NCAA's stricter academic rules: What does it mean for your team?
UConn;s Kemba Walker sports a No. 1 shirt after winning the NCAA championship, but under new rules his team wouldn't have made it to the dance.
August 17th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

NCAA's stricter academic rules: What does it mean for your team?

The NCAA is raising its academic requirements for postseason competition, including bowl games and March Madness, the organization announced Thursday in a news release.

Had the new rules been in effect during the 2010-11 academic year, the University of Connecticut would not have been able to compete in (and win) the NCAA basketball tournament. Syracuse and Florida State would have also been barred from the Big Dance, and the University of Southern California wouldn't have qualified for the "First Four" play-in game it lost to Virginia Commonwealth.

The NCAA calculates an academic progress rate that measures retention and graduation rates for every Division I team, reflecting the previous four academic years. The score comes out to a number as high as 1,000. Since its introduction in 2005, teams with APRs below 925 would face penalties, such as losing scholarships. Postseason bans would be issued only after three consecutive years of APRs below 900.

When the new rule is in full effect, only teams that have APRs of at least 930 will be able to compete in the postseason, according to a NCAA news release. The new rule will be gradually implemented over the next five years.  An APR of 930 comes out to a 50% graduation rate, according to the news release.

"The board voted to raise the  Academic Progress Rate benchmark from 900 to 930 and supported a penalty structure that will require teams to earn at least a 930 four-year, rolling APR in order to participate in postseason competition," the release said.

There was no mention in the announcement of teams being allowed to fall below this minimum for a certain number of years, as they have been in the past.

The idea for the new regulation came out of a conference between NCAA president Mark Emmert and 50 university presidents. After the conference ended last week, the Division I board of directors voted unanimously to approve the new rule.

Last year, UConn's APR for basketball was 893. Since it was not their third consecutive year below 900, the Huskies were able to compete in the NCAA tournament. If the new rules had been in effect, they would have been barred from the Big Dance. In fact, several teams would have been. The University of Texas – San Antonio would have been out, as would its play-in opponent Alabama State. No. 3 seed Syracuse may have lost to No. 11 Marquette because of a questionable call, but if the new academic benchmark had been in place, the Orange wouldn't have played at all. Florida State University, with an APR of 926, would have already fallen short before it could fall short of beating Virginia Commonwealth University in the Sweet 16.

The rule, had it been in effect, would have also changed the look of the football postseason. All of last year's conference champions were in the clear APR-wise, but other competitors in post-season bowl games would not have been.

Though Michigan came nowhere close to beating Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, it would have just missed the APR cutoff, with a score of 928. Maryland beat East Carolina in the Military Bowl, but the Terps' APR of 922 would have kept them from playing at all. The New Mexico Bowl and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl would have had completely different makeups, as Brigham Young, University of Texas – El Paso, University of Louisville and Southern Mississippi all had APRs below 930.

The NCAA news release said a detailed timeline for implementing the new academic benchmarks will be ready in October.

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Filed under: Basketball • College basketball • College football • Education • Football • Sports
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. James

    How sad is it where a 50% graduation rate is good? No wonder we're graduating a bunch of a dumba$$e$.

    August 21, 2011 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      I use to believe that NCAA Sports were more entertaining t0 watch than professional sports because the athletes were not corrupted by money and gifts. Well, that belief is gone. Now we have an academic standard that takes three more years to enforce. With everything that has happened at Ohio State and the University of Miami, I wish the NCAA would create a "death penalty" whereby all athletics are closed down for four years, giving the university time to clean-up the mess.

      August 21, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      It would be disappointing if the grad rate was 50%. Apparently that's a struggle.

      August 21, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andrew

    Which is why in Canada (at least in Ontario that I know of) we dont allow sports scholarships.

    August 21, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Chad

    What kind of degrees are these kids getting anyway? PE, Home Economics, Philosophy? Could someone tell me?

    August 21, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Poolshark

      Chad- What is your verifiable degree? What are your children majors?

      August 21, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • zipper

      Some of them get a degree in "African Studies"

      August 21, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Caesar

    My daughter is a student athlete in a non-Ivy Division 1 school for Cross Country/Track. In her events, she is one of the best in the country. Oh, she also maintains a 4.0 out of 4.0 for her doctor of pharmacy. I'm sure none of the other 250-ish non-athlete PharmD students in her class have a higher GPA.... This past year, the overall team had an average GPA of about 3.5 with very credible academic fields of endeavors (imagine, not one basket weaver).... No brag, just fact.... Let's be careful to not character assassinate all student athletes....

    August 21, 2011 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
    • cjwaec

      Does your daughter receive access to tutoring and extra help that those other non-athlete students do not?

      In my engineering program we had two D1 football players. One of them legitimately deserved to be there, declined extracurricular tutoring, and had an (understandably) lower GPA due to the high demands of being an athlete. The other was as dumb as a box of rocks and had a tutor hold his hand through all four years- he wound up with a very high 3.85 yet could not answer any questions from the professors if asked and was technically incompetent.

      Not saying your daughter falls into either of these categories, but if she had access to a tutor she cannot be compared on the same tier as students that do not.

      August 21, 2011 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Poolshark

      They did require her to attend "study hall" for her first semester to "prove" she could maintain a 3.0. Yes, tutors were available although she never used them....

      August 24, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. skeptical

    No big deal, the big colleges will just cheat more on student academic testing just like they do with other rules. The NCAA has no control anymore and I am convinced they are just in it for money too. Its all about churning out athletes for the next level, and a winning college team brings big paychecks to their college. Colleges will find a work around for this instead of focusing on academics as the NCAA intends, because they want to get rich fast.

    August 21, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. dm

    I think this is a good idea but there is too much emphasis on graduation rate. I think it should focus more on GPA or ongoing classroom performance. The reality is many college students (athletes and non-athletes) never graduate for a variety of reasons. I don't think the teams/coaches should be held to a graduation rate to determine if they can participate in post season activities. If the student athlete is making good grades but then doesn't graduate (leave for personal reasons, transfers, turns professional, etc) why should the team be penalized?

    August 21, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
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