Even if Towson basketball coach Pat Skerry can pull off the most drastic turnaround in college basketball history, his team will not play in the postseason next year.
Towson, which finished 1-31 in Skerry's first season, was one of 10 Division I teams — three-time national champion Connecticut was another — banned from NCAA tournament play because of an unsatisfactory score in the Academic Progress Rate report released Wednesday.
Maryland football, meanwhile, compiled a single-year 972 APR for the 2010-11 school year, pushing the Terps' four-year average above the 925 penalty line (to 931). The Terps were docked three scholarships last season because of a low score derived from the formula meant to measure the percentage of student athletes receiving scholarship money who stay eligible, graduate or transfer in good academic standing.
"Everyone in our department, including coaches and staff, has made a priority of ensuring our student-athletes achieve their goal of graduating with a Maryland degree," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. "... We're particularly pleased at the strong improvement in the single-year figure in football."
Maryland had unsuccessfully fought last year's punishment, arguing a revamped adminstration deserved more time to enact reform. Scores released Wednesday by the NCAA are the first to reflect numbers accrued under Anderson, and also account for the first few months of football coach Randy Edsall's tenure.
Towson, likewise, tried to convince the NCAA to issue a waiver because of turnover within the department but was denied. The basketball team's four-year APR score of 873 plummeted because of an 800 recorded in former coach Pat Kennedy's final year. In a news release, the school said it projects the team's single year score to be at least 938 when numbers for Skerry's first year are released next year.
Mike Waddell, who took over as Towson's athletic director in late September 2010, was upset that he never had a chance to meet in person with NCAA officials. Through a news release he expressed dismay at the decision.
" ... We are disappointed that our appeals have been denied and the critical specifics of our case were not recognized," he said. "The legislation which was passed last fall and quickly implemented for the upcoming 2012-13 season was done so without an opportunity for Towson's new athletics administration and coaching staff to take corrective measures which impact our score, which we have done."
He also echoed a common criticism of the APR system: it punishes athletes and coaches who may not have been part of the problem.
"While this penalty is coming for the 2012-13 season it is critical that all realize that the student-athletes and coaches who are serving this postseason ban had no part in the actions which led to the punishment," he said.
Towson will not be eligible for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, per conference rule; only teams who would be able to use the automatic NCAA berth awarded to the champion may participate, Waddell said. The Tigers have also been docked four practice hours — out of 20 — per week. Waddell said that change would not be a problem; Skerry had limited on-court time earlier this year in favor of extra academic work for his players.
The Coppin State men's basketball team, which was docked four scholarships last year (three for the 2011-12 season, one for the upcoming season), had a 979 single-season score and was not punished. Its four-year average of 862 was excused, according to the NCAA report, "based on institutional resources" — or lack thereof. As a limited-resource institution, Coppin is able to work under a slightly relaxed standard but must continue to show progress toward qualifying numbers, said Dwayne Henry, an assistant athletic director who works in compliance for the school. Limited-resource schools are those among the bottom 15 percent of all NCAA schools, as determined by a formula that takes into account spending on athletes and other students.
Morgan State men's basketball, which lost scholarships two years ago and needed a waiver to escape a postseason ban last season, came close to reaching the four-year cutoff with an 899. The marked improvement — a yearly score of 974 — earned it another reprieve.
Calculating the APR for a team is fairly simple. Each athlete on scholarship can gain two points: one for staying eligible, and one for returning to the team or graduating (or, in some cases, transferring to another school with at least a 2.6 GPA.) The APR number is actually the percentage of points earned. Most penalties are based on a four-year rolling average, though penalties based on shorter periods are possible. Dating back to 2004-05, the system has constantly been tweaked.
Teams with lower than a 925 risk scholarship reductions if a player failed to stay eligible and left school.
Teams that fail to achieve a 900 risk more severe penalties, which escalate each year; four years of non-compliance can lead to suspension from the NCAA.
*Coppin was not punished because it is considered a limited-resource school and is held to slightly relaxed standards; Morgan was not punished because of demonstrated improvement.