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Men’s basketball banned from 2013 postseason

By Nate Pentecost
On April 19, 2012

The Toledo men’s basketball program suffered another setback when it was informed that it will not be eligible for postseason play in the 2012-13 season. It has yet to be determined if that ban will include the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

The decision to suspend the Rockets came from a newly developed rule by the NCAA which bans schools from postseason play due to low Academic Progress Rate scores.

APR is a measurement used by the NCAA to judge a team’s academic performance. Teams lose points if student athletes fail to graduate, become academically ineligible or leave the program.

Toledo fought the decision regarding the program’s APR all year with an appeal which was denied yesterday by the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance . The original punishment, which was handed down last year, was the loss of three scholarships.

“The University of Toledo has a very high academic standard for our student-athletes, so we are very supportive of the academic reforms passed by the NCAA,” said UT Athletic Director Mike O’Brien. “However, we are very disappointed that our appeal of the post-season ban for our men’s basketball program was denied.”

The restrictions will not only take away a shot at the postseason, but will also reduce the Rockets weekly practice time from 20 weekly hours over six days a week to 16 hours in five days. It will also eliminate three games from the upcoming season. Toledo will, however, once again be permitted to offer 13 scholarships rather than the 10 they were allowed to give out last year.

“I’m disappointed,” said UT head coach Tod Kowalczyk. “When it comes to what is fair and not fair, I think that penalizing individuals that weren’t part of a problem is not the way to do it. I’m a firm believer in the Academic Performance Rate and the integrity of academics in college athletics. I fully support, in concept what the NCAA is doing, I just disagree sometimes in there methods of punishment and who they punish.”

Among the issues Toledo has with the punishment is the fact that the NCAA totals up a four-year span of the APR and will punish schools if they do not have an average higher than 900. For the Rockets, that four-year span, which does not include this season, includes just one year from Kowalcyzk’s tenure at UT. The rest are from former coaches with two years from Gene Cross and one from Stan Joplin.

In 2008, Joplin’s last season as head coach, the Rockets had an APR score of 826.

Cross followed that up the next two years with APR scores of 813 and 896, making it nearly impossible for Kowalcyzk and Toledo to avoid NCAA punishment.

In his first year at UT, Kowalczyk’s team had an APR of 939 and has averaged a 954.4 APR in his last nine seasons, eight of which came while at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The NCAA also has a rule that if a team has an APR of more than 930 in its last two seasons they will be deemed eligible for postseason play. Although Kowalcyzk’s first season with the Rockets qualified, Cross’ final year of 896 gave Toledo a 917.5 average over that span.

The APR calculation does not take into account the season which has just been completed in determining eligibility next year. If the NCAA included the most recent season in their four-year span, Toledo would have been eligible for postseason play as the team had a 962 APR under Kowalcyzk through the fall semester and is anticipating an even higher total at the end of the spring semester. That number combined with Kowalcyzk’s 939 from last season would easily qualify UT over the 930 average.

“Not one guy involved in Toledo basketball currently was a part of the problem,” Kowalcyzk said. “I don’t feel it is appropriate to penalize people that are not part of the problem. You should penalize people who are part of the problem.”

Because of season-long talks with the CAP committee, Kowalcyzk remains hopeful that the decision will be overturned. The CAP committee is planning to meet at the end of April and in July to talk about the APR, as well as if including the current season’s score towards next season is possible.

“I really feel that come July, cooler heads will prevail,” Kowalcyzk said. “The president and the NCAA will acknowledge that why not use this year’s numbers. We are talking about letting the academic year of 2011-12 affecting the 2013 postseason. That’s what should happen. I think cooler heads will prevail and there’s not an intelligent reason why they can’t.”

If the ruling is not changed, however, senior guards Dominique Buckley and Curtis Dennis will perhaps be most affected. Both players transferred to Toledo in 2011 and would be missing out on their last chance at making the NCAA Tournament or the NIT for Toledo.

“Things happen and there is nothing we can really do about it,” Buckley said. “Every game now means a lot more to us. If we are not going to be able to play in the postseason or in the MAC Tournament then we want to win the MAC in the regular season.”12

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