Forty-one percent of bowl-bound college football teams fall below the NCAA’s new academic benchmark, and almost half of them lacked a 50 percent graduation rate, according to an annual survey released this week.
The 56 Division 1-A football teams headed to bowl games have a lingering problem of too many student-athletes failing to complete their studies, says Dr. Richard Lapchick, the University of Central Florida professor who authored the annual report.
“The key is admitting students who are qualified to be in that school,” says Lapchick, who heads the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at UCF.
This is the first year Lapchick has used the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, known as APR, to measure the bowl-bound schools’ academic progress. In past years, the study has relied solely on graduation rates.
Developed last year, the NCAA’s new academic standard awards APR points based on how many scholarship student-athletes meet academic eligibility standards. A cutoff score of 925 means an estimated 50 percent of those student-athletes are on track to graduate.
Starting this year, NCAA schools that regularly fall below the 925 score can lose scholarships, face recruiting restrictions and miss postseason play.
In a dry run of the system last year, more than 90 percent of Division I teams across all sports had passing scores. According to Lapchick’s report, only 33 of the 56 bowl-bound teams — 59 percent — got above the 925 cutoff.
“Obviously we would like to see those statistics higher,” says NCAA spokesman Bob Williams. “But this is a process that the NCAA member institutions are going through to change behavior and essentially ensure the student athletes, coaches and everyone involved in collegiate athletics understands that academic achievement and academic performance is just as important as athletic performance.”
While the APR figures give schools an up-to-date assessment of how they’re doing, the graduation rates are still useful in showing the disparity in the graduation rates between Black and White student-athletes, Lapchick says.
Two-thirds of the bowl-bound schools graduated less than half of their African-American football student-athletes. By comparison, 49 percent of the bowl-bound schools failed to have a 50 percent graduation rate overall for those players, according to Lapchick’s report.
Lapchick praised Northwestern University and Boston College for doing the best job of graduating football players. Both teams graduated at least 78 percent of all football student-athletes and at least 74 percent of African-American football student-athletes.
Two conferences, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East Conference, had every one of their bowl-bound schools receive an APR score higher than 925, and all the teams in both conferences were in the top 25 of APR rankings for bowl-bound schools.
Conversely, all five of the bowl-bound teams in the Pacific 10 scored less than 925.
The NCAA should be aiming to have two-thirds of the schools make the 925 cut when the next round of APR figures are released early next year, Lapchick says.
“I’m really hopeful that the next time the APR scores come out, it will show the expected improvement because of the sanctions that can be imposed on the schools,” Lapchick says. “The APRs have gotten the schools’ notice and attention.”
— Associated Press
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