‘Very frustrating’: Golden Lions, other teams deal with prospects of ban

Arkansas-Pine Bluff point guard Tevin Hammond didn’t sign up to miss two years of postseason basketball action, but that’s the very thing he and his teammates are facing, pending a review of the team’s Academic Progress Rate data by the NCAA.

“It’s very frustrating for our seniors and everything,” said Hammond, who will be a junior next season. “Just the hard work we put into it this past year and for it to be taken away, and then to come back this season and lose it again, it’s just frustrating.”

But there is hope for the Golden Lions.

If the NCAA’s ongoing review shows that the team has reached the NCAA’s benchmark of a 900 four-year APR with corrected data used to figure the scores, the Golden Lions will be eligible for the SWAC and national tournaments in the 2013-14 season.

Three other SWAC men’s basketball teams — Alabama State (821 APR), Grambling State (878) and Mississippi Valley State (802) — have been handed the postseason ban for 2013-14 for low APR scores. Data for Alabama State and Valley also are under review, the NCAA indicated.

Grambling State (2011-12) and Valley (2012-13) have previously served bans as well.

Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference and independent New Orleans are the other two men’s basketball teams that drew APR-related bans.

Some SWAC teams in other sports will miss the postseason as well. Alabama State and Valley also are similarly sanctioned in baseball and football, but those teams’ data also are under review. Southern in men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and Alabama State (under review) in women’s volleyball were punished likewise.

Other SWAC athletic teams are facing penalties in addition to the ban in some cases. Eight teams from the conference, including UAPB men’s basketball, are facing “Level One” penalties (loss of four hours and one day of practice time per week replaced with academic activities), five are facing “Level Two” sanctions (Level One sanctions plus elimination of spring football or reduced number of contests), and Grambling State’s and Valley’s men’s hoops teams are staring at “Level Three” penalties (the first two levels plus a menu of additional penalties ranging from scholarship reductions to multiyear postseason bans).

“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,” said UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr., a former SWAC associate commissioner. “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.

“Some things we, from a conference standpoint, need to look at and strategize to make improvements. As a conference, we have to do a better job with what we have to ensure the success of our student-athletes.”

Hardy said everyone associated with the UAPB matter “is doing a better job of monitoring academic performance of our students.” He added the school is in the middle of creating a student-athlete academic resource center funded by grants from the NCAA available for limited-resource schools, but a location for it has not yet been determined.

The possible ban against the basketball Golden Lions is likely to have an effect on recruiting if there is no immediate resolution, coach George Ivory said. Ivory landed only two recruits last summer, when UAPB was handed its first ban, but the Lions went on to a 16-14 record, their first winning season in three years.

The coach garnered five signees during this offseason with the expectation the matter would soon be resolved. And it may be resolved soon enough for Hammond and the Lions to better the 16-14 mark — and maybe win a SWAC championship.

“I think we have another great chance to win the SWAC championship,” Hammond said. “That’s the frustrating part, to see it go away.”

2013-14 penalties against SWAC teams related to APR

(*—Data still under review)

Postseason bans

• Baseball: Alabama State*, MVSU*

• Football: Alabama State*, MVSU*

• Men’s basketball: Alabama State*, Grambling State, MVSU*, UAPB*

• Men’s indoor and outdoor track: Southern

• Women’s volleyball: Alabama State*

Level One

• Alabama A&M: men’s golf

• Alabama State: men’s basketball, softball, women’s volleyball

• Alcorn State: Men’s basketball

• MVSU: baseball, football

• UAPB: men’s golf

Level Two

• Alabama State: men’s basketball, football

• Southern: Men’s indoor and outdoor track and field

• UAPB: men’s basketball

Level Three

• Grambling State: women’s volleyball

• MVSU: men’s basketball