Syracuse, Colorado Teams Lose Scholarships After Missing Academic Targets

The Syracuse University men’s basketball team and the University of Colorado men’s basketball and football squads lost scholarships for making poor academic progress.

The Orange had two scholarships removed, while the Buffaloes lost five football scholarships and one basketball scholarship, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association list of Division I schools’ Academic Progress Rates.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said in a statement today that three Orange players covered by the study had left school early to play pro basketball “and that is difficult to overcome.” The group included guard Jonny Flynn, now playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association.

In anticipation of the sanction, the Orange took the penalty for the 2009-2010 school year.

“We anticipate being back above the APR standard when the next report is compiled,” said Boeheim, whose team reached the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament this year.

Colorado said in a news release that its scholarship losses in football, which already have been absorbed, were due to factors including transfers, academic struggles, dismissals for team violations and the loss of players to the National Football League.

“Naturally, the APR score for football is of great concern to both our academic and athletic leadership at CU-Boulder,” Phil DiStefano, the school’s chancellor, said in a statement. “It represents a challenge we are working to meet through our APR improvement plan, new academic support staff in athletics and renewed focus in recruiting and engagement with our student athletes.”

No Pro Penalty

Schools aren’t penalized for having students turn professional who are in academic good standing, Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president for academic and membership affairs, said on a conference call.

“There’s an entire story that needs to be told as to why a number is the way it is after four years,” Lennon said. “We feel like there is enough adjustment made for the pro departures, provided they are academically successful, that still permits institutions who have students like that to not receive penalties at the end of the day.”

Academic Progress Rates, known as APR, are based on eligibility and retention of scholarship athletes over the past four-year period. Teams scoring below 925 out of a possible 1,000 are subject to penalties such as scholarship losses and restrictions on practices and competition. A 925 score predicts a graduation rate of 50 percent.

Penn Leads

The University of Pennsylvania had the highest APR in football, 996, followed by Rutgers University at 992. The scores released today represent four academic years ending in 2008-09. In men’s basketball, Kansas, Michigan State, Texas and Butler were among 11 teams with a perfect score of 1,000.

“Men’s basketball and football continue to post the lowest APRs of all sports,” Jim Isch, the NCAA’s interim president, said on the call.

The overall multiyear Division I APR rose three points to 967, the NCAA said. Football’s average APR rose five points to 944, while men’s basketball is seven points higher than last year at 940.

Gymnastics was the men’s leader with a multiyear APR of 979, followed by ice hockey at 975. Field hockey was the women’s leader, at 987.

‘Steady Progress’

“NCAA student-athletes and their teams continue to make steady academic progress,” Isch said. “The report cards keep getting better and better for nearly all teams and all schools.”

Colorado was the only major-conference football team to receive sanctions, with an APR score of 920. Its men’s basketball team had an APR of 897. Syracuse was the only other major-conference men’s basketball program sanctioned, with a grade of 912.

Of the 6,400 Division I teams in all sports, 137 (from 80 different schools) were penalized for poor academic performance, 40 fewer teams than a year ago. APR penalties began in 2004-05.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

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