Knight Commission sees academic progress

WASHINGTON -- The final number-crunching has begun in the NCAA's new plan to punish teams whose athletes aren't on pace to graduate. The early returns are somewhat promising.

"We're seeing for the very first time some progress," said Britton Banowsky, Conference USA commissioner and chairman of an NCAA academic subcommittee. "We're seeing institutional behavior
changed. We're seeing more student athletes on track to graduate."

Banowsky spoke Tuesday at a meeting of the Knight Commission, the privately funded group that works to reform college sports. The commission and college teams across the country are anxiously awaiting the first official scorecard of the Academic Progress Rate. It will measure the retention and graduation rates of men's and women's Division I teams in all sports.

Teams need an APR of at least 925 to pass. Teams that don't make the grade could lose scholarships and eventually be banned from postseason tournaments. Last year, in a dry run of the system, some
400 of 6,000 Division I teams, about seven percent, had failing

The prospect of being penalized has apparently jolted some
schools in action.

"Conversations are taking place on campus that never took place before," said Todd Petr, the NCAA's director of research. "Coaches are paying attention to this."

Schools have started turning in their scores for this year, but
the full results probably won't be assembled until January. Teams
that fall short will then get a chance to appeal, so the final
scorecards and sanctions should be announced in February.

But even if there is progress from last year, the NCAA is still looking at the prospect of hundreds of unhappy teams and therefore hundreds of appeals.

"We are prepared for a high volume," Banowsky said.

The Knight Commission, often wary of the NCAA's reforms in the past,
has embraced the APR.

"The possibility of losing a scholarship, that is one of the
things that can certainly get a coach's attention," said
commission vice chairman R. Gerald Turner, chancellor of Southern
Methodist University. "In general, we all felt like that program
is on course."