Penalized: Cougars lose scholarships
The College of Charleston will lose one scholarship in men's basketball and 92 percent of one scholarship in baseball for failing to meet the NCAA's guidelines for academic progress.
"These punishments are for past, not current failures," said Charleston athletic director Joe Hull. "We have developed an improvement plan, and the academic performance of these teams is improving."
The NCAA's annual academic progress report was released Tuesday. Of 6,272 teams in all sports, 174 received scholarship penalties. The Academic Progress Rate measures how effectively a team returns academically eligible athletes from semester to semester. The scores cover the academic years from 2003-04 through 2006-07.
The Citadel and Charleston Southern did not receive penalties in any sport.
Realizing the men's basketball program was going to be docked a scholarship in the report for its historical performance, South Carolina pre-emptively opted to hold a scholarship this past season.
That became an easy decision to make when Mike Jones was kicked out of school this past summer for failing to meet academic requirements.
The men's basketball and football teams, the "at-risk" Gamecocks teams, escaped any further penalties.
Jennifer Stiles, the school's assistant AD for compliance, said USC was granted a "conditional waiver" in those sports, contingent upon further academic improvement by virtue of a university-instituted "APR improvement plan."
Among the items included in that: more strict attendance policies; additional attention to academic records in the recruiting process; and the addition of more academic advisers, particularly for road games.
The Gamecocks' men's basketball team had an 899 score, reflective of the various transfers and academic casualties from the past few years. It's believed that the current class is working to bring that figure up.
The South Carolina football team scored a 921, four points below the 925 needed to avoid red flags. Changes to USC's coaching and academic staffs were cited as reasons for the waiver, Stiles said.
None of Clemson's 19 athletic teams are subject to NCAA penalties, and 16 of the Tigers' sports showed improvement over last year.
The men's basketball team finished with a 920, but faculty athletics representative Larry LaForge said that won't incur a scholarship reduction because of a perfect score for the 2007-08 academic year.
Oliver Purnell's team has improved its numbers substantially over the past two years, seeing its four-year average move from 878 to 920. The football team finished at 950, 14 points higher than the national average for Division I Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
"I think we're in pretty good shape overall," LaForge said. "We're right around the ACC median scores for most of our sports. Basketball, of course, is where we need to improve. And I think we're working on that. This year's perfect score shows the direction we're going. But we're still below the cut line, and we've still got some work to do."
Clemson's baseball team posted a 966 average, far ahead of the national average of 938.
"The APR is one of the most significant parts of academic reform initiated by the NCAA," athletic director Terry Don Phillips said in a statement released by the school. "In that regard we are pleased to see the continued improvement of our programs across the board. It shows that our student-athletes have a strong academic experience with an opportunity to graduate."
Charleston basketball coach Bobby Cremins said he had anticipated the loss of a scholarship. The Cougars had a rating of 894 in men's basketball.
"I was notified of this problem when I became head coach in July of 2006," Cremins said. "I fully realized that this penalty may be coming our way. We'll do everything we can to help each team member be a successful student in the future."
It marks the second time the Cougars' baseball team has been faced with a scholarship reduction. The Cougars lost 64 percent of one scholarship last year. The baseball team scored 899 in the APR.
"Baseball is a unique sport in that so many of our players have the opportunity to leave school early and play professionally," said Cougars coach John Pawlowski. "We're working very hard with these improvements to give our student-athletes the best, academically and athletically."
The Citadel's APR scores in men's sports ranged from 923 in basketball to 979 in cross-country. Football registered a score of 951, above the average for all Division I schools (934) and for Football Championship Subdivision members (936). Baseball had an APR of 969, again above the average for Division I (938).
Basketball's score of 923 ranked below the D-I average of 928. According to the NCAA, any team with an APR below 925 must develop a "plan for improving the academic performance of student-athletes with specific goals and steps to meet them."
At Charleston Southern, men's scores ranged from 915 in football to 950 in cross-country and tennis.
Not all Southern Conference and state schools were as fortunate. In the SoCon, the football programs at Georgia Southern and Chattanooga were docked again, GSU losing 3.51 scholarships in an immediate penalty with an APR of 905. Chattanooga was hit with an "historic penalty," losing 2.73 scholarships with an APR of 855 in football. Both teams also were penalized last year.
Other SoCon programs on the NCAA's penalty list were Georgia Southern men's golf (losing 0.33 of a scholarship); UNC Greensboro men's basketball (1 scholarship) and men's outdoor track (0.38); and Chattanooga wrestling (0.25).
Other state programs on the penalty list were Winthrop men's cross-country (0.26) and Coastal Carolina men's outdoor track (0.61).
In the Big South, Gardner-Webb football (1.85 scholarships) and Liberty men's basketball (2 scholarships) were the major programs on the penalty list.
Overall, 18 BCS teams were penalized, eight in men's and women's basketball and two in football. Of those, only four teams — Kansas State, Purdue, Southern California and Tennessee — made the NCAA men's basketball tournament. All four could lose up to two scholarships next season but only if a player leaves school while academically ineligible.
Also making the list were traditional powers like LSU baseball and Tennessee men's swimming.
Tennessee and West Virginia, with three teams each on the list, were the only BCS schools with more than one team sanctioned. Each school had three teams make it — West Virginia in men's soccer, wrestling and women's rowing and Tennessee in men's basketball, men's swimming and baseball.
While retention rates have risen steadily the past four years, NCAA president Myles Brand remains concerned about men's basketball. That sport had an overall score overall score of 906.2 for retaining players. It's already led to a committee debate about how to help such teams, including discussion about how coaching changes affect APR scores.
The NCAA also is reconsidering how it views summer school classwork, transfers and the fact that basketball is a two-semester sport. Brand said he hopes there will be changes by next year.