The NCAA has approved a way to identify teams with long-term academic problems and will begin assessing penalties starting in 2007-2008, including postseason bans and the loss of scholarships.
The new system, unanimously approved by the Division I board of directors over two days of meetings in Indianapolis late last week, examines graduation rates over rolling four-year periods for individual teams.
Programs that don’t make the grade will get warning letters next spring; the penalties will begin the year after that. Between 60 and 120 Division I teams could be below the cutoff, says NCAA vice president Kevin C. Lennon.
The number actually penalized likely will be less than that, however, because of various mitigating factors.
The system is based on Academic Performance Rates, which are measured on a 1,000-point scale. The association already is implementing a system of short-term penalties based on a cutoff of 925 that’s taken year-to-year.
The long-term guidelines set a lower benchmark of 900 over four year periods. “They are the most severe penalties teams can incur, for the worst of the worst,” says Walter Harrison, the NCAA’s chairman of academic performance.
He says a score of 900 correlates with about a 50 percent graduation rate. Teams most likely to be affected are football, men’s basketball and baseball, Harrison says.
Statistics for the first year of APR scores, announced in April, showed 111 teams from 72 schools could face penalties next year. Only nine are women’s teams.
It’s impossible to project what schools are going to do over the next year or two,” Harrison says. “But we did run some models, and I think it’s safe to say that, plus or minus a couple tenths of a percentage point, about 2 percent of the teams in the first year would be below 900.”
However, that percentage will likely increase in the second year as the figures are refined.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean the teams are getting worse; we actually have a lot of evidence to indicate they’re getting better but because we’re allowing teams this margin of error in year one, a number of teams are going to escape penalties for that reason,” Harrison says.
Harrison adds that a team whose APR is below 900 could avoid penalties, for example, if it has shown “significant improvement” over four years. In that case, the NCAA would review other factors, such as how that team compared with the teams in that sport at other schools, whether the school had fewer resources or whether the team’s APR was higher than the general student body.
Even without that, he says, a school could still apply for a waiver citing other factors.
But failure to meet NCAA standards over time could lead to harsher penalties such as scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, postseason bans or even membership restrictions.
“As with each stage of our academic reforms, from enhanced eligibility standards to sharper measurements of progress toward degree, the goal is to help teams and student-athletes improve, not to penalize,” NCAA President Myles Brand says.
The NCAA also:
- Agreed to vote in January whether to override a measure passed in April allowing a graduate with remaining eligibility to transfer to another school and become immediately eligible. Normally, Division I transfers must sit out one year.
- Delayed until October an override request on a Division I-AA proposal for a 12th regular-season football game. That measure was defeated in April.
- Approved a change in terminology for the Division I football divisions. The former I-A classification will be the “Football Bowl Subdivision,” and I-AA will be the “NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.”
- Agreed to consider a Division II proposal to create two football playoff championship tournaments, one for schools that offer up to 18 scholarships and another for those that offer up to the maximum of 36. If approved in January, it would take effect with the 2009 season.
- Denied appeals by McMurry University and by the College of William and Mary to be removed from a list of schools subject to restrictions on the use of American Indian mascots, names and imagery at NCAA championships. It also means those schools will not be allowed to host NCAA championship events.
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