Faculty group airs APR concern
The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a reform-minded group of university faculty-senate representatives, has issued concerns over the number of Division I institutions that avoid serious penalties despite not meeting the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate benchmarks.
Similar to recent concerns levied by the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the COIA believes too few penalties are imposed on teams that do not meet the 925 APR cut-off for sanctions.
While the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and the Committee on Academic Performance – the two groups charged with monitoring the academic-reform structure – have acknowledged the need to penalize programs for under-performance, they also stress the need for the system to be fair and flexible for a diverse Division I membership.
But the COIA, co-chaired by Oregon professor Nathan Tublitz and Wake Forest professor Carole Browne, believe too many programs are being let off the hook. The COIA cited APR results from this spring showing that 107 of the Division I football, basketball and baseball teams with APR scores below 925 received penalties.
“That means that 70 percent of teams with failing APR scores avoided penalties,” the COIA statement says. “The mere threat of penalties is not sufficient to produce the desired increase in student-athlete academic performance. The threatened penalties must be consistently imposed on teams not meeting the APR minimum.”
Walter Harrison, president of Hartford and chair of the CAP, addressed concerns about the perception that the penalties have been “watered down” earlier this year.
“What I’ve learned over my time as chair of the Committee on Academic Performance and before that as a member of the Board of Directors is that we learn by going where we have to go. We keep learning new things and we keep applying them,” he said. “We have adopted sound and well-thought-out policies, but we won’t actually know if they are until we see it in action. We learn from our experience.”
Among the adjustments the CAP has made to the APR – all of which are based on research – include those for student-athletes who leave while eligible to pursue professional athletics opportunities, student-athletes who return to an institution to graduate after dropping out, student-athletes who participate in the Olympics or other international competition, and student-athletes who transfer while meeting specific requirements.
The CAP also has created an “improvement-plus” model that awards extra consideration to a team for demonstrating meaningful improvement and comparing favorably to other teams within that sport or meeting “institutional characteristics” requirements (resources, mission).
Tublitz, though, said while the intent of the NCAA’s academic-reform efforts is laudable, the COIA is concerned that the enforcement of the APR penalties “are lax and haphazardly applied.”
“There is a concern among faculty involved in COIA that the APR is an excellent idea whose potential is not being achieved because its penalties are being watered down and not applied at all to those violating the minimal APR standards,” Tublitz said.
Tublitz compared the APR penalty situation to a teacher passing a high number of students who flunked the final.
“What kind of teacher would I be if I gave passing grades to 70 percent of students who flunked an exam?” he said. “Obviously, if a student or two comes to me with extenuating circumstances, then of course I might be flexible and allow them to retake the exam or to complete another assignment. But if I grant 70 percent of flunking students such exceptions, I would be considered to not be doing my job of ensuring rigor and maintaining standards. The NCAA cannot expect athletics departments and the general public to take the APR seriously if so many violators get off scot-free.”
Harrison, however, noted that even teams that are not penalized are still held accountable for improvement. Each team that falls below the prescribed benchmarks must follow a process intended to prompt improvement – including creating and implementing a plan that assesses deficiencies and works to address them. Teams that don’t meet the conditions of their improvement plans face penalties, both those they would have had to take minus the improvement plan and any others they would incur based on poor academic performance.
For more on the COIA and its recent statement on APR standards, click here.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association