By I.C. Murrell
By I.C. Murrell
COMMERCIAL SPORTS EDITOR
The one-year postseason ban assessed to the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball team overshadowed what was otherwise a solid Academic Progress Rate report for the school.
Coach George Ivory’s Golden Lions were the only one of UAPB’s 16 varsity programs to receive any sanctions related to academic performance Wednesday, but one of 10 men’s basketball teams in the nation to draw a postseason ban from the NCAA. Among the 10 are Connecticut, which won its third national championship in 2011, and defending SWAC champion Mississippi Valley State. Cal State Bakersfield, California-Riverside, Jacksonville State, North Carolina-Wilmington, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Toledo and Towson are the others.
The list will be shortened if UAPB and Bakersfield successfully challenge their low APRs. UAPB blamed its low score on incorrect forms and data needed to calculate its APR and has an investigation from the NCAA ongoing. It’s reported that some of Bakersfield’s data is still being evaluated.
UAPB isn’t blaming its low score on poor academic performance itself, citing the high scores of other programs.
“Overall, our students are doing what they need to do in the classroom,” UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy said. “With the new increased standards, UAPB, like a lot of institutions around the country, have some challenges in meeting those new demands, but it’s just incumbent upon us to make sure we get the programs in place and the personnel in place to make sure we are giving these students an opportunity to be successful.”
Players could not be reached for comment on the ban. UAPB interim chancellor Calvin Johnson said in a statement the ban allows the men’s basketball team “to refocus their energies on excelling” in the classroom and on the court.
“Everyone associated with the university, from our administrators to the students, will play integral roles in helping the program meet, and even exceed, the high academic standards required by both this university and the NCAA,” Johnson said. “I have no doubt that this shall be accomplished.”
The possibility of a ban has affected the Lions’ recruiting efforts, Ivory said. While UAPB has avoided losing any scholarships for the low APR, only two players — Trent Whitting of Des Arc and Trent Jeffries of Gulfport, Miss. — have signed letters-of-intent with the Lions.
“We’re trying to get a couple more kids, and kids want to know are we going to get to the tournament,” Ivory said.
For now, that won’t be the case in 2013. But the ban is unlikely to chase Golden Lions fans away from H.O. Clemmons Arena in the winter, although their team can’t chase an NCAA bid.
“It is our hope that it won’t,” Hardy said. “UAPB isn’t the first school to be in this situation and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but what we’ve seen from other institutions in this situation, it has not had a drastic impact on fan support.”