State programs to learn if they're making grade

Harsher NCAA rules expected to produce more penalties


May 04, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun reporter

Dozens of schools face a day of reckoning when the NCAA releases academic progress scores Tuesday under its increasingly tough policy of punishing institutions that fail to keep their athletes on track to graduate.

A number of schools are expected to face scholarship losses and other penalties because the rules are stricter this year.

Last year, three teams from Maryland schools received scores earning them warning letters. They were Coppin State baseball, Morgan State women's volleyball and UMES men's basketball. The teams face penalties if their scores haven't risen this year.

The Maryland men's basketball team also could face penalties - up to two scholarships could be lost - if its average Academic Progress Rate has not improved since the release of last year's figures.

The APR gives points to athletes for remaining enrolled and academically eligible. The points are included in a team's mathematical calculation, with 1,000 the best score.

Maryland athletic department spokesman Doug Dull said Friday that it would be premature to comment because not all the information was in yet from the NCAA.

University of North Carolina public policy professor Hodding Carter III said he expects "howls" of protest from sanctioned schools.

"The Academic Progress Rates process is beginning to bite, as it should," said Carter, a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a watchdog group.

The rules have become more stringent.

Last year, allowances were made because the NCAA didn't yet have four years of data on which to judge teams' performances and didn't want to punish schools unfairly. No exceptions will be made in this year's figures, which cover four academic years ending in 2006-07.

"Reaching the fourth year of the process is certainly a milestone, and I guess that when the numbers come out we will see a significant number of schools sitting up and taking notice," said Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby, a defender of the system. "I expect that there will be an outcry, and I am sure there will be accusations of unfairness. This process has been ramping up for several years, and institutions have had plenty of time to respond."

The only major-conference basketball teams penalized last year were Cincinnati and Iowa State. In all, 63 athletic teams received immediate penalties.

As many as 44 percent of Division I men's basketball teams could have been punished last year if it weren't for the NCAA's mathematical cushion. NCAA president Myles Brand has indicated that many teams have improved their scores since then but that dozens will be sanctioned. Teams can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships in a year, as well as having recruiting and practice time curtailed.

"I think there will be an embarrassment factor, and, quite frankly, there should be," said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and co-chairman of the Knight Commission. Kirwan is the former chairman of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, which approved the APR system in January 2005.

On April 24, the NCAA announced that several programs in Maryland rank in the top 10 percent of their respective sports in academic progress. The teams include 12 from Navy, six from Loyola, two from Mount St. Mary's, two from Maryland and one from UMES.

Asked about College Park athletes, Kirwan said: "Generally speaking, the university and the department are doing quite well. There's always room for improvement."

The Ivy League accounted for more than one-fifth of the honored teams with 150. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, 41 teams were honored, led by Duke with 12.

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