INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA's new academic requirements could give new meaning to the madness of March.
A record 10 men's basketball teams, including three-time national champion Connecticut, will be banned from next season's NCAA tournament because of subpar work in the classroom. UConn becomes the first school from a "big six" conference to face a postseason ban in either of the two most prominent college sports based solely on the annual Academic Progress Rate scores, which the NCAA released Wednesday.
Each of the schools fell below the mandated cutline of 900 on their four-year scores. The APR measures the classroom performance of every Division I team. This year's data calculates rates from 2007-08 through 2010-11.
Joining the Huskies on the sideline next March will be Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California-Riverside, Cal State Bakersfield, Jacksonville State, Mississippi Valley State, North Carolina-Wilmington, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Toledo and Towson.
Cal State Bakersfield, which became a full-fledged Division I member in 2010-11 and does not yet have a conference affiliation in basketball, could be removed from the banned list because some of its data is still being evaluated.
"I think if a (BCS school) didn't make it, it would look really bad," Ohio University professor David Ridpath said last week. Ridpath is also past president of NCAA watchdog The Drake Group.
All the banned teams, including Connecticut, face additional sanctions of losing a minimum of four hours of practice time per week, which must be replaced by academic activities. The penalties could create an unusual scenario for the seven affected conferences.
Not only will UConn and the other teams be ineligible for NCAA play, but league officials could also rule them ineligible for the individual conference tournaments. If that happens, it could force changes in the tourney pairings.
Big East presidents already have said any team ineligible for the NCAA tourney will not be allowed to compete in conference tournaments, including UConn.
"We'll have to adjust the bracket accordingly," Big East associate commissioner for men's basketball Dan Gavitt said Wednesday, noting the Huskies still could win an appeal to the Committee on Academic Performance. "Until CAP makes that final determination, we're not going to have any comment. We wouldn't change the brackets. We would accommodate it in such a way that it would work. We would just have to eliminate a game and move someone up on the line."
The Mid-American Conference already has a policy that says teams that receive postseason bans from the NCAA are ineligible for MAC tournaments. But MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher doesn't think Toledo should be punished because coach Tod Kowalczyk, hired in 2010, has brought a "change in culture" to the Rockets.
"I am extremely disappointed with the NCAA's denial of the University of Toledo's appeal of the men's basketball post-season ban for the 2012-13 season," Steinbrecher said in a statement. "The Mid-American Conference and member institutions want to be held to the highest academic standards and is fully supportive of tying academic performance to athletic participation, however, Toledo is not an institution that should be punished for doing the right thing.
"The hiring of a coach committed to academics and the subsequent change in culture brought by that staff to the men's basketball program at Toledo is highly commendable and should have been a strong mitigating factor in considering whether Toledo is deserving of a post-season ban penalty. Toledo, unfortunately, is an institution that is in the wrong place at the wrong time. The timing of the NCAA to move on these penalties is unprecedented, combined with the mitigation that Toledo presented, it's an extremely disappointing decision."
None of this came as a surprise to Connecticut, which had a four-year score of 889 and lost an appeal to the NCAA for a waiver that would have allowed it to play in next year's tourney. School officials contend that if the NCAA used the team's two most recent scores, 826 in 2009-10 and 978 in 2010-11, UConn's two-year score would be 902 and argued that school's self-imposed changes are already producing better academic results.
Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel said Wednesday the school would continue to fight what it believes was an unfair process, but he does not believe the punishment will be overturned.
"I hope my colleagues come to the realization that if they change the rules and make this in effect that the NCAA has to change the way it review the data," Manuel said. "That's the only fair thing to do."
Manuel said the school was still urging the NCAA to use data from 2011-12, something he says would make the school eligible. He said the team expects another high score for the season that just ended, though all those numbers are not yet in.
The NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance is expected to discuss the rule changes at a meeting next month, but Manuel said the school holds out "little hope" that anything will change before next year's tournament.
"It doesn't mean we are going to roll over and just accept it and not talk about it," Manuel said.
He said he had not been in contact with any of the other schools facing a postseason ban and is not contemplating legal action.
"I feel we have to react to this in the process," he said. "And that's why I'm so frustrated that the process of the NCAA was accelerated and didn't give us time. But we are a member of the NCAA and we are part of the process, and we will handle it that way."
Walter Harrison, the chairman of the Committee on Academic Performance and the president of the University of Hartford, said his committee will review the process with an eye toward the future.
"I do not expect us to make any changes retrospectively," he said. "If we make changes -- and I'm not sure that we will make any -- that would be done prospectively, I believe. And I think there's very little chance we're going to change anything."
League officials will now have to adapt the new college basketball landscape.
For the second straight year, the SWAC will delay the first 10-team tournament in men's basketball history. They had two teams banned last year and will return to that traditional eight-team format again next year because Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State will be ineligible.
The only other league with multiple teams on the banned list, the Colonial Athletic Association, has not said what it will do.
Four others -- the Big West, Mid-American, Ohio Valley and Southland -- all have one team on the list.
The Ohio Valley issued a statement saying Jacksonville State would be one of the four teams that will not compete in the league tourney, regardless of where it finishes in the standings. Conference officials said Texas A&M Corpus-Christi (Southland) and California-Riverside (Big West) also will be barred from their conference tourneys. Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell wrote in an e-mail to the AP that each team finishing behind Riverside in the standings will move up one spot in the seeding process.
The penalties could have a significant impact.
"If there's one, two, three four different teams in any given conference, it would have a major impact in how the bracket, how the tournament is run, ticket sales, television exposure," Gavitt said. "I think that's the goal of the presidents -- to make the penalties more impactful, more meaningful."
NCAA rules allow each individual conference to determine how to award their automatic bid. In addition to banning ineligible teams from league tournament play, they could give the automatic bid to the regular-season champ or tourney runner-up if an ineligible team won the postseason tourney. Or they could forfeit the bid, which is the unlikeliest scenario.
Only three football teams received postseason bans -- Hampton, North Carolina A&T and Texas Southern. All are members of the Football Championship Subdivision and are considered historically black colleges or universities. The only other teams to get postseason bans were Central Connecticut State in men's soccer and Northern Colorado in men's wrestling.
In all, 54 teams fell below the 900 mark with roughly 80 percent (43) of them coming from what the NCAA defines as limited-resource schools.
"It's another cottage industry for between the haves and the have-nots," Ridpath said last week.
Despite the penalties, the overall numbers are improving.
The new four-year average of 973 represents a three-point increase over last year's report, and scores in each of the four most visible sports also went up. Baseball jumped six points to 965, men's basketball had a five-point increase to 950, while women's basketball (970) and football (948) both improved by two points.
Single-year APR averages have increased every year since 2004-05, the second year data was collected, though only slightly from 2009-10 (973.8) to 2010-11 (974.0)
The most recent one-year scores for men's basketball and baseball both decreased from last year's report. Men's basketball went from 951.6 to 950.9, while baseball slipped from 966.6 to 963.9 over the same period. In football and women's basketball, the one-year numbers both increased slightly in this year's report.
NCAA president Mark Emmert acknowledged both the good and bad of the report, saying there was room for improvement and that he believes university presidents are firm in their belief that success in the classroom is every bit as important as it is on the playing field.
"We still have room for improvement," he said. "The NCAA's overall goal, of course, is to blend academics and athletics. The amount of support among university presidents for these eligibility standards remains extremely strong."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.