A landmark academic reform package aimed at dramatically strengthening the educational success of student-athletes and holding universities and teams accountable was unanimously approved today by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.
The Board also approved a number of "student-athlete-friendly" measures related to the cost of attendance, summer financial aid and medical expenses.
The comprehensive, three-year effort to improve the academic progress, retention and graduation rates of student-athletes is the most far-reaching effort of its kind in the history of the association, said NCAA President Myles Brand.
"This landmark legislation marks the beginning of a sea change in college sports," Brand said. "These are strong and well-thought-out reforms that are critically necessary to ensuring that student-athletes are academically successful. For the first time ever, the NCAA will have the ability to hold institutions and teams accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes."
Known as the incentives/disincentives program, the academic reform program will penalize those programs that fail to meet established requirements for educational progress.
"This is a very significant day in the history of the NCAA," said Robert Hemenway, chair of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and chancellor of the University of Kansas. "The reform package fulfills the NCAA's mission of making the education of student-athletes paramount in collegiate sports. With these proposals, institutions, teams and coaches will know exactly what they need to accomplish to ensure their student-athletes are progressing in a timely fashion toward completing a degree. If they do not meet the requirements, they will suffer consequences."
Brand praised Division I college and university chancellors and presidents for their leadership in spearheading the groundbreaking academic reform package, which sets out two types of penalties.
First, contemporaneous penalties, such as the loss of a scholarship for one year if a student-athlete on scholarship leaves school in poor academic standing, are expected to begin in 2005-06. The Board of Directors will review in two years whether the contemporaneous penalties need to be more stringent.
Second, historical penalties associated with academic failure over time may include scholarship reductions; recruiting limitations; ineligibility for NCAA team postseason or preseason competition, including bowl games and NCAA championships; and, in the most extreme cases, restricted membership status for the institution in the NCAA. These penalties would begin in three years, rather than four as originally proposed.
An academic-progress rate, or APR, will be calculated by the NCAA and include all scholarship student-athletes entering an institution. The package also will establish a graduation-success rate based on a six-year timeframe for graduation and including all scholarship student-athletes entering the institution.
The incentives/disincentives program will require that institutions submit to the NCAA annual documentation showing compliance with the academic-progress rate.
The "cut rate" that will establish acceptable program and graduation standards will be calculated after the collection of data this year. While holding institutions accountable for academic progress, the program will take into account institutional differences in mission, sport, culture and gender.
Data will be collected in 2003-04 and 2004-05, after which the appropriate thresholds for incentives and penalties will be determined. The NCAA will establish a new committee, the Committee on Academic Performance, or CAP, to oversee the academic reform program. CAP will report to the NCAA Division I Management Council and Board of Directors and be chaired by Walter Harrison, member of the Division I Board of Directors and president of the University of Hartford.
Final recommendations regarding penalties will be determined by CAP and provided to the NCAA membership before any teams would be subject to sanctions.
Brand stressed that the new academic accountability requirements for institutions and teams build on new academic standards established last fall for student-athletes to ensure steady progress toward degree completion. Those measures include requiring student-athletes to complete 40 percent of degree requirements by the end of their second year of college, 60 percent by the end of their third year and 80 percent by the end of year four.
In related action, the Board of Directors eliminated the current restrictions on the number of initial basketball grants-in-aid for student-athletes, known as the "5/8" rule. Some NCAA member coaches and administrators felt the rule was detrimental because it did not take into account the various factors that cause student-athletes to transfer or leave school in good academic standing.
A number of provisions described as "student-athlete-friendly" by Board members were also approved today, including:
• Cost of attendance. This measure gives student-athletes more access to financial aid, up to the full cost of college attendance. This would include financial aid not related to athletics, including but not limited to such awards as the federal Pell Grant. This measure is effective August 1.
• Summer financial aid. This measure provides colleges and universities the option to extend financial aid to incoming student-athletes the summer before their freshman year, so that these student-athletes can begin meeting academic goals. The Board directed President Brand to establish a task force to develop a formal plan for implementation to be considered at its August meeting.
• Medical Insurance. This measure permits colleges and universities to cover medical expenses for student-athletes' injuries that occur at any time, whether or not they are athletically related.
Other measures approved by the board today include:
• Foreign Tours. This measure permits foreign tours by Division I sports teams, as long as they do not occur within 30 days before the first permissible practice date. The measure takes effect November 1 but honors contracts for foreign tours signed before October 21, 2003.
• Exhibition Games. Under this measure, Division I men's basketball teams will be prohibited from playing against non-collegiate teams starting August 1. The measure approved by the Board allows teams to honor contracts with non-collegiate teams signed before October 21, 2003. The measure is designed to eliminate unfair advantages that might be created by prospective recruits playing on non-collegiate teams, such as foreign teams or U.S. club teams.