UT men’s basketball banned from 2013 postseasonWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Toledo men’s basketball program took another major hit when it was informed that it will not be eligible for postseason play in the upcoming 2013 season. Whether that will also include the Mid-American Conference Tournament still has yet to be determined.
The decision to suspend the Rockets came from a newly enforced rule by the NCAA to begin banning schools from postseason play due to low Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. The original punishment, which Toledo was hit with last year, was to strip the team of scholarships. UT has fought the decision all year with an appeal, which was denied on April 18 by the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance (CAP).
“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,” Toledo athletic director Mike O’Brien said. “However, we are very disappointed that our appeal of the postseason ban for our men’s basketball program was denied.”
The restrictions not only will take away the postseason, but will also reduce its weekly practice time from 20 weekly hours over six days a week to 16 hours in five days. It will also eliminate three games in the upcoming season. The Rockets will, however, be able to once again give out 13 scholarships instead of the 10 it was allowed to distribute last year.
“I’m disappointed,” UT head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “When it comes to what is fair and not fair, I think that penalizing individuals who were not a part of the problem is not the right way to do it. I am a firm believer in the Academic Progress Rate and the integrity of academics within college athletics and I fully support the concept of what the NCAA is doing, I just disagree sometimes with the methods of their punishment and who they punish. We are going to get through this and be better for it.”
Among the issues that Toledo has with the penalty 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 APR higher than 900. In the case of the Rockets, that four-year span includes just one year from Kowalczyk as coach, as the NCAA does not include the most recent season. The rest are from former coaches with two years from Gene Cross and one from Stan Joplin.
In Joplin’s final season as head coach in 2008, the Rockets had an APR score of 826. Cross followed up the next two years with APR scores of 813 and 896, making a hole nearly impossible for Kowalczyk and UT to climb out of. In his first season, 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 also will be deemed eligible for postseason play. Although Kowalczyk’s season with a 939 qualified, Cross’ final year of 896 had Toledo’s average at 917.5 over that span.
The Rockets also take exception to the fact that the APR does not take into account the season which has just been completed toward determining eligibility next year. If the NCAA would include the 2012 season in their four-year span, Toledo would have been eligible for postseason play as the team had a 962 APR under Kowalczyk through the fall semester and is expecting an even higher total at the end of the spring semester. That number combined with Kowalczyk’s 939 from last season would qualify easily the Rockets over the average of 930 and most importantly when it comes to UT, not punish the current players and staff for what former players and staff did years ago.
“Not one guy involved in Toledo basketball currently was a part of the problem,” Kowalczyk said. “I don’t feel it is appropriate to penalize people that are not a part of the problem. You should penalize people who are a part of the problem.
“There’s not an intelligent explanation of why they cannot use this year’s numbers.”
Due to season-long talks with the CAP, Kowalczyk remains hopeful that the decision will eventually be overturned. The CAP is planning still to meet at the end of April and in July to talk about the APR, as well as discussing if including the current season’s APR toward next season would be possible.
“I really feel that, come July, cooler heads will prevail,” Kowalczyk said. “The presidents and the NCAA will acknowledge that why not use this year’s numbers? We are talking about letting the academic year of 2011-12 affect 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.
“Maybe I’m just optimistic but personally I still think that, come July, Toledo will still be allowed as a part of the postseason.”
If that ruling goes unchanged, however, it will be a big blow to senior guards Dominique Buckley and Curtis Dennis. 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 the Rockets.
“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.”
Despite possibly missing out on postseason play, both Buckley and Dennis declared their intentions to stay in Toledo with the program and not seek a transfer. They will both hope that the decision will eventually be overturned by the CAP so that they can have a chance for postseason play in their final collegiate year.
“I expect to be here next year,” Dennis said. “It bugs me a lot. I’ve been there and I know it’s fun in the NIT and NCAA Tournament [with New Mexico]. That’s where you want to be at. We just have to take it as it is. The NCAA makes rules and they have to hold people accountable.”
“The coaching staff took a chance on me,” Buckley said. “They brought me here and believed in me. I believe in them and this is not going to weigh on my decision to leave or not because I will be here.”
Toledo finished the year with a record of 19-17 after posting a 4-28 record the previous two seasons. That 15-win turnaround was the second largest in the country. The Rockets advanced to postseason play for the first time since 2007 and lost in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament to Robert Morris.