HARTFORD, Conn. – The University of Connecticut has proposed reducing the number of games it will play next season if the NCAA grants a waiver to allow the Huskies to play in the 2013 men's basketball tournament.
The school currently would be barred from the NCAA tournament, a penalty for years of below-standard academic results, but it requested a waiver last month.
That document, obtained this week by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information request, outlines proposed self-imposed penalties to be instituted if the request is granted.
Those include forfeiting the revenue awarded to the Big East for participating in the 2013 tournament, reducing the number of regular-season games played in the 2012-13 season from 27 to 23 and barring coach Jim Calhoun from meeting off-campus with prospective recruits during the fall 2012 contact period.
"Collectively, the university's proposal will clearly send the message that the institution fully accepts the responsibility for past failings," the school writes in its waiver request. "It will result in the economic equivalent of a postseason ban without harming the very students the NCAA is trying to protect."
The Big East conference, which would lose revenue under the proposal, declined to comment on whether it supports the proposal.
The schedule changes also would include eliminating exhibition games next season, but would not impact the team's play at the in-season Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands. So the actual number of games played would be 26 rather than 30. The school said all hours that would have been spent in competition will instead transfer to study hall, tutor sessions or meetings with advisers.
The school said Calhoun will bring a current or former NBA player to inner-city schools for at least five educational sessions on the importance of academic achievement.
"We believe that we have made a very compelling case to the NCAA and will be deeply disappointed if our request for a waiver from the 2013 men's basketball postseason ban is denied," UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. "Our team's academic performance improved tremendously in 2010-11, and in the fall 2011 semester. We developed a new long-term academic plan for our team, and it has already shown positive results."
The waiver request outlines the school's Academic Improvement Plan — new programs and penalties the school has in place to improve the team's academic standing.
That includes mandated sanctions for any player who misses three or more classes during the academic year and daily checks of course work for student-athletes who have a grade-point average of 2.3 or lower.
One player, whose name is redacted in the copy of the document released to the AP, was already benched by Calhoun this season after missing two classes.
In addition, Herbst is now receiving a weekly academic progress report for all team members.
Under rules approved in October, a school must have a two-year average score of 930 or a four-year average of 900 on the NCAA's annual Academic Progress Rate, which measures the academic performance of student athletes.
The defending national champions would be academically ineligible in 2013, because the NCAA plans to use data from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years.
Walter Harrison, the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance, said that the body will be meeting on Feb. 20 to discuss whether to adjust reporting dates to allow schools to use their most recent data in qualifying for tournaments. For the 2013 men's basketball tournament, that would mean scores from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic year.
UConn would qualify for the tournament under that scenario.
"I don't know what to expect," Harrison said. "We could just decide to keep the current policy in place. Secondly, we could decide that we want to make a change, and that may require board approval, which would mean it wouldn't happen until April. The third possibility is we might not make any decision, and talk about it again in April."
In the meantime, the waiver request will be reviewed by NCAA staff, and can be appealed to a subcommittee of Harrision's Committee on Academic Performance, and eventually the full committee.
In its request, UConn said it has implemented new standards for incoming basketball classes. Recruiting classes need to outperform their predecessors when it comes to SAT scores and grades.
For example, players enrolling next season will need to achieve a minimum 2.98 core-course grade point average or a 1020 on the SAT to meet the new guidelines.
Once enrolled, students will have new academic rules to follow, including:
— Attend at least nine hours of summer school each year.
— Class work checked daily as freshmen by a member of the basketball staff (it also applies to any player with a grade-point average of 2.3 or lower).
— Complete required course work before registering for elective courses.
— Adhere to a "graduation plan" created to ensure each player is on a path to graduate, even if they leave school early for the NBA or other opportunities.
The report also notes that Calhoun's contract calls for him to forfeit $100,000 to the University of Connecticut Foundation General Scholarship Fund for any scholarship lost due to an Academic Progress Report penalty.
Herbst made it clear in her statement that she supports Calhoun, who was a member of the committee that came up with the new academic plan.
"I cannot think of many people in this world who have improved the lives of young men more profoundly than Jim Calhoun, our Hall of Fame coach, and highly-valued member of this university community," she said.
The school said the academics of the basketball team are improving. It notes in the waiver request that the team attained perfect APR eligibility and retention scores for the Fall 2011 semester. The school also noted that it has just one player on the team left from the group that scored low enough to warrant sanctions.
"On a personal level, and as an educator, I would be very sorry to see such harsh punishment of the outstanding young men on our current basketball team," Herbst said. "I believe that it would be wrong to punish these students, caught in the fallout from a sudden passage of new rules — rules that did not exist when they enrolled at UConn.
"That would be a fundamental injustice to our team and to our university."