HBCUs, Katrina-area schools struggle in APR report

Updated: May 2, 2007, 8:39 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA's latest academic progress report shows money pays off in the classroom, not just on the playing field.

Athletic programs with the biggest budgets, such as the six BCS conferences, scored well on the latest Academic Progress Report, released Wednesday. Those with less money did not.

Among the hardest-hit schools were those in the Hurricane Katrina region and predominantly black colleges. Teams at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) accounted for about 13 percent of schools facing punishment because of poor classroom performance, and 13-of-49 schools receiving warning letters came from Louisiana.

NCAA President Myles Brand said he believes money supersedes racial or regional divides.

"It's more about low-income, low-resource schools," he said. "We're concerned about all schools with a low-support basis, and there are a number of HBCUs in that category. We're trying to provide them with the resources to do better."

This is the first time the NCAA has sent out warning letters based on academic performance.

The NCAA compiles an APR, which measures eligibility and retention of student athletes, for every program at every Division I school.

Teams scoring less than 925 -- the equivalent of a 60 percent graduation rate under the NCAA's formula -- received warning letters and could face harsher sanctions over the next three years. A second offense during that time would result in a reduction of practice time or games played. A third offense would result in disqualification from NCAA tournaments.

Louisiana-based Nicholls State received the second-most warning letters in four sports: baseball, men's cross country and women's indoor and outdoor track.

BCS teams, however, accounted for only 11 of 112 penalized teams, and no school from the BCS conferences received a warning letter. The most prominent programs cited were Arizona's football team and the men's basketball teams at Cincinnati and Iowa State, which could all lose scholarships next year.

"If you do have more resources, I think that you do have a better opportunity," Texas Southern athletic director Alois Blackwell said after receiving five warning letters, the most nationally. "When you don't, I'm not saying you can't, but it makes it a little more difficult for you to do it."

HBCUs received more than 50 waivers, excusing them from penalties for now, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon said. The NCAA did not have the figures on how many hurricane-affected schools got waivers.

Brand praised New Orleans' Tulane University for its strong academic performance despite Hurricane Katrina -- all seven of its teams scored 940 or better.

"What Tulane and these other schools have been through is one of the worst historical situations possible," Brand said. "If Tulane can accomplish that, it's just remarkable."

Brand has committed the NCAA to helping schools improve, through planning and counseling and now with providing grant money for academic projects. Last week, the NCAA's board of directors approved a $1.6 million fund that would offer grants beginning next year.

"We want to help give those schools a jump-start in those academic areas," Brand said.

If a team's score fell under 900, it could lose scholarships based on the number of ineligible players leaving school during the next year. No team could lose more than 10 percent of its allotted scholarships, so football teams would lose up to nine players while basketball teams would lose only two.

Tennessee-Chattanooga and San Jose State were the only two schools who received warning letters and also face the loss of scholarships. Each were cited in football. Tennessee-Chattanooga also was penalized in wrestling, while San Jose State was cited in men's soccer.

Florida International's football team, which was involved in a prominent brawl against nearby rival Miami, could lose up to nine scholarships next year, and Georgia Southern, which won back-to-back Division I-AA football titles in 1999 and 2000, also faces potential scholarship losses in football.

Lennon said he expects the results will be more balanced next year, when the NCAA drops a mathematical calculation that helped some BCS teams this year.

Wednesday's report showed women's teams continued to perform better academically than men's teams. Women's teams averaged a score of 970, men's teams 950. Thirteen women's teams were cited, compared with 99 men's squads.

Although no sport averaged less than 925 over the three-year period, football, baseball and men's basketball consistently compiled the lowest scores and most citations.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press