892). Butler, the national runner-up, had a perfect 1,000.
UConn’s score also prompted the NCAA to notify the school it was in danger of facing the harsher historical penalties if the APR number doesn’t go up next year.
— Historically black colleges and universities, including Southern, accounted for 29 of the 58 harshest penalties. Teams at more than 300 schools were measured in this year’s APR, and only 24 of those were HBCUs.
— Four teams missed the cutline in the big three sports. They were Jackson State, Prairie View A&M, Southern and Texas Southern, all members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Nineteen schools had football and men’s basketball teams fall below the cutline and 10 had both their men’s and women’s basketball teams miss the mark.
— Colorado, the only BCS school to face scholarship losses in football and men’s basketball because of last year’s APR scores, made the cut this time. The Buffaloes had a 929 in football and a 926 in men’s basketball. Syracuse was the only other BCS school penalised in 2010. Its score improved from 912 to 928 in men’s basketball.
— When combining the two penalty structures, 103 teams were penalised, down from 137 last year. Two years ago, the number was 177.