May 072008
 
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

On Tuesday the NCAA released its fourth annual Academic Progress Report (APR) as part of the association’s attempt help institutions push student-athletes to raise their academic standards. As it turns out, the CSU men’s basketball program’s multiyear APR score is 885, 60 points below the minimum requirement. As a result, the men’s basketball team is required to lose two scholarships.

But the scholarships scheduled to be lost have already been scratched from CSU’s docket, as the penalty was anticipated by the athletic department at the end of the 2006-2007 school year. In fact, the men’s basketball team had three less scholarships during the 2007-2008 season due to personnel changes made within the program.

“While the penalty was only two less (scholarships), we actually had three less just because of the new coaching staff and not being able to fill the scholarships,” said Matt Brewer, CSU’s NCAA compliance director.

“We basically got a head start on the penalty because we knew we were going to have to take it at some point and since we had extra available scholarships to give, we just said ‘OK, we’re gonna take the penalty now .’ That’s why we had so many walk-ons playing this season.”

The Academic Progress Program, instated by the NCAA in 2003, has shown a considerable increase in overall grade point the past four years in the three major sports, football, baseball, and men’s basketball, but men’s basketball is still the lowest of the three.

“We saw it coming last year. We’ve taken a lot of steps to improve the trend with the basketball program.” Zak Gilbert, director of CSU media relations said. “We’ve hired a new coaching staff and hired a new academic advising staff last summer . I can confirm that the men’s basketball program will have all 13 scholarships next season.”

The main reason CSU is in this current situation is because, from 2003-2007, the men’s basketball program lost 18 players. But athletic director Paul Kowalczyk, hired in 2006, has made it a point to turn academics back to a priority.

Before coming to Fort Collins, Kowalczyk spent six years at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., where only one men’s basketball player failed to graduate.

Rams basketball coach Tim Miles had an excellent APR score while at North Dakota State, which according to Gilbert was a big selling point when Kowalczyk hired Miles as the program’s head coach in March of 2007.

The athletic department does not anticipate any more penalties for the upcoming school year, as no current member of the Rams’ roster has announced plans of leaving the program.

“At this point we’re not expecting any more loss scholarships.” Brewer said, “If someone were to end up being academically ineligible and they left the institution at the end of this year, then we would have to take a scholarship hit at the earliest possible convenience, but we have already filled our scholarship allotment for next year so that mean our penalty would be pushed back to the following year.”

Five of the nine Mountain West Conference schools received scholarship penalties for the upcoming school year.

Wyoming lost one basketball scholarship, New Mexico lost one basketball and small faction of a baseball scholarship, San Diego State will lose six in their football program and UNLV will lose an undisclosed amount for baseball, one basketball, three-quarters of one for men’s soccer and just more than half of a women’s indoor track and field scholarship.

Combined (including the penalty CSU already sustained), the MWC will lose more than 12 and a half scholarships.

SDSU’s penalty is tied with Toledo for the third largest penalty in the country behind Idaho and Alabama-Birmingham. The Aztecs six lost football scholarships were the result of being waived by the NCAA in 2006-2007 as long as the team satisfied designated criteria the following year. SDSU failed to do so.

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