Archive for Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Baseball, football grants at risk

February 28, 2006

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Kansas University's football and baseball programs stand to lose a slice of their scholarship allotments unless the NCAA agrees with KU's recent request for a waiver on the punishment.

The losses could come as a result of low Academic Progress Rate scores, scheduled to be released Wednesday. The scores for all of KU's sports teams - as well as seven other schools - won't be released then because the waiver process still is in progress.

Associate athletic director Paul Buskirk said KU went through the waiver process last week - on time - in hopes of eliminating the penalties. He declined to say how many scholarships were at risk for each program, though he did confirm the maximum for a given team was 10 percent a year. That would translate to no more than two or three for football (out of 25 per year) and no more than one for baseball in a given year.

Even if the NCAA denies KU's waiver, KU can appeal the rejection. Buskirk, though, said he was confident no scholarships would be lost.

"Based on the strength of our appeals," Buskirk said, "I feel very strongly about it."

The cutoff for a team in good standing is a two-year-average APR score of 925. Football has an average of 904, while baseball comes in at 887.

A third team, women's basketball, scored 897, but was considered in satisfactory shape due to a margin-of-error safety zone for programs with fewer scholarship athletes.

APR is calculated by giving athletes on scholarship one point per semester for remaining eligible and one point for remaining on campus. The points then are calculated for each team and divided by the highest possible point total. That percentage then is translated to another point total, with 1,000 being the highest. So, a score of 925 essentially means a team compiled 92.5 percent of all possible points.

To further complicate matters, a score under 925 doesn't necessarily mean looming penalties. A program only is subject to penalties if its score is below 925 and an underclassmen fails to pick up a single point in a given semester - that is, leaves campus and leaves in poor academic standing.

Baseball and football each had zero-point cases with individuals, and combined with their sub-925 scores, might face punishment.

Buskirk, without getting specific, stated health and family issues and professional aspirations as reasons for some of the involved athletes going 0-for-2 in a semester. He also said KU pointed out to the NCAA its increased academic budget and increased academic staff as reasons KU should be given a break this time around.

"All three programs have made improvement from the '03-04 to the '04-05 year," Buskirk said. "It is our expectation that our numbers next year will reflect that trend."

Football and baseball did have lower scores last year, but a two-year average is taken into account for this APR report. Next year, a three-year average will be used, and all scores after that will be a four-year average.

Buskirk complimented women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson on her team's APR score skyrocketing "overnight." Last year's APR score for women's hoops was 780, while this year's was 958. It averaged out to the 897 the NCAA pays attention to.

Men's basketball, which hovered around 925 last year, sprung to 982 in 2004-05 for a 953 average and now is considered safe.

"We are one of the schools on the good side of that," KU coach Bill Self said of being ahead of the minimum standard. "We're in great shape there.

"They've done a great job at Kansas over time, not only retaining guys, but graduating them. That trend hopefully will continue. I may not know everything, but I know where all our guys stand in all their classes. Ronnie Chalmers (director of basketball operations) and Scooter (Scott Ward) do a great job keeping me informed on everything as far as academics."

Three teams - men's and women's cross country and men's golf - each scored a perfect 1,000. No other teams outside of baseball, football and women's basketball were in any danger of dipping below 925 - a sign, Buskirk said, that KU's coaches were paying attention.

"If the APR has done nothing else, it has heightened the awareness of coaches of academics in athletics," Buskirk said, "more so than any other one value or one mechanism has ever done."

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