FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said one of the reasons he decided to make a coaching change for the Razorbacks men's basketball team was that he expected a poor academic performance from the team.
Now, Mike Anderson, who resigned as Missouri's coach on March 23 to take over at Arkansas, will lose one basketball scholarship as punishment for Arkansas having a low score in the NCAA's latest Academic Progress Report, released Tuesday. School officials expect to be without the scholarship during the 2012-13 season since the NCAA does not require a school to rescind a scholarship from a current player or recruit who has already signed.
"While we are disappointed that we have been assigned a historical penalty in our men's basketball program, I am pleased with the direction we are moving in correcting APR issues of the past," Long said.
The APR measures the classroom performance of student-athletes at Division I schools, with 925 being the benchmark score over a four-year span. The Arkansas men's basketball team finished with an 892 in the latest report.
Long said APR issues played a factor in his decision to fire John Pelphrey after four seasons as Arkansas' coach and hire Anderson. Mounting losses and low home attendance also contributed to the coaching change.
"It's part of the overall leadership of the program, and I think that we moved to make a change because of those things," Long said Monday. "And this was one of the things that was a factor."
Long said he informed Anderson of the APR issues during the hiring process. The situation didn't deter Anderson from leaving Missouri after five seasons to return to the school where he won a national championship as an assistant under Nolan Richardson in 1994.
"I was aware that our men's basketball team had APR issues when I accepted this position," Anderson said in a statement. "My staff and I are committed to working very hard to make sure our players are doing the right things both on and off the court in an effort to insure that APR penalties do not occur in the future."
The Razorbacks could have lost four hours of weekly practice time, but the NCAA decided against that following an appeal by Arkansas last month.
Arkansas compliance director Jon Fagg said part of the school's argument against stiffer penalties was that the basketball team couldn't have done anything in 2009 or last year to raise its APR score above 925. Because of a low score of 755 from 2007-08, the best the Razorbacks could have gotten with back-to-back perfect scores was a 923.
"(NCAA officials) agreed with part of our rationale, but not our entire rationale," Fagg said.
Fagg said he doesn't anticipate the basketball team scoring above a 925 on next year's APR report. However, Long said he doesn't anticipate it costing the program another scholarship and the program will soon rise above the benchmark.