INDIANAPOLIS --- Presidents and chancellors on the Division I Board of Directors have agreed to key adjustments in the NCAA’s academic reform plan.
Those adjustments include establishing a framework for historical penalties; developing incentives for good behavior; and modifying how student-athletes leaving for professional sports are counted in their teams’ Academic Performance Rate (APR).
"We are signaling once again and sending a clear message that we are serious about the academic progress of our student-athletes," said Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance and member of the Division I Board of Directors.
The proposed historical penalties could include a first-year warning for poor performance, followed by restrictions on scholarships, recruiting and playing time in the second year of underperformance. Continued poor academic standing by a team in a third year would result in the loss of postseason competition. Four consecutive years of underperformance academically would result in a postseason ban for all sports teams at the particular college or university.
NCAA President Myles Brand said contemporaneous penalties in the academic reform program serve as a warning that more extensive penalties could be forthcoming through the historical penalty structure if academic performance does not improve.
"The objective is to identify the worst of the worst and change behaviors," Brand said. "Unfortunately, in the recent past, the contemporaneous penalties related to the APR have been misinterpreted as primary sanctions. That is not the case."
Harrison mentioned that incentives for strong academic performance are being further developed, and will likely include public recognition and monetary awards. Examples could include both top performance by a sports team and most improved academic performance by a team. The CAP will continue to refine the incentives package and review possible funding for financial rewards and report back to the Board in October. Incentives are expected to begin in the 2006-07 academic year.
The board unanimously accepted all of the recommendations from CAP, which include modifications in a team’s APR score for situations beyond the control of either the student-athlete or their college or university.
These types of situations, according to Harrison, include if an institution drops a student-athlete’s major or drops a specific sport; if there is a death or life-threatening illness in the family of a student-athlete; or if a student-athlete is drafted by a professional league.
In these cases, a student-athlete’s APR calculation would be adjusted as 1-for-1 instead of 1-for-2. The APR, the metric by which a team's academic progress is judged, awards academically eligible student-athletes two points per term (one for academic eligibility and one for staying in school).
Student-athletes who are drafted for professional sports would not lose the retention point if they complete their current semester in good academic standing.
The directive also outlines examples of situations the CAP (and the Board) believes clearly are within the student-athlete's or institution's control and thus would not warrant consideration for an adjustment.
They include departures due to lack of playing time, defections that occur after a coaching change, suspensions for academic reasons and/or disciplinary problems, or departures due to a team being subject to sanctions or academic-reform penalties. Student-athletes who leave the institution because their athletically related financial aid was not renewed also would not be considered as meriting an APR adjustment. It also includes student-athletes who transfer for reasons not included in the previously stated cases.
Among other CAP recommendations the Board approved was an APR adjustment that rewards institutions for student-athletes who return to complete their degrees after having left school. Such graduates would earn the institution a "1-for-0" bonus point in the APR calculation for that particular team.
The bonus restores the retention point lost when the student-athlete left the institution; however, if the student-athlete had been awarded the 1-for-1 adjustment noted above, the institution would in effect gain an additional bonus. The point would be added in the term in which the student-athlete graduated.
The Board also approved guidelines that include consideration of an institution's mission when determining waivers for contemporaneous, or immediate, penalties, such as the loss of a scholarship.
Board members also set the stage for Division I's first membership vote at the Convention under the federated governance structure related to a proposal to increase the maximum number of scholarships allowable in certain women's sports.
The scholarship legislation in question, Proposal No. 04-21, was approved by the Board in April, but afterward a total of 116 Division I institutions—all either I-AA or I-AAA schools—submitted override votes. The 116 total exceeds the 100 needed for the legislation to be suspended until further review by the Board. Thirty override votes are required for the Board to revisit an adopted proposal, but 100 not only results in a review but actually suspends the legislation.
Proposal No. 04-21 would increase the maximum grant-in-aid limitations in women's gymnastics from 12 to 14, in women's volleyball from 12 to 13, in women's cross-country/track and field from 18 to 20 and in women's soccer from 12 to 14.
The proposal adds participation opportunities but is a cost and/or competitive-equity issue to some institutions. Some institutions believe that schools with already strong programs in those sports will accumulate even more talent, thus taking away athletes who otherwise would have sought scholarship opportunities at other institutions.
The Board's decision to uphold its earlier action means that the legislation remains suspended and that a vote of active Division I members will take place during the Legislative Issues Forum at the 2006 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
"The override action is an appropriate part of the democratic structure within the NCAA," Harrison said.