Congratulations to Alabama State.
All four of its athletic teams that were temporarily banned from postseason play by the NCAA had their penalties lifted recently. And it means there is hope that Arkansas-Pine Bluff may have its Academic Progress Rate woes come to an end soon.
In the case of UAPB, hope springs eternal.
Even after the school learned that a corrected APR wouldn’t be enough to make the men’s basketball team eligible for the 2013 SWAC tournament, there was hope this issue would be put to bed well in time for the 2014 postseason. Even with another postseason ban looming, the NCAA is still reviewing data related to UAPB’s APR.
Or so that’s what the NCAA says.
These issues didn’t surface just last month. They’ve been ongoing for at least three years. The NCAA has kept in contact with the university about the data, but knowing a timeline for a decision on whether to lift the ban against the Golden Lions is like knowing whether Miami will be penalized for an alleged lack of institutional control in the Nevin Shapiro case.
With that in mind, the NCAA’s surprisingly quick action in the Alabama State case may bring a number of reactions.
• Excitement: That’s what the Hornets’ football, men’s basketball, baseball and volleyball teams feel. One less school in the SWAC has to suffer through a season with no championship aspirations — in multiple sports, no less.
Now that the Alabama State football team’s ban is lifted, nine teams out of 10 in the SWAC can compete for a berth in the conference championship game in Houston. Now that its men’s basketball team is cleared, at least seven teams will play in the conference tournament, matching last season’s number. (But not 10.)
• Expectation: If the NCAA came to a final determination on the fate of one school in the SWAC not days after announcing APR-related penalties, surely UAPB’s time is coming real soon, right?
Therein lies the problem. No one really knows what to expect.
• Hope: Already been examined.
• Wonderment: What else does the NCAA need? Does it have everything it needs as it relates to UAPB’s APR data? How much longer must UAPB endure this case? Why isn’t there a timeframe?
The problem facing the SWAC is this: It’s not just a UAPB or Alabama State issue. Mississippi Valley State is facing bans in football, men’s basketball and baseball. Like UAPB, the Valley men’s basketball team is staring at a second straight postseason ban.
But what is going on that three or more sports at Alabama State and Valley are facing the same APR issues?
“I think in our conference, being a limited-resource conference, a factor that probably needs to be looked at (is that) we’re still in a situation where our member schools have a lot of first-generation college students,” UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. told The Commercial in a June 12 story on the announced postseason bans. “There’s also the mere fact that our member schools have financial woes that affect the academic support that is available to assist with these types of issues.”
The SWAC football media day is Monday in Birmingham, Ala., and while coach Monte Coleman and seniors LaDarius Eckwood and Jer-ryan Harris talk Golden Lions, the coaches at Bama State (Reggie Barlow) and Valley (Karl Morgan) may be able to shed more light on this issue. I’ll be there to find out.
Expect Barlow to address it with a reaction UAPB and Valley officials and their schools’ fan bases would like to feel sometime soon — relief.
I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. E-mail him at email@example.com.