HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and star guard Kemba Walker defended the program's academic reputation Wednesday, amid concern the national champions could lose scholarships based on academic performance.
The national Academic Performance Rating is due out next month. Connecticut is in danger of losing at least one scholarship if the rating, which measures four years of results, does not meet the NCAA minimum score of 925. The school has already been docked a scholarship for NCAA recruiting violations.
Last year, UConn recorded a four-year APR of 930, including an 844 for the 2008-09 season.
"Eight straight years, we made the APR," Calhoun said after being lauded by the governor and lawmakers during "Husky Day" at the state Capitol. "If because someone left early or didn't finish, all those various things that get you...when you have 16 kids leave (for the pros) in a 10-year period, you are more likely to be more open to (a low APR) happening."
A low rating could be costly to Calhoun personally. His contract calls for him to donate $100,000 to a UConn scholarship fund if the program doesn't meet the APR. He also would forfeit his postseason bonus of $87,500, earned during UConn's run to the national title.
Walker, a junior who is leaving early for the NBA, was recently quoted as saying he has only read one book cover-to-cover. He said it upsets him that the comment may have hurt the school's reputation.
"That's just what people want," Walker said. "They want to bring us down. Regardless of what they say, I'm still graduating in three years, so that comment means absolutely nothing. I've read a lot of books."
He said he was talking about loving a book so much that he just sat down and read it cover-to-cover.
"It's a big emphasis on academics at UConn," he said. "They make sure we are student-athletes first. I'm going to get my degree. I will find time to do my work."
Calhoun, who also faces a three-game suspension next season for the NCAA violations, says he still hasn't decided whether he will return to UConn or retire. He said he will make that decision sometime this summer, but has no real timetable.
"I don't have to rush," he said. "I have no plans to rush. The minute the horn went off and we won a national championship, I wanted to contemplate what is best for me, where I feel most comfortable."