Arkansas News Bureau

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas men’s basketball program has lagged behind the NCAA’s benchmark rate for academic progress for four years but won’t face sanctions because players have demonstrated steady improvement in the classroom, the school said Wednesday, citing an NCAA report.

The 18 other UA intercollegiate sports programs exceeded the Academic Progress Rate benchmark by at least 10 points for the fourth straight year, including a perfect score by the gymnastics and men’s tennis programs, the report showed.

The basketball program’s 957 score for the 2010-2011 school year exceeded the 925 APR benchmark, but the four-year average amounted to 894. The range included the 2007-2008 year, when the men’s basketball APR fell to 755. The low mark will not be included in the multi-year report beginning next year, so continued improvement will assure a score above the minimum going forward, according to a news release by the university.

“As we acknowledged a few years ago, it was going to take a number of years to see the statistical effect of the significant progress we have made academically in our men’s basketball program,” UA athletic director Jeff Long said in the release. “The NCAA has taken notice of our commitment to sustained academic improvement and has decided to reward our program’s progress by not assigning penalties.

“Under the leadership of Coach Mike Anderson and his staff, I am confident we will continue to make measurable progress both academically and athletically.”

The APR requires each team to calculate its ranking each year from semester to semester based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship athlete. This year’s multi-year scores are based on the 2007-2008 through 2010-2011 school years.

The low-water mark came largely because the team’s six seniors of 2006 completed their eligibility without graduating.

Arkansas lost a scholarship last year as a result of the lower-than-required performance but because of significant academic improvements qualified for an exception this year granted as part of the NCAA’s move to a 930 APR benchmark.

“As we were making the transition to 930 there were a number filters that were built into the penalty determination,” said Diane Dickman, managing director of academic and membership Affairs at the NCAA. “One of those … that was applicable (was) any school to have a 930 APR over the last two years would be filtered out of the penalty, and Arkansas met that requirement.”

With no penalties this year, the team can have a full complement of 13 scholarship players.

Rotnei Clarke and Glenn Bryant left the basketball program last year and were part of the calculation for the 2010-11 year. Jeff Peterson also was granted his release last summer but his departure did not hurt because he earned his degree.

In non-graduation years, players can earn two points toward the team’s APR — one for retention and one for eligibility. Players who leave without graduating but leave in good academic standing cost the team a retention point, but the team retains the eligibility point.

Gone from the 2011-2012 team are Devonte Abron and Julysses Nobles. Both left in good academic standing.