Harsher penalties on the way for NCAA rule violators
INDIANAPOLIS -- Repeat offenders will get letters of warning next year and face increasingly harsher penalties, including postseason bans and the loss of scholarships, starting in 2007-08 for continued academic failures, the NCAA said Thursday night.
The action by the Division I board of directors during two days of meetings was the latest step in an attempt to address both short- and long-term academic problems.
It's based on Academic Performance Rates compiled over a four-year period for individual sports, meaning a school could draw penalties for one or more teams without others being affected. The board unanimously approved the plan to deal with "historical" penalties, meaning those stemming from repeated failure to meet the NCAA's academic standards, said Walt Harrison, the NCAA's chairman of academic performance.
"They are the most severe penalties teams can incur, for the worst of the worst," Harrison said. "They would begin in 2007-08. These penalties measure four years of behavior. If at the end of four years, your APR score was below a minimum benchmark of 900, you would be eligible for penalties. The key figure is you have to be below 900."
Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president, said a score of 900 correlates with about a 50 percent graduation rate.
The teams most likely to be affected are football, men's basketball and baseball, Harrison said.
The association already is implementing a system of "contemporaneous," or short-term penalties based on a cutoff of 925. The new 900 benchmark would apply to graduation rates over rolling four-year periods.
Statistics for the first year of APR scores, announced in April, showed 111 teams from 72 schools could face penalties next year. Only nine of the teams are women's.
Next year, after the third year of data collection, schools with teams below 900 will get warning letters next spring; the penalties will begin the year after that, and Lennon said he expected between 60 and 120 Division I teams might be below the cutoff. The number actually penalized likely will be less than that, however, because of various mitigating factors.
"It's impossible to project what schools are going to do over the next year or two," Harrison said. "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 said.
Harrison said a team could avoid penalties, for example, if it has shown "significant improvement" over four years, even if its APR is still below 900. 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 than other schools or whether the team's APR was nevertheless higher than the general student body.
Even without that, he said, a school could still apply for a waiver citing other specific factors that might have affected its score.
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 said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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