NCAA defends Connecticut ban

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The NCAA defended its standard for academic performance Thursday that led to Connecticut's men's basketball team being banned from next year's postseason and has sparked concerns from members of Congress.

UConn faces a postseason ban because of several years of low scores on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. The school argues the penalty was applied retroactively and hurts current students, who had nothing to do with the low scores.

Six members of Connecticut's Congressional delegation wrote a letter Wednesday expressing similar concerns with how the rule was implemented.

"While we understand and support the goals of ensuring quality educational opportunities for student-athletes and the need for strong sanctions for failure to meet those goals, we have misgivings about the retroactive implementation of the penalty," the members of Congress wrote. "In particular, the NCAA appears to have imposed an overly harsh and unfair penalty by imposing APR sanctions retroactively for conduct and circumstances that had already occurred."

But Bob Williams, an NCAA spokesman, said colleges have known about the standard and penalties since 2006.

"Every other team at the University of Connecticut met the standard," Williams said. "Every other team in the entire Northeast did. So obviously the standard was well known and others met the standard. The real issue is the academic performance of the UConn men's basketball team."

The NCAA approved rules in October requiring a school have 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, in order to qualify for the 2013 postseason tournament.

Williams said he understands the disappointment over the penalty.

"But the process is inherently fair," Williams said. "They've essentially had since 2006 to ensure that their academic performance was above 900."

Connecticut's men's basketball program scored 826 for the 2009-10 school year. UConn's score for 2010-11 was 978. That would not be high enough. It would give Connecticut a two-year score of 902 and a four-year score of below 890.

But if more recent scores were used, UConn could be part of the tournament in 2013.