UT men not making test grade
By: By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Myles Brand sees the academic gains most college teams are making as a sign of progress.
He’s also concerned about the recurring problems that plague some schools, some teams and one sport in particular: men’s basketball.
Yes, it was all there for Brand to dissect Tuesday when the NCAA released its latest Academic Progress Report.
“There’s plenty of good news,” the NCAA president said. “There has been measurable progress. There are also some concerns, and we certainly need to do more.”
The most troubling part was the listing of 26 teams which now face additional reductions in practice time and scholarships while finding themselves on the brink of a possible postseason ban because of consistently poor APR scores. If those 26 schools do not improve their APR scores drastically by next year, they will be left out of postseason play in 2009-10.
Nearly 150 other teams face potential scholarship losses as early as next season, and more than 700 teams finished with scores below the NCAA’s mandated cutline of 925.
The numbers seem to prove resources do affect academic performance.
Large Division I schools, like those in the Bowl Championship Series conferences, performed relatively well in the classroom with only 18 ECS teams penalized — eight in men’s and women’s basketball and two in football.
Of those, only four — Kansas State, Purdue, Southern California and Tennessee — made the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. All four could lose up to two scholarships next season but only if a player leaves school while academically ineligible.
Also making the list were traditional powers like LSU baseball and Tennessee men’s swimming.
Tennessee and West Virginia, with three teams each on the list, were the only ECS schools with more than one team sanctioned. Each school had three teams penalized — West Virginia in men’s soccer, wrestling and women’s rowing and Tennessee in men’s basketball, men’s swimming and baseball.
But none of them made the list of 26, and Brand believes athletic directors and university presidents must make better choices when identifying priorities.
“It’s not as much about how many resources you have, as it is about where you put it,” he said. “If you have a problem, you should put it more toward academic development and not as much toward suites or new facilities, for instance.”
Initially, Brand said he hoped he would never have to implement the harshest penalties under the academic reforms he embraced after becoming president. He may have no choice now.
“Academic reform is here to stay,” he said. “Yes, there are individual institutions where we’ve seen a steady decline (over the last four years), and for them, the situation is dire.”
Brand was mostly pleased with the results.
Overall scores improved by four points since the NCAA began collecting data in 2003. Scores are also up in 26 of 29 sports over the last four years, and fewer teams were penalized than even NCAA officials expected last year.
One reason was the substantial progress made by baseball and football players in the classroom. Those sports increased their average scores by 12 and 11 points since 2003, respectively, which equate to graduation rates in the mid 60s.
And roughly 5,500 of the NCAA’s 6,272 Division I teams did well enough to avoid even the most lenient penalty — a warning letter.
But for the 26 teams that have now scored less than 900 in consecutive years, the penalties could become much more drastic very soon.
A third straight sub-900 score would eliminate them from NCAA Tournaments and bowl games, and a fourth consecutive appearance on the list could put their Division I status in jeopardy.
“The penalties should tell people that we take this very seriously,” said Walter Harrison, chairman of the NCAA’s committee on academic performance. “These penalties will be equal to, or greater, than the most serious penalties you can take in infractions cases.”
Schools already facing possible postseason bans include football teams at San Jose State, Southern and Temple, and men’s basketball teams at New Mexico State, Centenary and East Carolina.
Thirty-six teams were assessed two penalties and three schools had more than one team hit twice — Alabama-Birmingham in men’s basketball, football and men’s golf; San Diego State in baseball and football; and San Jose State in baseball and men’s basketball.
Florida International had five teams — baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s outdoor track and field and women’s swimming — receive one sanction each.
Another big concern is the retention rate in men’s basketball. The national score was 906.2, far lower than the scores for either football or baseball.
Men’s basketball also made less progress in overall scores, going from 929.3 in 2003 to 931.9 in Tuesday’s report.
So the NCAA is exploring solutions. A committee is already considering proposals about how to weigh summer school classes, transfers and whether the NCAA can do anything to stem the tide of coaching changes, which often leads to players switching schools and lower APR scores.
“The number of coaching changes is increasing,” Brand said. “So that has been a difficulty and we’re looking at ways to mitigate that for student-athletes. We look at that in granting waivers, but coaching changes can be problematic.”
Another factor in low scores is money.
According to the report, 180 teams cited resources as the reason for poor numbers while 253 teams said they were hurt by the departures of academically ineligible players. Teams can cite more than one explanation for scores when filing the report.
Other trends in the report show:
• Women continue to outperform men, with a four-year average of 969 compared to 951.
• Historically black colleges and universities, which last year had a disparate percentage of low scores, fell more in line with national averages this year.
• The percentage of athletes who leave school academically ineligible has decreased from 3.7 percent in 2003 to 2.9 percent last year.
The scores were based on academic performance from 2003-07. Athletes earn one point for remaining academically eligible each semester and another point each semester they remain at the school, accumulating a maximum of four points each year. The scoring is altered slightly for schools on a quarters-based calendar.
“We’ve been at this long enough now that we can recognize what teams and schools have problems, and we understand that not all problems are the same,” Brand said. “We’ll work with those teams and schools to help give them the best opportunity for success.”