According to a report from Tim Gayle of the USA Today, SWAC officials announced on Friday that all 10 teams in the league would be allowed to participate in the 2014 conference tournament despite four teams being banned from the NCAA Tournament due to poor Academic Progress Rates.
The SWAC has seen this sort of issue before, in regards to its conference tournament, and last season saw only seven men’s teams compete in the tournament.
Regular-season SWAC champion Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling and Mississippi Valley State are the four teams facing the NCAA Tournament ban and the four schools were allowed in the conference tournament after SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp had the presidents of the 10 teams in the league vote on whether to include them. According to Gayle, the vote would up 8-2 to include the teams in the conference tournament.
But what about the NCAA Tournament? With the SWAC being a one-bid league, conference officials were concerned that an ineligible team would win the league tournament and the SWAC would forfeit their NCAA Tournament bid — and the postseason money that comes with it.
Thankfully, the NCAA has stepped in and weighted in on the matter, as Gayle explains in the USA Today report:
SWAC officials were worried that an ineligible team winning the tournament might exclude all SWAC teams from the NCAA tournament which, in turn, would forfeit the conference’s right to the postseason money that is divided among participating teams.
But the NCAA took the unprecedented step on Friday of allowing ineligible teams to participate and will simply take the highest-seeded eligible team (currently the Alabama State men and the conference-leading Texas Southern women) should more than one eligible team reach the same level of conference tournament play before being eliminated by an ineligible team.
Otherwise, the eligible team that advances the farthest will be the conference’s NCAA qualifier.
The NCAA also weighed in on the matter in regards to future rulings with a statement:
In response to a request from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees will allow the conference to amend its automatic qualification policy for the 2014 championships only.
The conference tournaments 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 berth will go to the highest-seeded team.
The process will be revisited when the men’s and women’s basketball committees meet in the summer.
Obviously, this is a bizarre situation — and it certainly doesn’t make the SWAC look good — but it seems as though the NCAA and the league have figured things out.
The big news here is that Southern won’t be making another NCAA Tournament appearance after putting a scare into No. 1 seed Gonzaga last year as a 16 seed. As the regular-season champs, Southern would have been the favorites to make it back to the tournament, but now, Alabama State is the highest-seeded eligible men’s team in the field.
The SWAC will hold its conference tournament March 11-15th at the Toyota Center in Houston.