APR rule change would hit UConn

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Changes in NCAA rules adopted Thursday would keep defending national champion Connecticut from participating in the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Under the rules adopted by the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors, a school cannot participate in the 2013 tournament unless it has 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. A UConn official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the number isn't official until next May, said the score for the 2010-11 school year would be approximately 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.

Connecticut, which lost two scholarships this season as a result of the latest APR report, sought clarification hoping the NCAA might use numbers from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. The 2011-12 numbers are not expected to be released until May 2013, after the tournament is played.

But NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson confirmed the governing body's position.

"For access to postseason competition in 2012-13 and 2013-14, teams must achieve a 900 multiyear APR or a 930 average over the most recent two years to be eligible," he said in an email to the AP. "For 2012-13, those years would be 2009-10 and 2010-11. For 2013-14, those years would be 2010-11 and 2011-12."

The NCAA also said the current process for collecting and reporting the data, which takes about a year to complete, would continue. But, it said the committee was interested in ways to speed up the process, and that could eventually result in more current data being used to determine eligibility. There also will be an appeals process before a team is banned from the tournament, the NCAA said.

University of Connecticut president Susan Herbst said in an email Thursday night that she endorses the NCAA changes, but believes the punishments should be applied "as soon as possible after violations are found, not two years later."

"Students who have enjoyed academic success should not suffer because of the shortcomings of individuals who played in prior seasons," she said in an email. "It is my understanding that the NCAA has already begun examining the fairest method for implementing the new rules and I encourage them to make the time frame between a violation and a punishment as short as possible."

Walter Harrison, the president of the University of Hartford and chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance, said the changes were made to give teams a chance to change behavior, but would be implemented rapidly "so they are going to have to get on the stick," he said.

Herbst noted that Connecticut this summer implemented a new plan to improve academic performance in men's basketball.

It calls for:

• Ensuring that athletes who leave early are academically eligible when they depart.

• Requiring nine credit hours of summer school for returning players to ensure they are progressing toward graduation

• Providing more academic support services to incoming freshmen in the summer before they enroll and that fall

• Cutting down on the number of transfers

• Encouraging players who leave early for a professional career to come back and finish their degrees.

"Again, we are pleased with the outcome of today's NCAA decisions and they certainly fit where I want to take this university," Herbst said. "Our newly implemented academic plan has already produced an extraordinarily high APR score for our men's basketball team in 2010-11."

Len Elmore, a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, called UConn's situation unfortunate, but said he was not surprised.

"It's a cautionary tale," he said. "But the need for again, focusing on the true mission of the university, is to graduate players and you can't fail at the most important task whether you're national champions or not."