The University of Maine men’s basketball program faces a possible forfeit.
The University of Vermont men’s team is looking at a potential ban from postseason play.
Instead, the America East Conference may help spare those schools and others in the Southland Conference from sanctions after the schools’ misinterpretation of NCAA rules governing scheduling.
America East announced Tuesday night that it has asked for a Subcommittee for Legislative Relief waiver. The NCAA Subcommittee for Legislative Relief is the body that reviews situations involving unique circumstances and considers a variety of waivers in all areas of the legislation.
Both America East and the Southland Conference are playing this season with new members who are making the transition from Division II to Division I. Under NCAA rules, their games are non-Division I contests.
Teams are limited to four such games each season, including exhibitions.
America East explained that confusion arose between two separate NCAA processes regarding scheduling rules and Rating Percentage Index (RPI) waivers for reclassifying members in their first year of the transition process.
UMass Lowell, the America East newcomer, has received waivers to be counted in every sport’s RPI calculation, including basketball. However, the conference learned that the waiver did not extend to scheduling requirements, which caused both UMaine and Vermont to schedule too many games against teams that do not qualify as Division I programs.
Realizing the Southland Conference had been similarly affected, America East, in pursuing its waiver, submitted it on behalf of every Division I institution impacted. The blanket waiver request was made Sunday evening.
“Once we discovered two of our teams were potentially impacted by this issue, we took immediate steps to explore options for relief so they would not be subject to any penalty,” America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said in the release.
“The NCAA has agreed to expedite its review of this case, and we hope to hear a decision later this week. We are hopeful and confident that the NCAA will agree with our rationale,” continued Huchthausen, who previously worked at the NCAA and was involved in enforcement.
The Southland Conference Executive Committee appears to believe the NCAA will rule in its favor as it has authorized preparation to play all Thursday night men’s basketball games, including Oral Roberts at Abilene Christian.
Oral Roberts, which had encountered a scheduling situation similar to that of Vermont and UMaine, previously announced it would forfeit that game and one other to avoid violating NCAA rules.
America East explained that if the waiver is approved, no team will face any penalty from the NCAA or the conference for going over the Division I scheduling limit. UMaine and Vermont would then complete their original schedules.
If the waiver were denied by the NCAA, UMaine will still have the ability to forfeit one of its games against UMass Lowell in order to avoid exceeding the four-game limit on non-Division I contests.
America East has further asked the NCAA Administration Cabinet to review the rules governing reclassifying members. In its statement, the conference pointed out:
“The reclassification process has changed in the past few years to require a conference invitation to help ensure the reclassifying institution is properly invested and committed to Division I.
“In our attempts to facilitate the transition for UMass Lowell, we incorporated them fully into our schedules this year, even though we weren’t required to do so. We believe a conference and its members should not be penalized for trying to do the right thing according to the intent of the process.
“Further, we don’t think it’s fair for an institution like UMass Lowell to somehow negatively impact any opponent, conference or nonconference, for actually going above and beyond what is required in their Year One transition requirements. That seems counterintuitive to the new process.
“Finally, we believe the penalty for this type of violation is overly excessive. Restricted membership is a very serious penalty and should only be associated with egregious activity. This rule does not rise to that level. Therefore, we hope the Administration Cabinet will take a broad look at these issues in the future.”