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NCAA Taking Academic Reform Seriously

University presidents will show how serious they are about academic reform when they decide whether the NCAA should continue to sanction schools that don’t meet classroom performance standards, NCAA President Myles Brand said Monday.

For the first time last May, the governing body issued warning letters to schools based on academic performance. According to Brand, more schools could face warning letters and sanctions this spring if university presidents remain committed to reform.

“Will the presidents be able to stay strong?” Brand said in a speech to faculty members and athletic staff at Notre Dame. “I should tell you that in the past, most academic reform efforts at the NCAA have failed. The fact of the matter is, if the basketball coaches resist these changes they’re not acting irrationally, because in the past they were able to successfully resist changes.”

Brand cited basketball coaches specifically because the sport’s Division I men’s programs had the worst academic performance on the Academic Progress Rate, which measures eligibility and retention of student athletes for every program at every Division I school.

Brand said about 45 percent of Division I schools that have men’s basketball teams are in danger of scoring below 925 on the APR — the equivalent of a 60 percent graduation rate under the NCAA’s formula — and could receive warning letters.

Schools receiving warning letters could face harsher sanctions in upcoming years. A second offense would result in a reduction of practice time or games played. A third offense would result in disqualification from NCAA tournaments.

Brand said the goal isn’t to punish schools, it’s to change their behavior.

Brand said after his speech that the presidents could be pressured by coaches, university boards, fans and the media to water down the rules. He said some people simply say: “We don’t care how they do academically.”

Saying he’s a “pathological optimist,” though, Brand said he believes the school presidents will continue to support academic reform.

Brand also talked about his concerns that athletic department spending is getting out of control. He said in the past decade budgets at Division I schools have increased on average 3 percent to 4 percent while athletic department budgets at those schools have increased on average 8 percent to 12 percent. Only six Division I athletic departments have shown a profit during the past six years, Brand said.

“Is that bad? Not necessarily. There are lots of activities in the university that we subsidize,” he said. “I spent 40 years as a philosophy professor and I very much doubt the philosophy department ever brought in money over their expenditure rate.”

The concern, he said, is how much colleges subsidize and the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots even among the biggest schools. Brand said the NCAA can’t limit how much schools can spend on athletics, but it has set up standard accounting procedures and is encouraging schools to share information and to be fiscally responsible.

“There’s a certain level of individual responsibility,” he said. “You can’t regulate everything about intercollegiate athletics or about life, you know that. I don’t think regulation is always the answer. Sometimes it’s not a very good answer, even if it is possible.”

– Associated Press

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