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Men’s Basketball: Lee to receive 2-year extension

Lee to receive 2-year extension
Offer awaiting approval from UL system board of supervisors on Friday

With two months left on his current contract, Robert Lee received the boost of confidence he was hoping for, a reward for helping rebuild the UL men’s basketball program both in the classroom and on the court.

According to the agenda for Friday’s meeting of the UL system board of supervisors, UL has requested approval to extend Lee’s contract two years through June 30, 2010.

UL director of athletics David Walker made a recommendation to university president Ray Authement for the contract extension. Dr. Authement then recommended the extension be approved by the board of supervisors.

The move was first reported Tuesday afternoon at theadvertiser.com.

"He’s building a tremendous program," Walker said of Lee, who is 40-55 in four years as the Cajun head coach after eight years as an assistant. "We wanted to reward him with a contract extension."

Lee, who did not return messages seeking comment, surpassed expectations last season despite having the nation’s third-youngest team. Coming off a 9-21 season, the Cajuns shared the Sun Belt Conference West Division title with Arkansas-Little Rock after being picked in the preseason to finish fifth.

It marked the first time since 2003-04 the Cajuns, who finished 15-15 overall and 11-7 in conference play, won a divisional title. They had not posted a .500 record since 2004-05.

Lee also helped the Cajun men enjoy success off the court according to the Academic Progress Rate, which uses a scale of 1 to 1,000 to rate whether student-athletes are making adequate progress toward graduation.

The Cajun men’s basketball program was the lone UL athletic team to post a 1,000 APR score last year. An overall APR score of less than 925 (about a 60 percent graduation rate) can result in the loss of scholarships.

Walker said the men’s team had an APR score in the 800s just a few years ago.

"We had APR issues," Walker said, "but we felt like Robert has done everything we’ve asked him to do."

In 2004-05, Lee’s first season as head coach, the Cajuns went 20-10 and won the SBC Tournament to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Lee went 13-16 in 2005-06 and 9-21 in 2006-07.

Then UL was placed on probation for two years last April and lost two basketball scholarships due to NCAA violations committed under former Cajun head coach Jessie Evans.

In the ruling, the Cajuns vacated all games in 2003-04 and 2004-05 in which Florida transfer Orien Greene played – including two NCAA Tournament appearances, two SBC Tournament championships and one SBC West Division title.

From then on, instead of relying heavily on college transfers, Lee and UL administrators agreed to put more emphasis on building the program using high school players. Of the 12 players expected to return next season, 11 joined the Cajuns directly out of high school.

"He’s developed a team and built it based on high school athletes," Walker said. "He has a very young team, but they still tied for the division championship last season.

"We would like for him to be around for a while longer."

 April 23, 2008