INDIANAPOLIS --- Academic reform continues to take hold on college and university campuses nationwide, but there are still some concerns, according to the latest data from the NCAA.
The most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rates indicate nearly all 6,272 Division I teams are achieving or exceeding the standards for academic performance based on four years of data, said NCAA President Myles Brand.
Only 218 teams at 123 institutions will be sanctioned for poor performance, Brand said, while 712 teams were publicly recognized last month for APRs in the top 10 percent of each sport.
Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship student-athlete. An APR of 925 projects to an NCAA Graduation Success Rate of approximately 60 percent.
Teams that score below 925 and have a student leave school academically ineligible can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships. Known as immediate penalties, these scholarships can be lost each year and not awarded until the following year. Teams can also be subject to historical penalties for poor academic performance over time.
“Overall, there is much to be encouraged about with the latest data,” Brand said. “When we started four years ago, baseball and football were in serious trouble. There has been great improvement in both of those sports. We are not out of the woods, however. There are individual institutions that have seen steady decline in APR over the last four years. The situation is dire for them.”
Brand noted that men’s basketball continues to be a concern, adding that the Basketball Academic Enhancement Group is working to identify problems and solutions for that sport and expects to complete its work by October.
The overall APR of Division I student-athletes rose slightly, the latest data show, with increases in both eligibility and retention and a decrease in the number of student-athletes leaving school while academically ineligible, known as 0-for-2s.
The average APR for all Division I student-athletes is 961, according to the latest data. The average APR for male student-athletes is 951, while the average for female student-athletes is 969.
Men’s teams with the highest APRs are fencing (977), followed by water polo (975) and gymnastics (973). Baseball (938), football (934) and basketball (928) posted the lowest average APRs for men’s teams.
Women’s teams with the highest APRs are crew (or rowing) (985) and lacrosse (984) and field hockey (983). Women’s bowling posted the lowest APR for women’s teams at 941.
The Division I single-year APR has risen nearly four points since data collection began in 2003-04. Several sports have seen increases as well. Since 2003-04, baseball’s APR increased 12 points and football went up nearly 11 points. Men’s basketball’s APR declined each of the past two years before increasing four points compared to last year.
For the first time, the average eligibility and retention rates both showed increases as well. Eligibility rates, after decreasing for the past two years, saw the first increase since data collection began in 2003-04.
The average eligibility rate for 2006-07 is 967.1, up from 965 in 2003-04. The average retention rate has increased steadily over the first four years of data collection, beginning at 953.6 in 2003-04 and showing a 956.7 in the most recent collection year.
Another positive trend revealed by the data is a continual decrease in the number of student-athletes leaving school academically ineligible. In 2003-04, 3.7 percent of the cohort earned neither the eligibility nor the retention point in the APR calculation in their final academic term in residence. That percentage has steadily declined to 2.9 percent for the 2006-07 collection year.
There are almost 700 fewer 0-for-2 student-athletes this year compared to four years ago, Brand noted.
This is the third year of immediate penalties and the second for historical penalties. Second-year historical sanctions include restrictions on scholarships and practice time.
Starting next year, teams that receive three straight years of historical penalties (below 900 APR) face the potential of restrictions on postseason competition for the team (such as a bowl game or the men’s basketball tournament), in addition to scholarship and practice restrictions.
Four consecutive years of poor academic performance and APRs below 900 will result in restricted Division I membership for the school’s entire athletic department
This is also the first year without the squad-size adjustment for most teams that was in place until teams accumulated a full four years of APR data.
Of the 218 teams with sanctions this year, 113 will receive immediate penalties, while 35 will receive both an immediate penalty and a public warning for historically low performance, the first sanction under the historical penalty structure. An additional 44 teams will receive the historical public warning only, and 26 will face a historically based penalty restricting scholarships and practice.
According to the latest APR figures, there has been a 24-percent reduction in the number of teams scoring below 900 on the single-year rate compared to 2003-04, along with a 15-percent decrease in the number of teams below 925 on the single-year rate over that time.
Brand attributed the improvement in APR and reduction in penalized teams to a number of factors, including the academic improvement plan process. This process requires any institution with a team below 925 APR to develop a plan for improving the academic performance of student-athletes with specific goals and steps to meet them. Teams below 900 must submit their plans to the NCAA national office for review.
In the first year for the improvement plan process, 157 schools submitted acceptable plans to the national office. Institutions that do not meet the goals set forth in their improvement plans could be subject to penalties next year without any other mitigating factors.
Those mitigating factors, such as teams demonstrating measurable improvement and other criteria, also helped APRs to rise and penalties to fall.
Brand emphasized that since the reform structure was implemented four years ago, nearly 4,100 student-athletes have earned a graduation bonus point for their institution by returning to their school to graduate after leaving early. While not all of the 4,076 former student-athletes returned because of the bonus-point incentive, many were encouraged by their institutions to do so, which is another intended outcome of the program.
“This is a terrific result,” Brand said, noting there were almost twice as many former student-athletes who returned to earn their degree in the most recent year than in the first year of the APR program.
Earlier this year, the Division I Board of Directors reiterated its commitment to academic reform in the form of a resolution, stressing that NCAA-member institutions must continue to hold a high academic standard for all Division I student-athletes.
APR scores per institution, along with penalties per school and teams receiving public recognition, are available online at ncaa.org.