Crean's toughest challenge: Academics Print
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Tuesday, 22 April 2008 13:36
NCAAB Headline News


 BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -Tom Crean isn't worried about wins, losses or even rosters right now.
To him, it's all about making grades.
As if the new Indiana coach didn't have enough to worry about with an NCAA investigation, he's now wrestling with an academic problem that threatens to cost the program up to two additional scholarships.
``The APR (academic progress report) is really the governing body for all of what's going on right now, so we have to put that at the forefront of where we're at,'' he told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ``I think every coach running a successful program has to be concerned with where we are in terms of the APR.''
If Indiana fails to meet the NCAA's cutoff score, 925, it faces the prospect of losing more scholarships. The school already stripped itself of one next season because of Kelvin Sampson's alleged phone call violations, and The Indianapolis Star reported the men's basketball team is expected to turn in a score of 899 next month.
Neither Crean nor team spokesman J.D. Campbell would confirm that number Tuesday.
NCAA rules say any team below 925 could lose a scholarship for each player who leaves the school while academically ineligible. The maximum penalty in men's basketball is two scholarships.
Crean declined to identify specific players who were struggling in the classroom because of privacy laws, but acknowledged he is concerned about the Hoosiers' academic performance as a whole. Plus, he still has not decided whether to reinstate starting guards Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis, who were dismissed from the team just hours before Crean took the job April 1.
Crean believes there's an old-school solution to this predicament.
``I think the players have to have a personal discipline that far surpasses anything the coach or the academic advisers hold you to,'' he said. ``That's been the thing I think we're looking for more than anything, do anything you can to build on your education here.''
The academic woes are yet another twist in a monthslong saga that has included allegations of NCAA rules infractions, Sampson's midseason resignation and a threatened players' boycott when Sampson left.
Crean's task is putting everything back together.
But because of the school's self-imposed recruiting restrictions, Crean has spent much of his first month in Bloomington emphasizing the basics to players - attending class, improving grades and showing up on time for appointments - in hopes of preventing another obstacle that could leave the Hoosiers with even fewer players next fall.
``There's no question we're doing better (academically), and I gauge that from what the academic advisers are saying,'' Crean said. ``We're going to go to class, we're going to be on time to class, we're going to be with the tutors and we're going to be on time with the tutors.''
Some solutions are already emerging.
Crean is making progress on the recruiting front after losing Big Ten freshman of the year Eric Gordon to the NBA and two prominent signees. Forward Devin Ebanks and guard Terrell Holloway were released from their national letters-of-intent after Sampson agreed to a $750,000 buyout in February.
Guard Nick Williams, Alabama's top player, signed with the Hoosiers on Monday. He initially signed with Marquette, where Crean coached previously, and was released from his letter-of-intent there.
Crean got more good news Tuesday when junior college star Devan Dumes signed with Indiana.
Dumes and Williams now join guard Matt Roth and forward Tom Pritchard in this year's recruiting class, and Crean has started to assemble a talented class for 2009, too. Forward Derek Elston, of Tipton, Ind., has said he will honor his previous commitment to the Hoosiers, and forward Bobby Capobianco, of Loveland, Ohio, announced last week that he would sign with the Hoosiers in the fall.
Yet the most important aspect to Crean is getting his players to perform better in the classroom, and while the early results have made Crean hopeful, they've also made him anxious.
``It's too early to tell,'' he said. ``I know that sounds funny with two weeks left in the semester, but it's just really too early to tell.''
 

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