LITTLE ROCK — The Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday approved a $48,870 contract for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to hire a firm to answer additional questions the NCAA has about the school’s academic compliance its sports program.
UAPB Interim Chancellor Calvin Johnson said the university needed immediate approval of the contract because the NCAA wants the compliance audit completed and to them by the end of this month.
Last summer the NCAA banned the university’s men’s basketball team from postseason play this year for failing to meet academic standards. UAPB scored an Academic Progress Rate of 885, which is **15 points shy of the four-year minimum** needed to avoid sanctions.
Failure to get the additional information to the NCAA could mean additional penalties and sanctions, Johnson said.
“I’ve been consulted by the university and they are being required to do an emergency compliance audit,” Rep. Hank Wilkins, D-Pine Bluff, said during the Joint Budget meeting.
Johnson told the committee that UAPB answered all of the NCAA’s questions in the first compliance audit request last year but the NCAA wants additional information. Athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. said in September the audit was independent of sanctions the men’s basketball team were given for a low APR.
“There were some (answers) they were not satisfied with,” Johnson said.
In response to a question, Hardy said the original NCAA audit covered 2007 through 2010 and looked at “continuing eligibility matters of student-athletes.”
“The second review is dealing with initial eligibility matters of student athletes as they are recruited into the athletics program,” he said. “That was not covered under the first (audit) that was conducted.”
As for the postseason ban, Hardy said the NCAA is still reviewing updated data that will be used to figure the correct APR for the men’s basketball team. UAPB coach George Ivory blamed the low score on an incorrect roster submitted to the NCAA needed to figure the score, but Hardy told The Commercial in September while that particular incident didn’t lead to the low score, similar incidents were among matters the school was dealing with.
“I believe they have everything they need to correct the APR and make a decision on whether the ban can be overturned,” Hardy told The Commercial on Tuesday.
Hardy said he was unsure of a timeline the NCAA may have for such a decision. The SWAC tournament begins March 12, and the winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
So far, only seven teams will be eligible for this year’s SWAC tourney. UAPB and Mississippi Valley State are banned for low APRs, and Texas Southern will be absent from the tourney as part of its wide-ranging sanctions from the NCAA for violations related to a lack of institutional control.
Commercial sports editor I.C. Murrell contributed to this article.
**Correction: The NCAA’s benchmark to avoid penalties for a low Academic Progress Rate is 900 for the most recent four years or 930 for the most recent two years, according to NCAA.org.