NCAA Board Votes To Slow Down New APR Rules Implementation

Directors of Division I of the NCAA voted Thursday to slow the planned implementation of the intercollegiate sports governing organization’s new academic eligibility rules, giving student-athletes who are academic underperformers additional time to comply with the rules while keeping the overall new thrust intact.

At their board meeting in Indianapolis, the group of college presidents gave high school students an additional year to prepare themselves academically to meet the higher eligibility standards for playing in intercollegiate athletics.

The Division I directors also voted to give what it calls “limited-resource institutions,” more time to improve their academic education programs to meet new NCAA academic performance criteria that bar schools from post-season competition if less than 50 percent of the school’s team members are not expected to graduate.

The twin decisions that impose a new two-tier compliance timetable for “limited-resource” institutions represent a partial victory for historically Black colleges and universities, a group of institutions that fall into the NCAA’s “limited resource” category.

“We have an obligation to work with HBCUs and limited-resource institutions to make sure their student-athletes have every opportunity to be successful academically,” says NCAA president Mark Emmert, in a statement released by the NCAA after the board vote. “It’s important to look at a variety of options and be as deliberative as we can to ensure our actions facilitate success, not limit it.”

The NCAA statement says the goal of its Academic Performance Program “is not to punish teams that don’t meet the benchmarks but to improve the academic outcomes for underperforming teams.”

The organization says the flexible transition period for limited-resource institutions “is consistent with this goal and provides opportunities for institutions with limited resources and a different mission.”

The Division I board did not comment on whether it would allocate more money from its coffers to help limited-resource institutions beyond flexing its rules. Some college presidents, including Division I board member Dr. William Harvey, president of Hampton University, have urged the board to help institutions meet the new requirements with additional financial assistance to hire tutors, acquire computers for training, and procure other technological assets.

Presidents and athletic directors of many Division I schools had complained the new academic rules, adopted in 2011, placed an unfair burden of compliance on them as they have a “clearly stated mission to provide access to a broader group of students, including those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.”

Officials at several schools that could be affected by the rule change withheld comment, pending a review of the decision of the Division I board. It covers approximately 250 of the nation’s schools, mostly those with larger athletic programs.

The new compliance timetable adopted today extends by a year to 2016, the time by which high school students must meet new, higher eligibility “expectations” to qualify for intercollegiate sports competition. “The standard is higher than what will be needed to receive aid and practice, creating an academic redshirt year,” the NCAA says. In decades past, many freshman athletes sat out their first year in order to adapt to the higher academic rigors of college and sometimes to give players ahead of them another year of play.

“We want to give young people a fair chance to meet the new standards by taking core academic courses early in their high school education,” says NCAA Division I Board Chair Judy Genshaft in a prepared statement. “The presidents have every confidence that future student-athletes will do the work necessary to be academically successful in college.”

The new tier of compliance with the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program, revises the organization’s complicated Academic Progress Rate (APR) to give limited-resource institutions four years more to comply.

All schools in Division I must meet the same standard in 2012-13 and 2013-14 post-season—a 900 four-year APR or a 930 average over the two most recent years. The standard changes for “limited-resource institutions” for the next three years.

Those teams must earn a 910 four-year APR or a 940 average APR over the most recent two years to qualify for 2014-15 post-season competition. Teams must earn a 920 four-year APR to qualify for 2015-16 post-season competition. They must earn a 930 four-year APR to compete in 2016-17 competition, the same as all other Division I schools.

The NCAA offered a number of ways schools can seek exceptions to the APR rule, yet insisted higher academic standards for athletes would be the trend for the organization for the foreseeable future.