Low APR scores cause problems for Panthers

As the men’s basketball team begins their off-season workouts, one question still arises on campus: How will the men’s basketball team get through a postseason ban?

As expected for over a year, once the 2011-2012 Academic Progress Rate scores became official, the Panthers received a ban for next year’s postseason and a reduction in practice time. The Panthers scored a dreadful 750, way below the NCAA average, which would later drop the four-year rate down to 858 from 909.

Anthony Evans, head coach of the basketball team, knew the repercussions going into his first year but is ready to start over.

“It was always in the background, whether it would happen or not,” Evans said. “Now it’s official, we’re going to move forward with the plan in terms of working to build this program from the ground up.”

Unfortunately for the Athletics program, this isn’t the first time it has faced the wrath of the NCAA.

When Athletic Director Pete Garcia first took the reigns at FIU in 2006, his first duty on the job was to clean up an already tarnished Athletics Department.

During the 2002-2007 seasons, an investigation by the NCAA began once it was brought up that 45 student-athletes allegedly had misapplied enrollment and financial aid rules, transfer requirements and eligibility rules during the program’s shift from Division I-AA to Division I-A.

Once the dust settled in 2008, FIU was charged with a number of violations, as well as some self-imposed bans. Such bans included the loss of 11 sports scholarships, a four-year probation which ended in May of 2012 and vacating all wins and records where the 45 ineligible student-athletes participated in.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions also noted that as FIU’s Athletics program was expanding, the Compliance Office and Academic Advising was not.

As the expansions brought 100 student-athletes during the first four years of the football program, personnel were using an outdated software system incapable of following NCAA bylaws.

Since the infractions in 2008, FIU has added resources to the Student-Athlete Academic Center. Such as, increasing the center’s operating budget to $195,000, doubling the number of tutors to 14, as well as purchasing 20 personal computers and 25 laptops for students’ use. A request to the Athletics Department for the latest budget was not provided by the time of press.

No program was banned from any post-season play at the time of the violations. However, if the football, men’s basketball and/or baseball teams did not meet an average APR score the next year, a ban would have been imposed.

APR scores came back into the limelight during the tenure of former head basketball coach Isiah Thomas, who Garcia praised by saying he would “take the basketball program to the highest level.”

Garcia also stood by Thomas when he attempted to take on a consulting job with the New York Knicks while still working at FIU.

The Panthers’ scores during the first two years under Thomas’ eyes were 910 and 909, just above the NCAA’s minimum average of 900.

Big concerns came after the 2011-2012 season, when the APR score hit a low 858, a score Thomas noted only happened when a number of student-athletes turned pro unexpectedly or transferred without a release due to him being fired.

In a blog in the Huffington Post, Thomas said his thoughts on the situation.

“This had the biggest effect on FIU’s APR, not grades but retention,” Thomas wrote. “In fact, many of the students who wanted to transfer were told that they would not be given their releases because it would affect FIU’s APR. Seven scholarship students left in anger without getting released, thus plummeting the APR score.”

Garcia was unable to persuade Thomas’ players to stay with the program even before hiring a new coach.

Though only winning 26 games in three seasons did go into the firing of Thomas, a low number of graduating student-athletes was not the case. During Thomas’ time with the Panthers, 19 out of the 21 players under Thomas graduated.

Since Garcia was hired back in 2006, the football team, men’s basketball, soccer and track and field teams, as well as the women’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams have been struck by the NCAA for poor academic performance at least once.

Pete Garcia was unavailable for comment.

About the Author

Patrick Chalvire
: Radio Host for Panther Sports Talk Live. Assistant Sports Director for The Beacon. Majoring in Communication Arts. Sports fan and aspiring anchor.

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