Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in documentary film.
NCAA revokes scholarship from Arkansas basketball
Mike Anderson press conference at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville Mike Anderson speaks during a news conference introducing him as the new men's basketball coach inside Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday, March 26, 2011.
FAYETTEVILLE The Arkansas men's basketball program will lose one scholarship for falling below the NCAA's academic progress rate benchmark for the 2009-10 academic reporting period.
The numbers, released Tuesday, show Arkansas' four-year APR percentage of 892 is up from an 886 multi-year score during the last reporting period, but still well below the NCAA's benchmark of 925.
It is the third consecutive year the program has fallen below the NCAA benchmark. Arkansas was placed on notice of possible penalties by the NCAA two years ago, but the school avoided penalties last spring because its single-year APR score improved significantly from 755 in the 2007-08 academic year to 955 in 2008-09.
The' single-year APR score for the men's basketball program in the 2009-10 year - the most recent reporting period - was 918.
It was the only of the university's 19 varsity programs to fall below the NCAA benchmark or the athletic department's internal benchmark of 935.
"While I am disappointed that we have been assigned a penalty in our men's basketball program, I am pleased with the direction we are moving in correcting APR issues of the past," Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said. "The seeds of this penalty were sewn three years ago and while some progress was made, we still fell short of our goal of remaining free of APR penalties."
Long said new Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson was made aware of the potential penalties during the hiring process in March. If all scholarship players are eligible next season, the penalty won't be enforced until the 2012-13 season.
"My staff and I are committed to working very hard to make sure our players are doing the right things both on and off the court in an effort to insure that APR penalties do not occur in the future," Anderson said in a statement.
Anderson was hired to replace John Pelphrey, who was fired after four seasons as Arkansas' coach in March. At the time of Pelphrey's firing, Long said on-court success and classroom success were among several factors taken into account.
"(The APR) was certainly a factor," Long said. "We've stressed that since we've arrived.
"I think it's part of the overall leadership of the program."
The penalty will leave Arkansas with 12 scholarship basketball players for at least one season. The program was also subject to a loss of four hours practice time each week, a punishment it avoided.
"Because of our success, our single-year rate, they've seen what we have done and we did not get the practice penalty," Long said. "We think that is a good sign. As we look at it and try to forecast for the future, we don't anticipate having another penalty next year."
Even with a perfect single-year APR score, Arkansas would not have been able to attain the NCAA's multi-year benchmark, UA director of compliance Jon Fagg said.
"That was part of our argument to the NCAA, that it didn't matter what we did last year or this year, the maximum total would have been 923," Fagg said. "If we had perfect scores and nothing had gone wrong in two consecutive years, it would have been 923 because of that 755.
"We tried to explain the mathematics of the whole thing to the NCAA. At the end of the day, they felt we had done some, so they gave us some relief and will allow us to practice, but took away the scholarship."
The UA had six programs finish with a multi-year APR of higher than 984, including a perfect score for women's gymnastics.
The Razorbacks football program finished with a 937 multi-year APR and the baseball program had a multi-year score of 961.