home sitesearch contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Men’s Basketball: Early exit costs UL basketball a scholarship

Men’s Basketball: Early exit costs UL basketball a scholarship

Men’s Basketball: Early exit costs UL basketball a scholarship

Wade’s departure affects team’s academic status.

Dan McDonald

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The University of Louisiana’s men’s basketball squad had its highest team grade point average in over a decade during the fall semester.
But under current NCAA guidelines, one student-athlete leaving a program before his or her eligibility is exhausted can do damage that all the high GPA’s can’t undo.

To Robert Lee, that’s the biggest problem with the NCAA’s second Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, one that will cost his Ragin’ Cajun basketball team a scholarship – more than likely next season.

"That’s just one of the fallacies of the system," Lee said Thursday, one day after the NCAA’s announcement that 99 teams at 65 Division I schools are in line for scholarship reductions. "It makes it seem like you’re having academic problems when nothing could be further from the truth."
Lee’s squad compiled a 2.5 cumulative GPA in the fall semester. But with the APR penalties now being assessed after a "dry run" last year, good grades take a back seat to making sure student-athletes remain in school.

"The issue’s not whether our kids are in class making good grades," said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters. "The issue is retaining them. That’s where we have to do a better job."

The Cajun basketball team lost the opportunity to award one scholarship next year mostly due to the early departure of Tiras Wade, an All-Sun Belt selection in 2005 and the Most Valuable Player in last spring’s Sun Belt Tournament.

Wade – a member of the Sun Belt’s Academic Honor Roll last year – left school during the spring semester and relocated out of state to concentrate on preparations for the NBA Draft. Wade was not selected in the draft and did not sign as an NBA free agent.

In the APR listings, programs receive point values for student-athlete retention, with one point for an athlete remaining enrolled and one point for being on track to graduate within a five-year period. Points are awarded for each academic semester, and when Wade dropped out during the spring term he did not qualify for either of the spring points, becoming what the APR refers to as an "0-for-2."

"He was ineligible to come back because he had retained an agent by that time," said UL interim athletic director David Walker. "I don’t see how coaches can have much control over that."

"Tiras was a good student," Lee said, "a great student. To get penalized for that, something’s wrong."

Wade was not the only departure for the Cajuns in the last two years. But even one such circumstance, especially on teams that have low squad numbers such as basketball, can have a huge impact on a program’s efforts to hit the NCAA’s 925 APR target score.

A typical Division I men’s basketball program with 13 players and which has classes on a semester basis, for example, can pick up a maximum of 52 points (two points per player per semester). The APR is calculated by dividing a team’s total points against the maximum available.

A 13-player team that loses as few as four points falls below the 925 target (48 divided by 52, 0.923 or 923 points).

Waters said the league has spent significant time at each of its last three annual meetings on retention of student-athletes, and will spend more. Penalties, now limited to scholarships, can include restrictions on recruiting, reduction of schedules and postseason ineligibility in future years.

"We’ve tried to look at why our kids are leaving," he said, "and the reasons are all over the place. It’s for a lot of different reasons, but it’s not like the majority are turning pro like the coaches would think.

"We lose a lot of kids to the SEC in the non-revenue sports after their freshman years. David Kamani (former South Alabama track All-American) wins a national championship in cross country as a freshman at South Alabama, and the next year he’s at Alabama."

Lee said the loss of one scholarship would be an inconvenience, but not a major blow.

"It’s going to hurt a little," he said, "but if you get the right eight or nine guys you’re going to be okay. Where it hurts is that it reduces your margin of error."

Originally published March 3, 2006