NCAA to visit Southern in April

NCAA officials will visit Southern next month to evaluate the university’s efforts to provide complete and accurate data on student-athletes’ Academic Progress Rates.

It’s expected that the Jaguars’ attempt to have an NCAA postseason ban will be resolved by the end of the spring semester in May. The ban was instituted in December and already impacted the men’s and women’s indoor track and basketball teams as well as the women’s bowling team.

It’s likely Southern will be unable to fully satisfy the NCAA demands, which would lead to additional sanctions along with the establishment of an end date for the currently indefinite ban.

“If sanctions are introduced, we want to be able to mitigate them as much as possible,” Southern Athletic Director William Broussard said. “Ultimately something has got to happen that allows us to finally hit the reset button as we enter a potential next phase. We’ve got to get out of the mire we’re in right now.”

Broussard and a task force continue to supply data to the NCAA and are turning their attention to outside parties such as other schools from which Southern athletes transferred to fill in as many remaining blanks as possible.

“We’ll have to get to the point where all of it is satisfied,” Southern Chancellor James Llorens said. “Or if we can’t satisfy it, then we say we don’t have adequate records on it or some information on a transfer student is not available. Then at that point, we start discussing any kind of penalties for that, whether it’s losses of scholarships or practice time.”

Broussard said it’s important that the university provide every document that it’s capable of producing.

“We may not be able to gather everything, but we want to exhaust every option,” he said. “Our goal is to resolve this in such a manner that when our student-athletes go home for the summer or for the break between the spring and summer school they know exactly what, if any, sanctions they can expect in the fall.”

Broussard said the efforts of the past several months have been valuable even without yielding an ideal outcome.

“If we had just thrown our arms up,” Broussard said, “the sanctions would have been much more dire.”

The data that the NCAA determined to be “unusable” during a random audit last year dates back as far as 10 years, involves more than 300 student-athletes and more than 600 transcripts.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Broussard said. “We’ve got to find ways to be more efficient.”

Broussard said the NCAA will evaluate the data that Southern has provided and continues to provide as well as changes the university has made to policy and record keeping and reporting to ensure proper documentation moving forward.

Southern is trying to demonstrate that it has made a good-faith effort to provide as much of the missing data as it was capable of and demonstrate that it has made changes to avoid similar problems going forward.

Broussard said the university “has a good relationship” with a consultant the NCAA has provided to give the university guidance in its data gathering. He and Llorens continue to have regular conference calls with NCAA officials.

“We have open lines of communication,” Broussard said. “They’ve been extremely helpful.”

It’s likely Southern will “self impose” some sanctions in advance of the NCAA summary judgment.

An NCAA spokesperson responded Tuesday to an email requesting an update on Southern’s case by saying, “Southern’s teams remain unable to participate in championships until their data is complete and accurate. We continue to work with the school toward that goal.”

Broussard said the postseason ban on the winter sports “borders on the tragic.”

Any Southern student-athletes with remaining eligibility will be free to transfer to another school and become immediately eligible beginning June 1. Broussard said the fact that none of this year’s seniors, who had the same opportunity when the ban was instituted, chose to leave demonstrates that the student-athletes appreciate the entire value of a scholarship to the university.

If any student-athletes were to transfer or be deemed ineligible because of inadequate data on their academic record, that would have a negative impact on the Jaguars student retention rate and therefore future APR.

Broussard praised the winter sports teams for their performance despite the NCAA ban, noting both basketball teams winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season title. Last week, the men lost in the quarterfinals of the SWAC tournament, and the women lost in the semifinals.

“I’m really proud of the way they continued to compete, and I’m really blown away by how resilient they are,” Broussard said. “You could see how much it means to them to compete and show the pride they have in themselves, their programs and their coaches.

“They had every excuse to fold their tent, but we’re going to raise two more championship banners and have two more trophies and two more pride points to take into recruiting.”