INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA announces members of a national working group of academic and athletics experts to review recent trends in secondary-school education and how they could impact NCAA legislation and academic policies.
Members of the group are: Mike Alden, director of athletics, University of Missouri, Columbia; Dick Baddour, director of athletics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Thurston Banks, faculty athletic representative, Tennessee Technical State University; Drew Bogner, president, Molloy College; Jim Castaneda, faculty athletic representative, Rice University; Jim Haney, executive director, National Association of Basketball Coaches; Jay Helman, president, Western State College; Carol Iwaoka, associate commissioner, Big Ten Conference; Robert Kanaby, director, National Federation of State High School Associations; Judith Leonard, vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, University of Arizona; Mary Lisko, faculty athletic representative, Augusta State University; Bernie Machen, president, University of Florida; Dan Ross, commissioner, Ohio High School Athletic Association; Greg Sankey, associate commissioner, Southeastern Conference; Calvin R. Symons, director, NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse; Grant Teaff, executive director, American Football Coaches Association; Charlie Whitcomb, vice provost for academic administration and personnel, San Jose State University.
NCAA President Myles Brand authorized the working group after presidents from several NCAA member institutions raised concerns about the legitimacy of high school academic credentials presented by some incoming student-athletes. Those concerns centered on student-athletes establishing initial eligibility by using academic credentials earned through nontraditional schools and courses.
For example, presidents have cited cases in which high school athletes, with only a few weeks remaining in their senior year, have transferred to another school that allowed them to graduate and earn core-course credit hours with academic outcomes much different than those achieved at the former school. Also, some athletes at public high schools enroll concurrently at a nontraditional school that offers correspondence courses. The result is that high school graduation and core courses are completed at the nontraditional school while the student competes athletically at the public high school.
Those issues are complicated by the growth of elite preparatory schools that attract high-profile basketball and football prospects. The National Federation of State High School Associations does not regulate such schools; nor are they accredited by the NCAA. The NCAA sets minimum academic standards that prospective student-athletes must have completed in high school to compete in college sports, but those students must also meet the admissions standards at the college or university they choose to attend.
"The goal of this working group is to find ways for the NCAA to review high school credentials and exclude course work from proven diploma-mill high schools,” said Brand said. “However, we cannot solve this problem alone. State government has the responsibility to assure that all students – including student-athletes – receive legitimate secondary education. To the extent that correspondence schools use the mills or otherwise cross state boundaries, it is a matter for the federal government.”
Presidents urging further review believe NCAA eligibility policies and procedures should be tightened to preclude what they regard as practices that run counter to recent academic-reform efforts.
The NCAA working group will focus on four areas:
- The process for reviewing and approving nontraditional courses (including correspondence courses) for use as NCAA core courses.
- NCAA core-course requirements and time limitations on meeting those requirements in Divisions I and II.
- The requirements for reporting ACT and SAT scores to the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse and those requirements’ potential impact on test-score fraud.
- The use of core courses earned at preparatory schools and whether those courses meet NCAA minimum academic requirements.
The working group, which is expected to develop recommendations by June 2006, will collaborate with the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse, the Department of Education, the secondary school community and others in higher education, as it develops an action plan.
Recommendations, which could include legislative proposals for the 2006-07 NCAA legislative cycle, will be submitted to the Division I Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet and the Division II Academic Requirements Committee.
"This panel grew out of concerns raised by NCAA member institutions and conferences regarding issues that challenge the integrity of our academic requirements, put at risk the academic reforms underway in Divisions I and II, and create untenable situations for athletics departments and coaches,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for membership services. “The group will look at tightening eligibility rules and procedures through the Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse to ensure that incoming student-athletes meet our eligibility standards and are in a position to be academically successful in college.”
Preliminary recommendations may be ready by the time the Divisions I and II Management Councils meet in April.
The working-group concept is an approach NCAA President Brand has used successfully in recent years in which a representative group of experts focuses intensely on a specific issue over the course of several months. Previous working groups have tackled issues such as recruiting, sports wagering, membership growth and football classification.