Here's a surprise -- the University of Houston men's basketball program has been warned by the NCAA about poor academic performance, the Houston Chronicle reported.
It's not surprising because of the absolute jaw-dropping notion that UH athletes might not be racking up GPAs to make Stanford and Notre Dame jealous; it's more surprising because gee, recently fired coach Tom Penders sure used to talk a lot about how he was into the academics.
(This is not talk UH needs to hear, by the way, as college athletics is in the middle of the all-time conference scramble.)
Penders made his reputation by going tinto troubled programs and restoring them quickly. Usually, this is not done by having players eschew practice time in order to spend more hours in library cubicles pondering economic theory.
Nevertheless, in the last season Penders never seemed to miss an opportunity to talk about how hard he was making his guys hit the books.
On the day he resigned:
In talking of his accomplishments at the school, along with citing his wins and the conference title, Penders stated that he was most proud of his team's academic record. He returned to the academics several times throughout his statement, and when answering questions from the media -- he repeatedly noted that none of his players were on academic probation, and that he never lost a player due to academics in six years at the university.
"It's been a great, great run," Penders said. "I want to emphasize again that I am not retiring. I'm too young, I've got too much energy, and too much passion, and I can't wait for the next challenge."
Though no names were given, Penders made it clear last Monday night that there are some guys who were getting playing time earlier in the season who will not be getting much playing time, if any, until their grades improve.
"Some coaches blow that off [academics]," Penders said after the game with The Citadel. "Some guys didn't play tonight who didn't do as well as they should have done. It's a momentary punishment deal. I have certain expectations with kids. When kids have the ability academically, I expect a certain performance level. I don't accept just satisfactory, or just passing, or just getting by. It's kind of a wake-up call. But I've done that my whole career."
"I was Einstein in high school," Penders said later, when returning to the topic. "Then I went to UConn and played basketball and baseball, and I barely had a 2.0 my first year. So I know. It's tough...it's hard. It's very difficult. It's very difficult. At the University of Houston, we don't have programs that just pass athletes through. All you have to do is look in the media guides and see what the kids are majoring in (six sociology, three Health Education, one psychology, one Kinesiology, and four undeclared). I've been at schools, some highly reputable schools, where they have had that. We don't have that here. So kids have to toe the line. And sometimes they have to get shocked into it. And that's a fact."
After a loss to Troy:
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"I know Aubrey [Coleman] was exhausted, and has not had much sleep the last few days, and did not practice on Saturday night or last night because he's been preparing for these exams. So he has not been getting much sleep."
Yet the NCAA said the UH hoops team had a cumulative score below even the lax standards of the NCAA basketball guidlines. (Well, the NCAA didn't exactly say anything about the second part of that sentence.)
Other athletic programs at UH did much better, for what it's worth.
Athletic Director Mack Rhoades told the Chron that UH "acknowledge[d] the NCAA's warning," which is certainly nice.