UConn responds to my APR column, and I respond right back

I received this e-mail today from Mike Enright, the Associate Director of Athletics/Communications at the University of Connecticut. It seems someone in Storrs was not happy with my column last Sunday.

Dear Chris,
I would like to point out a number of factual errors and your misunderstanding of the APR process and UConn’s opinion on our ban from the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

(column comment)“….the current student-athletes (boy, that was hard to type), two having already decided to leave school and seek their fortunes in the NBA.”
(UConn reply) I am not sure why you would have a hard time typing that. The current players on the team have clearly demonstrated that they are student-athletes. In 2010-11, the team had a nearly perfect APR score with a mark of 978 out of 1000 – and won the national championship. This year’s team, had a perfect APR score in the fall 2011 semester and is on track to enjoy and outstanding APR score this spring. It is anticipated that UConn’s final APR score for this year will also be in the 975 range. Jeremy Lamb is completing his coursework for the semester before he begins his professional career as is Andre Drummond, although he does not count in the APR score due to his walk-on status. To assume that a player who declares early for the NBA Draft does not care about academics is grossly unfair. For example, the day after the team returned from the 2011 Final Four, Kemba Walker was in our Academic center working on paper that was due for a class in order to complete work for an upcoming class. A few days later, he declared for the NBA Draft.
(My rebuttal)
Maybe that comment was somewhat harsh, but no one can argue that the term “student-athlete,” especially in men’s college basketball, is almost laughable. Just about everyone who follows the game understands that the vast majority of these men’s basketball ‘student-athletes’ are in school just to try and make it into the NBA, or some professional league overseas. I would be most interested to know – as would a lot of other people – as to how many UConn men’s basketball players who were on their respective rosters over the past decade how many have graduated within their allotted four-year eligibility window? 75 percent? 50 precent? 25 percent?

(column comment) Is it unfair? Probably, but rules are rules and the bottom line is UConn broke them. Over and over again.”
(UConn reply) The fact of the matter is that the APR regulations are not part of the NCAA Rulebook. APR is a standard that teams are required to meet. A school not meeting those standards is not considered a violation of rules by the NCAA, it is a failure to meet standards.
(My rebuttal)
OK, I’ll change rules to standards … “Standards are standards and UConn failed to meet them. Over and over again.”

(column comment) “Last season, Portland State was not eligible for NCAA tournament play due to low APR scores. This season, Grambling, Southern, Louisiana-Monroe, Chicago State and Cal State-Northridge were not eligible.”
(UConn reply) First of all, a simple factual error. Louisiana-Monroe was eligible after winning an appeal. The teams listed above were all declared ineligible for the tournament due to a penalty system that was established before they posted their poor APR scores. All these schools were ineligible because they received “Occasion 3” penalties, which means that for the third-straight year, they had a four-year rolling APR score that was below NCAA standards. If the former NCAA penalty structure was in place, UConn would be receiving “Occasion 2” penalties, which would included a reduction of weekly practice time and one scholarship. UConn was ready and willing to accept those penalties. With our improved APR scores we would not have received “Occasion 3” penalties. Instead, a new penalty structure was adapted after our four-year APR scores had been posted.
(My rebuttal)
OK, my mistake, Louisiana-Monroe was eligible.

(column comment) “Just like Ohio State is paying. The Buckeyes football program is banned from….
Just like North Carolina is paying. The Tar Heels football program is banned from…
And we haven’t even begun to hear what might happen in Syracuse….”

(UConn reply) Again, a misunderstanding of the NCAA process. Ohio State and North Carolina received these penalties due to a violation of NCAA Rules listed in their formal rulebook that dealt with impermissible benefit given to student-athletes. Yes, this is very similar to the penalties UConn received in the “Nate Miles case”. However, a comparison of the APR system to the violations of Ohio State and North Carolina is not valid. A potential Syracuse case would also fit the same standards.
(My rebuttal)
The point I was making there was the above mentioned schools are all accepting their punishments, not sending out appeal after appeal.

(column comment) “Susan, the NCAA does that all the time. Get used to it.”
(UConn reply) Not sure if I have ever seen any college president simply referred to by their first name. In my opinion, disrespectful to the office. If you can find another example of that, would be happy to see it.
(My rebuttal)
Point taken. President Herbst it is.

(column comment) But no school is above the law. UConn broke the rules. And now it has to pay the price.
(UConn reply) Again there is no violation of NCAA “laws” or “rules” involved in the APR case. I don’t think that you have ever heard one person at UConn say that there is an excuse for the academic performance of our basketball team in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10. We are also very proud of the 978 scored by our 2005-06 team and the 981 scored by our 2006-07 team. In addition, we are proud of our scores by the 2010-11 national championship team and the anticipated score of our 2011-12 team. Our main concern with the NCAA is their inability to include the 2011-12 APR score in their use to determined eligibility for the 2013 tournament. I would hope that you would be willing to share the mistakes of your column with your readers. If not, these corrections will have to be distributed to our constituents in the state in a way we see fit.
Mike Enright

(My counter-rebuttal)
It’s apples and oranges. Rules. Standards. Whatever they were, UConn didn’t meet them. Oh, and by the way … love the thinly veiled threat:
I would hope that you would be willing to share the mistakes of your column with your readers. If not, these corrections will have to be distributed to our constituents in the state in a way we see fit. Really? I’m curious. Wanted posters, maybe? And as for the “number of factual errors,” there was one. Louisiana-Monroe was eligible.

Just to show that I do have a heart, I did praise the university and coach Jim Calhoun in the column…but I’m guessing no one in the UConn athletic administration read that part.

At least UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun realizes that mistakes were made.
“While we as a University and coaching staff clearly should have done a better job academically with our men’s basketball student-athletes in the past,” he said, “the changes we have implemented have already had a significant impact and have helped us achieve the success we expect in the classroom. We will continue to strive to maintain that success as we move forward.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jim. Move forward. Get stronger.
And UConn is. There are tougher academic rules in place. There will be weekly academic progress reports to Herbst. There will be sanctions for any basketball player who misses three or more classes during the academic year. There will be daily checking of class work for a player who has a GPA of 2.3 or lower, and each player has to take nine hours of summer school.
All these things will help make the Huskies’ academic situation even stronger.

Hope that clears everything up.