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The challenge of turning around a basketball program that has won only eight games combined the past two seasons just got more difficult for University of Toledo men’s coach Tod Kowalczyk.
Kowalczyk will enter next season — his second at UT — minus three of his team’s 13 allotted scholarships, the result of the NCAA cracking down on the program for posting poor academic marks in the four seasons that preceded Kowalczyk’s arrival. As a result, redshirt freshman Hayden Humes was caught in the middle of a nasty numbers game — only 10 scholarships were left for a team of 11 scholarship players — and has chosen to transfer to another school rather than stay on as a non-scholarship player.
In a statement released Friday to the media, Kowalczyk insisted that these issues are ones he inherited when he took over the job and that he’s confident the program is now on the right track academically.
The NCAA revoked the scholarships as penalty for the program failing to achieve an acceptable four-year Academic Progress Report score for the second year in a row. UT’s latest score, which reflects the average of the four seasons from 2006-07 to 2009-10, is 858, which falls short of the 925 mark the NCAA has deemed a cut point. Last year’s four-year mark of 895 resulted in a warning from the NCAA.
It is almost inevitable that UT will be penalized a third time after next season because three of the yearly scores that will factor into the four-year rolling score average to 838. Punishment for a program falling short of the 925 cut point on three occasions includes being ruled ineligible from the NCAA tournament. UT spokesman Paul Helgren said the university will appeal such a punishment, should it come to that.
An APR for all NCAA athletic programs will be released publicly next month, but UT made its scores known on Friday in a way to explain Humes’ departure.
Helgren said the university recently won an appeal, overturning the NCAA’s ruling of loss of practice time and recruiting hours. The reduction of scholarships, however, was not dismissed.
“This is the situation we inherited,” Kowalczyk said in the statement. “Losing three scholarships was not something we expected, but we will never use this as an excuse. We were hired to rectify this situation and restore the image of Rocket basketball. We will build a program that is successful in the classroom and on the court.”
The APR was implemented in 2005 to hold athletic programs accountable for their athletes working toward earning a degree. Points are awarded for retention and graduation of scholarship athletes.
Kowalczyk’s predecessors at UT left an inescapable mess for him to deal with. In two seasons under Gene Cross —2008-09, 09-10 — the program posted yearly scores of 875 and 813. The final two years of the Stan Joplin era produced scores of 826 and 927.
The 927 score came during the 2006-07 season, meaning the highest score in the latest four-year average will no longer be of consequence beginning a year from now.
Although it may be several years before Kowalczyk and the Rockets manage to rid themselves of the problems they’ve inherited, there does appear to be good news on the horizon. The 2010-11 team figured to score at or above the national APR average of 940, according to the press release. That data will be available a year from now.
Kowalczyk’s teams at Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he coached for eight years before coming to UT, posted an average APR score of 956.
“One of the reasons we hired Tod was due to his proven commitment to academic success at UW-Green Bay,” UT athletic director Mike O’Brien said. “We are definitely making progress to solve our APR issue. I am confident that Tod and his staff will get our program back to the point where we are consistently graduating our student-athletes and competing for championships.”
The Rocket football team lost 16 combined scholarships over three seasons from 2004-05 to 2006-07 due to poor APR scores but has since rectified the situation.
UT released Humes to play immediately next year at any non Mid-American Conference institution. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. He could not be reached by The Blade.
“Hayden is one of the finest young men I’ve had the privilege to coach,” Kowalczyk said. “I wish he could stay, but I respect his decision to explore other options. I know he will be successful in his future endeavors.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6160.