C0-Sports Editor Alonso Tacanga contributed to this report
Times sure have changed for the men’s basketball team since their admirable 2009 trip to the NCAA Tournament. And it’s all due to something a member of that last championship team says has changed little: grades.
“That’s been a problem for a while,” said Rob Haynes, a senior on the 2009 Big West Tournament champion squad.
Low-grade problems, among other factors, won’t allow the Matadors to even attempt to repeat the 2009 feat as the NCAA decided on Tuesday to ban them from all postseason play due to their continuous low marks in the entity’s Academic Progress Rates (APR) report, an account which measures eligibility and retention for Division I student-athletes and is an indicator of graduation rates. The Matadors will also lose two scholarships for the upcoming year.
“There’s a national standard we have to meet academically and we are in the process of doing that. We will serve this penalty for the 2011-12 year,” CSUN Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto said.
The Matadors posted an APR score of 871 for the 2009-10 season, well under the NCAA’s required 925. It was a minimal increase from the 870 score the 2008-09 team recorded and which also led to the loss of two scholarships and reduced practice time.
Since the NCAA started using the APR in 2004-05, Northridge has never come close to the 925 it’s needed. The Matadors highest score came in that inaugural year (885), and the lowest was in 2006-07 (860). Then, the NCAA put CSUN on notice of its shortcomings and followed up with yearly penalties of scholarship takeaways and practice-time reductions.
From the 18 sports at Northridge, only the men’s basketball team failed to reach the required 925 score. Men and women’s cross country were the only teams to register a perfect 1,000 score for the 2009-10 season.
When asked about the men’s basketball team academic struggles in comparison to the rest of sports, Mazzuto said: “a few student-athletes think their future is in professional basketball and not finishing up their academic careers here (at CSUN), and not being academically-committed after the conclusion of the basketball season.”
2009-10 starting point guard Mark Hill could fit that bill. According to a Daily News report, Hill left the school to turn professional. He and another player who accepted a scholarship but never played and left the school counted against the APR rate.
As the Matadors prepare to miss their first Big West Conference Tournament for the first time in their history, they’ll do so with longtime head coach Bobby Braswell at the helm, Mazzuto said.
“(Braswell) will definitely be our coach next year,” Mazzuto said. “He’s a veteran coach and he understands what needs to get done. He is in the process of accomplishing goals we set out.”
Haynes, who played internationally after he finished school, echoed the sentiment.
“I definitely wouldn’t blame Braswell … He was always on us about grades and study hall. Some players listened and some didn’t,” he said.
2010-11 leading scorer and senior, Lenny Daniel, who was academically ineligible for the Big West Tournament in 2010, said the team – which according to Mazzuto had a 1,000 APR score for the Fall 2010 – is making improvements in grades, but feels for the current players who have to pay for past players’ missteps.
“It was created before our time here and the young guys have to suffer,” said Daniel about the current team, which had eight freshmen this past season. “The team and the university are taken the necessary steps to improve the academic process. This is a learning experience that will make them stronger and they have my full support.”