INDIANAPOLIS—Marking a milestone in its academic reform efforts, the NCAA Monday announced how well its Division I institutions are complying with a new measurement of academic success for student-athletes and teams.
According to data compiled by the NCAA, 7.2 percent of the 5,720 men’s and women’s sports teams competing in Division I fell below a new academic threshold that translates to a projected 50 percent graduation rate. Failing to meet the threshold will put teams at risk for contemporaneous penalties.
In addition, approximately 50 percent of all Division I institutions have at least one team that falls below the new mark and could lose at least one scholarship in 2005-06. Most of those teams are concentrated in football, baseball and men’s basketball, according to the data.
Contemporaneous penalties are those that prevent programs from replacing the scholarship for one year of a student-athlete who leaves the institution and would not have been academically eligible had he or she returned.
The NCAA’s new academic measurement, known as the Academic Progress Rate (APR), is based on the academic eligibility, retention and graduation of student-athletes. An APR score of 925 is equivalent to an approximate graduation rate of 50 percent.
NCAA President Myles Brand said the APR scores put institutions and teams on notice regarding their academic performance.
“For the first time, the NCAA is holding teams and institutions accountable for the academic progress and success of their student-athletes,” Brand said. “The goal of the academic reform package is to reinforce good behavior. The new reforms are tough but fair.”
The 2003-04 APR data were sent to every Division I president and chancellor earlier this month for review. The reports provide each institution with its overall APR for 2003-04, as well as APRs for each NCAA championship sport the school sponsors.
The current reports are for informational purposes only, and no contemporaneous penalties will be assessed based on the 2003-04 APR data. The penalty phase won’t be implemented until the next academic year, when two years of APR data are available.
To account for small squad sizes, the NCAA has developed a statistical adjustment similar to a margin of error used in national polling data to be applied during the first two or three years.
Colleges and universities will have the opportunity to amend their APR data in March where errors in data submission may have occurred. Public reports will be updated in April with any such changes.
Brand called the contemporaneous penalties an “early warning” designed to change behavior as more years of APR data are collected. If a team’s academic performance still lags after four years of APR data, harsher penalties might be applied.
Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance, emphasized that college and university presidents should review results and change institutional behavior where necessary.
“Presidents ought to use this information as a way to get ready,” Harrison said. “They know each of their teams’ APR scores, how those scores were calculated and how many players left the institution and were ineligible. They’ll know what they have to do to meet or exceed that mark in the future.”
Though APRs from other institutions are not included in the individual reports to Division I schools, aggregate APR data are provided for comparative purposes.
For example, in addition to the overall institutional APR and the APR for each men’s and women’s sport, the report also lists the APR averages for all Division I sports and for each subdivision. A comparison of APR data for public and private institutions also is included.
Football, baseball and men’s basketball are the only sports whose average APR falls below 925. The 284 Division I baseball teams posted an average APR of 922, while the 234 football and 326 men’s basketball squads compiled an average APR of 923.
“Some of these teams in the first two or three years of penalties may not be at risk for contemporaneous penalties because of the squad-size adjustment,” Harrison said. “But clearly, any team with a real APR below 925 is putting itself at risk for historical penalties when four years of data have been collected.”
Even after the squad-size adjustments, roughly 29 percent of football teams, 23 percent of baseball teams and 19 percent of men’s basketball teams fell below the APR threshold, which was established by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors in January.
Three women’s sports — field hockey, lacrosse and rowing — posted the highest average APR (981). Women’s gymnastics (979), women’s ice hockey (975) and women’s swimming and diving (975) also posted higher average APRs than any men’s sport.
The men’s sport with the highest average APR in 2003-04 was gymnastics (973). Other men’s sports with high APRs among the cohort are ice hockey (968), skiing (967), swimming and diving (967), fencing (965), lacrosse (964) and golf (961).
Besides baseball, football and men’s basketball, the sports with an average APR nearest the 925 mark are wrestling (932), men’s outdoor track and field (946) and women’s bowling (946).
The overall Division I APR for 2003-04 (all teams) is 948. By subdivision, Division I-A’s APR is 944, Division I-AA’s is 946 and Division I-AAA’s is 954.
In men’s basketball, Division I-A institutions posted an average APR of 906. For Divisions I-AA and I-AAA, the average APR in men’s basketball is 933 and 934, respectively. In baseball, the breakdown is 912 for I-A, 931 for I-AA and 927 for I-AAA. In football, it is 921 for I-A and 925 for I-AA.
Private institutions posted higher average APRs than public institutions in all sports except men’s water polo and men’s rifle. The breakdown for men’s basketball is 912 (public) and 945 (private). In football, it is 913 and 949, respectively, and in baseball, it is 910 and 948, respectively.
The Committee on Academic Performance is considering a program to assist institutions with needed adjustments through what is being called an “academic recovery plan” for academically under-performing teams.
Such a plan may be required for some low-performing teams as early as next year. It would include ways that institutions might review recruiting practices and/or admissions policies for those sports, or look at the academic-support services available in those sports to see if improvements can be made.
Harrison said he expects presidents with teams near or below the APR cut line of 925 “to ask the athletics director to explain why and work on a plan to get above the mark by next year.”
Robert Hemenway, chancellor of the University of Kansas and chair of the Division I Board of Directors, said the APR reports signal a new day in academic reform—adding that institutions accustomed to what is now considered unacceptable behavior should quickly seek to change their ways.
“Those institutions that have not been dedicated to graduating their student-athletes know they now are in some considerable jeopardy because of having taken that approach,” Hemenway said. “I can’t think of a better way than the APR to signal that the integration of athletics and academics is indeed the policy for intercollegiate athletics moving forward.”