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NCAA Reforms penalize academic failure



Published: Mon, January 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The NCAA plans to pull scholarships if athletes fail in the classroom.

By TED HUTTON

SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- If the NCAA's new academic reforms pack as much punch as hoped, coaches will have to worry as much about their team's APR rating as they do the RPI.

The NCAA is expected to approve cutoff rates for its new Academic Progress Rate today, and teams that fall below the minimums face losing scholarships starting a year from now.

"There are a significant number of institutions that will be penalized," predicted Walt Harrison, chair of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance that has been developing the APR that will be used to penalize teams and universities for poor academic performance.

"It's no secret that baseball, football and men's basketball will see the most significant effects," said Harrison, who estimated that 25 percent of current Division I schools could feel the effects of the penalties when the APR is set.

Harrison and his committee met Sunday during the NCAA's 99th annual convention to finalize their recommendations and then were to meet today with the Division I Board of Directors, which has the final say.

The APR will be followed by a Graduation Success Rate and is the final part of the sweeping academic changes the NCAA has put in place over the past two years. They are designed to increase retention and graduation of student-athletes, and for the first time schools will face penalties for failing to meet the standards.

"These measures will change the culture of college sports," NCAA President Myles Brand said Saturday in his speech to the 2,000 delegates at the convention.

Graduation rates

In the latest NCAA report, graduation rates at Division I schools were 57 percent for football, 46 percent for baseball and 44 percent for basketball. The graduation rate for all student-athletes was 62 percent and 60 percent for the general student population.

Currently there are no penalties attached to academic performance and graduation rates, and basketball teams are more interested in their Ratings Percentage Index, which ranks teams based on wins and losses, and can help get them into the NCAA Tournament.

In the future, a sub-standard ARP could get a basketball team banned from postseason play.

So dramatic are the potential penalties for some teams that Harrison's committee decided to recommend a cap on the number of scholarships a team could lose.

Penalties

"We don't want to just be tough, we want to be fair," said Harrison, who is advocating a cap of 5 percent of total scholarships. Under that formula, a football team, which is allotted 85 scholarships, could lose a maximum of four.

Harrison also will be presenting a 10 percent option to the board, which would mean a loss of nine scholarships for football teams. The APR rate will follow student-athletes on a semester-by-semester basis, with points awarded if the student-athlete stays eligible and in school, and points lost if the student-athlete flunks out or leaves without transferring to another school.

The GSR will track the overall graduation rate and include penalties based on four years of data.

"[The GSR] penalties will be the real devastating ones," Harrison said, since they are expected to include exclusion from bowl games, the NCAA basketball tournament and the College World Series, and being removed from the NCAA if problems persist.




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