NCAA lets schools know if they're making the grade
Feb. 15, 2005
SportsLine.com wire reports
INDIANAPOLIS -- Schools will begin receiving information from the NCAA about their teams' academic performance within the next week, a move that could lead to some schools losing scholarships next fall.
The reports will be made available to the public on Feb. 28.
NCAA officials said Tuesday they believe about 20 percent of men's basketball teams and 30 percent of football teams risk immediate penalties based on data collected from the 2003-04 school year. But penalties will not be imposed until after officials collect data from 2004-05.
"I think the vast majority of those at risk will be so far under the cutlines, that it will be a no-brainer," said Wally Renfro, senior adviser to President Myles Brand.
The penalties are a component in the NCAA's latest academic reform movement, which is based on a new points system that measures the retention and graduation rates of each team.
An athlete receives one point per semester or quarter for remaining eligible and another point each term for staying in school. The formula will not penalize schools for students who remain academically eligible before transferring, something that count against universities when federal graduation rates are calculated.
The system also rewards schools for accepting transfers who graduate -- something federal guidelines do not count.
The NCAA will then calculate each team's total score and divide the number by the most possible points to produce a percentage. A perfect score would translate to 1,000 points, and any team with fewer than 925 points -- equivalent to about a 50 percent graduation rate -- could lose scholarships.
But because next year's equations are based on only two years of data, rather than the preferred four years, the NCAA also will have a small-squad adjustment formula that could help some teams avoid immediate punishment even if their total score falls below the cutline.
NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon said that part of the equation was added to avoid anomalies for teams with fewer athletes. Todd Petr, the NCAA's managing director of research, said the adjustment would be calculated like the margin of error in a presidential poll.
Lennon also insisted schools still had time to change their numbers before next fall.
"Things can be done right now to avoid these penalties," he said. "But you may have a team that has 80 players and a score of 900 with a different boundary than a team of five at 900."
Schools could not lose more than 10 percent of scholarships allowed by the NCAA in any one year in each sport. The loss would be for just one year at a time.
But if the academic numbers don't improve, schools could face more severe sanctions such as scholarship and recruiting restrictions as well as postseason bans. The bans likely would not go into effect until 2008-09.
"The goal is not to crush a program, it is to change behavior over time," Renfro said. "But if you're living life in the danger zone, it will only be a matter of time till you get in trouble and then the penalties will be real and severe."
Schools also could ask for waivers.
That process, Lennon said, is still being created, but factors such as a school's mission statement could be considered in reducing a punishment.
Still, NCAA officials hope the reforms will help improve graduation rates and make athletic departments and coaches more accountable for the academic performance of athletes.
"We're trying to be fair, but I don't think a school can take a lot of satisfaction or comfort knowing that there's a snake in the grass ready to bite," Renfro said.
The Associated Press News Service
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