Let UConn play
Unless something changes, the members of next year's University of Connecticut men's basketball team, who by all accounts are collectively performing well academically, will be prohibited from partaking in the 2013 NCAA tournament because their predecessors in past years performed terribly.
On the face it, that appears unfair. Sometimes such an imperfect penalty - punishing a team going forward for past misdeeds - is all the NCAA has available to hold an institution accountable for violating rules or failing to meet standards. But that does not appear to be the case here.
In October the NCAA adopted, quite appropriately, more stringent academic standards and tougher penalties. A team is barred from postseason play if it falls short of an average Academic Progress Rate score of 930 during the most recently recorded four academic years. Because that's an increase from 900, schools can also remain eligible for 2013 if they have a four-year rolling average of 900, or a two-year 930 average. The APR measures athlete retention and the maintaining of academic eligibility.
Because UConn's scores were so deplorable in the recent past - its four-year average released last spring was 893, including a 2009-2010 score of 826 - it is impossible for UConn to meet any of the required average scores.
However, the university is asking the NCAA to consider the performance of recent and current players, projecting a 978 APR for 2010-2011 and a similar score this academic year. If the Committee on Academic Performance decides to use the two most recent years, UConn would remain eligible.
That is the fair solution.
If the goal is to force a program to take academic achievement more seriously, UConn is demonstrating it got the message. And the NCAA already punished the program with the loss of two scholarships this season. Coach Jim Calhoun, the person ultimately responsible, lost $187,500 in contract penalties.
Future and more severe punishment for past crimes appears superfluous.