The University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team has qualified academically for next year’s NCAA end-of-season tournament.
UConn missed out last year because their four-year APR score was 889, and their two-year average 902. Rules implemented in 2011 stated that a team must have a 900 average (out of 1000) over four-years or 930-average over two-years to be eligible to compete in March Madness.
The Huskies were also barred from competing in the Big East tournament for the same reason, although they will be competing in the newly-formed AAC next season.
Their 20-10 record was likely to get them into the nation’s final 64 in 2013 but for their academic ineligibility, and UConn athletics director Warde Manuel is proud of the way the student athletes have bounced back.
"These kids didn't get down on themselves. They didn't stop performing on the court and they didn't stop performing academically, and that is a credit to those kids," he said, according to ESPN.
"The players really took pride in saying, ‘This is not us. We are student-athletes in the true sense of the word'. They have showed that a one-year ban in the past is not a real indicator of how much they really focus on their academics as well as their athletics. That's the thing that made us, internally, happiest."
The school has made several changes in an effort to improve their scores, with sanctions for players who miss a certain number of classes and daily checks for those with a grade-point average lower than 2.3.
Additionally, players are required to attend a summer school programme for a certain number of hours, setting them on a ‘graduation plan’ so that, even if they leave early for the NBA, they can still finish their studies.
In the eyes of Manuel, this is setting the right example, and he insists coach Kevin Ollie is fully behind the processes that put a focus on academic studies first.
"All of the student athletes that are coming in, as well as the current student athletes understand the strong sense of focus we have on the academic side here," he concluded.