UConn's postseason hopes fading after NCAA rejects appeal

The NCAA rejected UConn's final appeal of a 2013 men's basketball postseason ban due to its sub-standard Academic Progress Rate.

The school learned of the decision Wednesday from the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance and released the news Thursday afternoon.

While not unexpected, the ruling is a major blow to the men's basketball program, impacting everything from the program's image, to recruiting, to decisions whether Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond leave school early for the NBA, and perhaps if coach Jim Calhoun returns or retires.

Junior Alex Oriakhi cited a potential postseason ban as his reason for recently deciding to transfer.

Athletic director Warde Manuel expressed frustration over the situation during a conference call Thursday. He's hopeful but not completely confident the NCAA will change the APR reporting dates adopted last fall, instead using the most recent data and therefore vastly improving the chances that UConn would be eligible for postseason.

Warde took issue that UConn will be punished twice for low APR scores. The program already was penalized two scholarships for the past season.

"This is a frustrating time for me," said Manuel, whose has only been on the job since March 19. "I continue to say that we are committed to our student-athletes' success and that our student-athletes in general have had tremendous success in the classroom and that we're not going to let this define us.

"We support where they are going with the APR and the use of it toward the postseason. What I am totally frustrated (with) is how they've implemented this rule. I've been in this industry for over 20 years and been a student athlete. I never, ever, and nobody that I talked to can tell me of any legislation that's been changed and made retroactive, that would have this kind of affect on our current-student athletes.

"Yes to the question of, am I frustrated by the impact of this? And do I believe we've been punished twice? Yes."

UConn has one more chance to become eligible for 2013 postseason.

The NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance is expected to meet later this month and again in July to discuss possible changes. The decision may come too late for Drummond and Lamb, who have until April 29 to declare for the 2012 NBA draft.

"I would like them to make the decision sooner than later but I understand what they're dealing with and their time frame that they have laid out," Manuel said of the NCAA. "I would hope that they would try to come to a different resolution than what we have."

UConn officials continue to argue that the NCAA's new academic policy adopted in October should be adjusted to include the 2011-12 school year. Current NCAA guidelines require teams post an APR two-year average of 930 or four-year average of 900, using data through the 2010-11 academic year. UConn falls short in both periods.

Since learning of a potential ban last fall, UConn has benefitted from its own stricter academic guidelines. The men's basketball program posted a 978 APR in 2010-11 and had a perfect score during the fall semester. It also is on track to earn another high score for the spring semester.

UConn also miss the Big East tournament if the the ban is upheld.

Whatever happens, men's basketball will continue to experience a period of instability until the coaching situation is resolved. Manuel declined to discuss any conversation that he's had with Calhoun about his future.

"Obviously, Jim is not happy about (the ruling) and about where we find ourselves in the men's basketball program," Manuel said. "Beyond that, Jim and I have not talked about any impact of this on his decision or my decision or any part of the conversation about whether or not he will be here.

"Jim is our coach and Jim is committed to working to ensure that the student-athletes continue to do what they're doing now, and that is to focus academically and do what they need to do to be successful in the class room and on the court."

g.keefe@theday.com

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