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NCAA Wakes Up, Attempts to Put the Student Back into “Student-Athlete”

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By HVsports on August 12, 2011

In an abrupt about-face, the NCAA has decided that now is the time to try and put the student back into student-athlete when it comes to college football and basketball.

“The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved the idea that college sports teams not carrying at least a 930 Academic Progress Rate averaged over four years will soon be barred from postseason competition,” ESPN reported. “That means a raising of the bar of academic requirements teams will need to meet in order to go dancing in the NCAA tournament or any other sport’s NCAA-sanctioned postseason.”

The change to making the APR a condition of post-season eligibility applies across the board to all NCAA sports. But the implications of this change will impact basketball and baseball more than other sports.

Had this rule been in place during the 2011 March Madness tournament, 13 teams would not have been allowed to participate, including heavyweights like Syracuse, Ohio State, Purdue, Kansas State, University of San Diego, and Morehead State — which upset Louisville in the first round.

But wait, it gets worse: Because of its four-year average, defending champion University of Connecticut would not be eligible to defend its title in 2012.

Right now, the media is only discussing this in terms of basketball, but the rule will also impact college football and the bowl system.

Count University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban as a fan of the changes. Saban said anything that encourages schools to take responsibility to graduate players is a good thing for college football, The Capstone Report noted. “We take that responsibility here, so it will be no change for us,” Saban said.

The Academic Progress Rate is a measurement to determine graduation rates in athletic programs. A 930 APR roughly translates to a 50% graduation rate (not exactly pushing for that C+, but hey if an F is considered a success in sports, shouldn’t that apply to the classroom too?), and the maximum score of 1000 means a 100% graduation rate.

The APR is calculated, complexly, by “allocating points for eligibility and retention — the two factors that research identifies as the best indicators of graduation. Each player on a given roster earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution. A team’s APR is the total points of a team’s roster at a given time divided by the total points possible. Since this results in a decimal number, the CAP decided to multiply it by 1,000 for ease of reference. Thus, a raw APR score of .925 translates into the 925 that will become the standard terminology.”

The plan to implement these changes won’t go into effect until October, and by then there will probably be some sort of grace period included for schools to figure out how to skirt the new law for their basketball and football programs. Let’s not pretend that the laws against athletes making/taking money and a slew of other violations aren’t already being skirted.

So should the NCAA be applauded for trying to emphasize the “student” aspect of the student-athlete, or hit for not doing this a long time ago and for essentially only wanting half the team to graduate? And will basketball and football bear the brunt of these changes, and should they? There are just too many unique issues regarding recruiting, money, graduation rates, transfer rates, the post-season and other factors that makes those two sports difficult to lump in with the others. Weigh in below…

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