The men’s basketball program at Cal State Northridge, which has struggled academically in recent years, took another hit Tuesday when the NCAA banned the team from postseason play for next season.
The penalty stemmed from another subpar score on the annual Academic Progress Rate report, which measures the number of student-athletes who remain in school and are academically eligible over a four-year period.
The Matadors had company on the list of sanctioned teams, including the reigning men’s basketball champion, Connecticut, which lost two scholarships.
But Northridge’s penalties reflected a longer period of poor classroom performance and included a loss of scholarships and limits on practice time.
“This penalty is obviously tough,” Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto said. “We’re trying to work our way out of it.”
In Southern California, UC Riverside lost scholarships in baseball and men’s basketball, and Cal State Fullerton lost scholarships in men’s basketball. Other local Division I universities either met the NCAA’s standard or otherwise avoided penalties in all sports.
“The expectation is that every program will reach a certain level of academic performance,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “And that level is important.”
The first APR penalties were assessed in 2004-05 as part of a reform movement throughout college sports. The calculation makes some adjustments for student-athletes who transfer or leave for a pro career while in good academic standing.
Teams scoring below certain standards face warnings and penalties.
Nationwide, the latest four-year APR rate rose by three points over last year and showed improvement in the high-profile sports of football, baseball and men’s basketball.
Among more than 6,400 teams, 103 at 67 schools were sanctioned. Northridge was among eight to receive a championship ban.
The men’s basketball program was first put on warning in 2006-07. Subsequent years brought scholarship and practice reductions.
The Matadors could face a restriction on their NCAA membership if their scores do not rise.
The university has instituted higher standards for recruits and is keeping a closer eye on players’ academic performance. The program has shown recent improvement but is still paying for players who left in previous seasons.
“It’s a four-year rate, so obviously it takes a while to move that number,” Mazzuto said. “It’s a standard a lot of people have met and that is the goal for us.”