Jaguars keep working as NCAA deadline looms

It was business as usual around the Southern athletic department Friday.

And at the same time it wasn’t.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams finalized preparations for their games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center as they try to maintain their holds on first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Next door, the baseball team opened its season against Grambling at Lee-Hines Field.

The football coaching staff continued to prepare for the start of spring practice in less than three weeks.

But on the third floor of the A.W. Mumford Fieldhouse, things were far from normal as Athletic Director William Broussard and a team of administrators continued to fight an impending deadline to satisfy NCAA requests for documentation necessary to have a ban on postseason play for all Jaguars teams lifted.

The ban, which already has cost the women’s indoor track team an opportunity to compete in the SWAC meet next week, could claim two more casualties in the first-place basketball teams if the paperwork isn’t completed on time or doesn’t yield a positive ruling in a timely fashion.

The SWAC basketball tournament will be held March 11-15, and right now Southern would be ineligible to participate and that would eliminate any possibility to qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

“It’s disappointing,” men’s coach Roman Banks said after practice. “You feel bad for the players. They trust and believe in you. You’ve got to try to stay focused on basketball.”

The coaches and athletes have known about the ban since early December, but Banks addressed it again before practice Friday because the ban became public knowledge for the first time Thursday.

“My message was more about life,” Banks said. “They were a little down but at the end of the day I think we got some things accomplished. We’ve just got to deal with the reality and work through it.”

None of the basketball players were available for interviews and women’s coach Sandy Pugh declined comment.

The NCAA did not respond to an interview request.

Meanwhile, Broussard said the Jaguars met another deadline by shipping additional paperwork to the NCAA on Friday night. Southern has another deadline to meet Wednesday, then would have until Feb. 24 to respond to any follow-ups that the NCAA issues, though he said he hopes to beat that deadline and complete the submissions by the end of next week.

“The deadlines have been roughly every two weeks going back to the second week of December,” Broussard said. “When we were notified by the NCAA, they were very clear to us that they were putting together a progression of deadlines that ultimately, if met, would put us in position to have minimal hardship to winter athletes in terms of postseason competition.

“We have submitted our data in advance of those prescribed deadlines thus far. It’s a complete review. It’s not like they say, ‘Hey here are the areas where we need you to go and fix these few things.’ You basically start from scratch.”

If Southern satisfies all of the NCAA’s requests for info, it would then expect a hearing in ront of the committee on academic progress, which would render a judgment relevant to all of the Jaguars programs at once.

Broussard said he and Southern Chancellor James Llorens have held weekly conference calls with the NCAA to appraise the organization of its progress in compiling the data.

“Typically when you think about NCAA penalties being issued you think about what splashes the front page — the recruiting irregularities, pay for play, amateurism violations, those kinds of things,” Broussard said. “None of those issues are involved here.”

In fact, Broussard said, “there are very few people, if any, who are here” that were responsible for supplying the NCAA with “unusable data” in the first place.