Walter Harrison Cites Fairness In Defending NCAA's APR Reporting Process

This will not be another exercise in tearing down the NCAA or UConn. This will stand as Walter Harrison's rebuttal to people like me who argued that not only are the latest academic data the fairest data, the implementation of the latest data is entirely feasible.

UConn's final shred of hope to play in the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament disappeared Friday when the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) reaffirmed its current policy on data collection.

Some will continue to argue UConn was the victim of double jeopardy in the shifting NCAA landscape, twice punished for the same academic shortcomings and thrice punished because the NCAA hates Jim Calhoun. Others will argue UConn was the victim of its own neglect, consumed by a national plague in which athletics supersede education. Argue all you want, folks, it's officially over. Waivers were requested and denied. Appeals were filed and rejected. Ding. Ding. Ding. Count the Huskies out at least until 2014.

My one remaining question — an answer I swore I'd chase to the end — was specifically why couldn't the APR numbers from the 2011-2012 school year be used to determine who could play in the 2013 tournament. If they had been, with UConn rebounding in the classroom, the Huskies would be eligible.

When the NCAA announced last October that it was banning schools from the 2013 tournament as a penalty for falling short of an APR score of 900 over a four-year period or 930 for a two-year period — both periods ending in 2010-2011 — even Harrison said it would be better to have consequences of behavior tied to the year most recently reported.

"We couldn't do it and still be fair," Harrison, University of Hartford president and CAP chairman, said Tuesday. "We looked at a bunch of models with the idea of could we speed this up because it would be a little fairer to student-athletes. In the end, all the things we looked at as alternatives would do more harm than good.

"As a committee we were convinced what we have now is better than any change we could make to the system."

How convinced?

"It was unanimous," said Harrison, who pointed out a Big East voice, Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro, was on the committee that met in Indianapolis. "And all of our votes are not unanimous."

Harrison said the CAP looked at six models, including the status quo. Under the current system, each athlete earns one retention point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible each semester. The retention issue weighed heavily in this.

"A significant number of students use the summer to get their grades up or get the number of credits they need," Harrison said. "And you cannot count a retention point until the fall semester. You have to know if they are back and on the team."

Most schools use a census date, Harrison said, often six weeks after the start of class. A census date is the date a university counts its students as officially enrolled. With students changing classes, working out financial aid problems, etc., the initial enrollment numbers are notoriously unreliable. Enrollment data submitted to the state, the manner budgets are done, all employ census date data.

"On the West Coast, primarily, there are still a number of schools that don't start until late September, early October and they are quarter schools," Harrison said.

Many are in the Pac 12 — Stanford, Washington, Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State. Harrison estimated 10 percent of the schools overall are on the quarter system.

"It's not a large number, but we want to be fair to everyone," Harrison said. "And that means some census dates aren't until early November.

From there, Harrison said, it takes about six more weeks for NCAA staff to examine all the data.

"There are frequently mistakes by the schools, not intentional," Harrison said. "When a Division I institution has 20 sports, there are a lot of athletes. The [NCAA] staff told us the earliest they could be reasonably satisfied it was all accurate, was early January."

And that's when fair process enters the stage.

"We believe strongly that although we can be reasonably certain of the data, we can make mistakes," Harrison said. "Schools should have an opportunity to make their cases."

Harrison said the two-level appeal process can take roughly six weeks and that takes you into March. The NCAA Tournament starts in March.

CHICAGO