Indianapolis NCAA President Mark Emmert expects athletes at historically black colleges and universities to make the grade — and he’s willing to help after seeing the results of the latest Academic Progress Rates.
The NCAA banned Jackson State and Southern of the Southwestern Athletic Conference from postseason play in football next season and did the same thing for Southern and Grambling in men’s basketball, citing poor classroom performance by all three schools and a host of others in the SWAC and Mid-Eastern Athletic conferences.
The SWAC does not get an automatic bid to the NCAA’s FCS playoffs, but its own conference title game could be affected.
The NCAA released the penalties Tuesday. Southern became the first school to be banned from the postseason in two sports in the same year — football and men’s basketball — because of academic performance.
“You’re right that there are a number of historically black colleges and universities that have been penalized, especially through the postseason ban,” Emmert said. “We are concerned about that, have met with those institutions to help them develop ways for improvement and to help provide resources to help them be successful.”
The impact of the penalties could swing the balance of power in the SWAC and MEAC, both comprised of HBCUs, and both of which get automatic bids to the NCAA basketball tourneys, too.
The numbers are striking: The NCAA evaluated more than 340 schools for the APR report but only 24 of them — about 7 percent of the total — are considered historically black colleges or universities.
Yet of the 58 harshest penalties handed out this year, fully half went to teams in these two conferences.
SWAC commissioner Duer Sharp told NCAA.org that turnover in school staff — including school presidents — has hurt academic performance of athletes.
Whatever the explanation, the SWAC must now decide whether to let Jackson State and Southern play in its football championship should they advance, and whether to allow Southern and Grambling to compete in the men’s basketball tournament. If either were to win the championship, the league could lose its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t have a firm timeline,” assistant commissioner for communications Tom Galbraith said. “Our conference meetings aren’t until the first week of June, and I wouldn’t expect anything finalized before that time.”
Southern University released a statement from the office of Chancellor Kofi Lomotey saying that the latest APR report “sends a clear message that we must and will improve; and the process has already begun.”
The statement said that Southern officials have spent several months meeting with NCAA representatives, educators and others to work on strategies to “quickly address and correct some behaviors that have landed Southern University in this unenviable position.”
The plan includes a system to track athletes’ classroom performance and a greater emphasis on academic counseling.