Men’s basketball to lose two scholarships

Kali Price

Along with other NCAA Division-I schools, the Kent State men’s basketball team will lose two scholarships because of the NCAA Academic Progress Rates Report released Wednesday.

Ninety-nine teams at 65 colleges and universities face contemporaneous penalties of losing scholarships because of below-average academic performance by student athletes during the past two years.

Kent State is among 17 D-I men’s basketball teams that will lose scholarships. The Flashes are the only Mid-American Conference men’s basketball team that will lose scholarships.

“I and this department and this institution support the APR aggressively,” said Laing Kennedy, Kent State director of athletics. “We stand for strong academic performance and the academic benchmarks are established by the institution. And these benchmarks of academic eligibility at Kent State is higher than the NCAA requires. And so, determining academic eligibility for student athletes, we have to reach a higher threshold than what the NCAA requires.”

Kent State gives the maximum of 13 scholarships each year, but next year only 11 will be allowed.

The team has already signed two players for next season. Rodriguez Sherman and Thurmon Sutton will not be affected by the penalties.

“The rule is that you need to (be penalized) at your earliest opportunity,” Kennedy said. “Our earliest opportunity is this year. So we’re going to do it this year.

“It does not affect the student athletes who have signed. The next question is, will it affect us competitively? Talking with (Kent State coach Jim) Christian, it will not. Our roster next year will be larger than it is this year.”

Other MAC schools, such as Toledo, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois, will lose scholarships for football. Toledo will lose six, Western Michigan will lose five and Northern Illinois will lose two.

An APR below 925 warrants a potential loss of scholarships, according to the NCAA. Kent State men’s basketball’s APR is 911.

This is the second season the NCAA has released the report, but it is the first time schools are being penalized.

“When the APR was being developed and we were getting to understand the parameters of it and what it was going to be, the concept is to look at four years,” Kennedy said. “So at that point we were thinking that the four-year data, we would have time for all the corrections. The NCAA Board of Directors, in moving forward with this, determined that we were going to be subjected to the thresholds for two years worth of data.”

Kennedy said one year ago, the team’s APR met the 925 standard, but because the team released five players at the end of the 2004-2005 season, the team’s APR was lowered.

“In May, we became aware that five student athletes in this basketball program were requesting to transfer,” he said. “And looking at each one individually at that time, we were making decisions based on the assumption that three of them would be released academically eligible, and that would not harm our APR. What we discovered then in August of 2005 was that one student athlete was three hours short in making academic progress. One student athlete had a 1.96 instead of a 2.0. One student athlete – and this was not necessarily a problem for us – had a 4.0.”

Another student left in good academic standing and was able to compete, Kennedy said, while the fifth student was scheduled to graduate in August of 2005 on the completion of one course. That student athlete chose to pursue a professional basketball opportunity overseas.

Because of those five players, the team’s APR dropped to 911 because two were not academically eligible to play, Kennedy said.

Kennedy added the Athletic Department tried to appeal, but the penalty still stands.

“That doesn’t happen because when you look at our men’s basketball program; we have a 75 percent graduation rate,” he said.

Five MAC schools have graduation rates of 70 percent or above. The men’s basketball team has the second highest rate in the MAC, Kennedy said, and overall, Kent State’s athletic graduation rate is 77 percent.

The penalties also have an effect on what may happen in future situations, he said.

“We would have said to the one student who was three hours short, ‘you will go to summer school before you are released. So that you then will be released in good academic standing,'” Kennedy said. “We would say to the other student, ‘you will not be released until you have a GPA of 2.0.’ We would say to the one man who had the 4.0, who came in as a walk-on and was doing such a great job, we scholarshipped him for a term, we will not do that (release the student) now. It gives us a series of management checklists before we release.”

The team will be able to give the maximum of 13 scholarships again for the 2007-2008 season.

“At this point, we feel it will not (affect new recruits) because you look at the number we have on scholarship, being redshirted, those who will graduate and those we’ve signed, we have an excellent roster,” Kennedy said. “We’d always like to have another scholarship to give. But we can manage this situation this year.”

Contact sports editor Kali Price at [email protected].