“Today we received the approval from the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees to amend our men’s and women’s basketball automatic qualification policy for the NCAA Tournament,” said SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp.
The adopted bylaw, which allows all 10 member institutions to participate in the SWAC Tournament, will be used to determine which SWAC member institution will receive the conference Automatic Qualification (AQ) to represent the conference in the NCAA tournaments for each respective sport. The previous policy restricted several current SWAC institutions from participating in post season play due to Academic Progress Rates (APR) restrictions.
As it relates to the upcoming basketball tournament, the NCAA issued a statement acknowledging the acceptance of the SWAC’s proposed bylaw change by saying that the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees will allow the conference to amend its automatic-qualifying policy for the 2014 championships only. The conference basketball tournament for both men and women will still determine the automatic berths into both NCAA championships. The eligible team that advances furthest in the conference tournaments will receive the automatic berth to the NCAA championships. In the event of a tie (for example, all tournament-eligible teams are eliminated in the same round), the automatic berths will go to the highest-seeded team.
“It is the conference’s goal to ensure that each student-athlete has equal opportunity for academic and athletic success,” said Sharp. “The Conference and Council of Presidents acknowledge the financial strain that affect our member institutions in meeting APR requirements. With the approval of the amended policy, the SWAC not only can provide a quality athletic experience, but optimistically provide the means for academic advancements,” added Commissioner Sharp.
The Council voted in favor of lifting the postseason ban, for all SWAC Championship Sports, as the old policy inhibited the current student-athletes. To some extent, postseason penalties were based on budget issues that prevent league institutions from hiring personnel to support the athletic system.
“The academic success of the student-athletes is a top priority of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and its member institutions. While staying committed to improving the APR scores of our member institutions, the SWAC will continue to work with each institution and the NCAA to reach the appropriate benchmarks set by the Committee on Academic Performance,” said Sharp.
The old policy did not allow member institutions that are not eligible for NCAA postseason to participate in SWAC season-ending tournament and championship games, but the change does allow for it. The ruling immediately allows Grambling State, Mississippi Valley State, Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff to compete at the end of the regular season in its respective competition, including the 2014 SWAC tournament, which will run March 11-15 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.