The NCAA changes grade eligibility requirements

9 Apr

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an intriguing article by Libby Sandler about whether coaches should be responsible for the academic performance of their players. In Making the Grade Sandler reports:      

Head coaches hold significant sway over the athletes on their teams. So why not hold those coaches accountable for the academic performance of the athletes they recruit?

After a year and a half of tinkering, officials of the NCAA have rolled out a new database that they hope will accomplish just that. The first-ever Head Coach APR Portfolio, as the data set is called, includes single-year academic-progress rates—the NCAA’s metric for gauging how well a team does in the classroom—for head coaches in six Division I sports. (The database will be expanded to include the rates for head coaches in all NCAA sports at the conclusion of the 2010-11 academic year.)

The academic-progress rate, which is now in its sixth year, assigns scores to all Division I teams based in large part on the retention rates and academic eligibility of their athletes. The new “portfolio” for coaches, available to the public on the NCAA’s Web site in a searchable format, shows the single-year team scores for each program a coach has led, dating back to 2003-4. The NCAA will update the database every spring when it releases new academic-progress rates for teams.

Unlike the academic-progress rate for athletes, which can trigger penalties for some teams that fail to achieve a certain score, the new mechanism for coaches carries no threat of punishment. Instead, NCAA officials say, it is intended only to increase the transparency of head coaches’ academic priorities and aid recruits and their families, as well as athletic directors and college presidents, in evaluating how seriously a coach takes academics.

Unfortunately, in this win at all costs culture, schools will recruit a cube of Swiss cheese if the cheese could score some points. Brian Burnsed of US News has an article about player graduation rates.

In NCAA Basketball Graduation Rate Disparity Between the Races Grows Burnsed reports:          

While college basketball players graduate at a higher rate than nonathletes, the NAACP and the Department of Education argue that universities are leaving some of their student-athletes behind. Their concern arises from the expanding fissure between graduation rates of white and African-American college basketball players. According to a study of basketball players’ graduation rates from 1999 to 2003 recently released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, 79 percent of the teams in this year’s men’s NCAA Tournament graduated at least 70 percent of their white athletes, while only 31 percent of the teams in the field graduated at least 70 percent of their African-American players. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former college basketball player, says, “I grew up with too many players who played on successful teams who no one frankly cared about their educational well-being. And when their playing careers were done, they struggled.”

Seventeen teams in this year’s men’s tournament had a 50 percent or greater disparity between graduation rates of white and African-American players. In fact, only three schools in the tournament—Texas A&M University, the University of Washington, and Oakland University—graduated African-American players at a higher rate than whites….

To help bridge this gap, Duncan suggests that schools that cannot graduate at least 40 percent of their student-athletes be banned from postseason play. If the rule was applied to this year’s tournament, 12 of the 65 teams would be locked out of the tournament. Three of them are No. 6 seeds or better—the University of Tennessee, the University of Maryland, and the University of Kentucky. “If you can’t manage to graduate two out of five players, how serious are the institutions and the colleges about the players’ academic success?” Duncan asks. “How are they preparing student-athletes for life?

Generally coaches who have been players know the difficulty that most students will have in an attempt to compete at the professional level. The NCAA has compiled a probability chartwhich shows the chances of a student athlete making to college and the professional ranks of sports. In other words, most kids need to prepare for a life outside of athletics and for parents who are living out their dreams and hopes through their children, to tell them differently is reckless.

Bryan Toporek reports in the Education Week article, NCAA to Launch Academics-Based Ads for High School Student-Athletes:

During a press conference at the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that his organization will be launching a series of academics-based advertisements targeting middle- and high-school student-athletes in the coming months.

Back in October 2011, the NCAA Division I board of directors approved a proposal that raises the academic eligibility standard for incoming student-athletes. Freshmen only need to enter college with a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for athletics now, but starting in August 2016, they’ll need to have a 2.3 GPA or higher in core courses to have immediate access to competition.

From August 2016 onward, if a student-athlete meets the current 2.0 GPA requirement but fails to reach the 2.3 GPA required for competition, he or she will still be allowed to remain on his or her athletic scholarship, under another proposal approved in October 2011. The NCAA refers to this as an “academic redshirt” year.

Based on when this higher academic standard takes effect, current collegiate student-athletes aren’t the ones who have to worry about this particular rule change. It’s the K-12 student-athletes who need to be concerned if they hope to participate in intercollegiate athletics after graduating high school.

Emmert and his staff are well aware of this fact. That’s why the NCAA is developing a program called “2.3 or Take a Knee,” Emmert said during his Final Four press conference on Thursday.

“We’re going to be launching a variety of advertisements that are geared toward youngsters, which means nobody in this room will get the jokes, but that’s okay,” Emmert said at the press conference, according to a transcript from ASAP Sports. “It’s not aimed at us, it’s aimed at young people to get them to understand that not only do they need a good jump shot, they need good grades in math if they’re going to be successful in NCAA athletics.”

The NCAA’s website already features a “2.3 or Take a Knee” section, detailing the exact minimum academic requirements for all incoming student-athletes starting in August 2016. The NCAA eligibility center also contains the academic information for college-bound student-athletes, detailing what will change between now and the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Coaches have a great impact on players, but parents have a great influence as well. Too many players have pressure put on them to succeed in athletics because they are living out a parent’s failed dream or the parent feels the child is a lottery ticket out of miserable circumstances. The outcome of these failed dreams is often devastating.

Most kids will never appear at the Final Four or Superbowl. For kids who possess extraordinary talent and desire to achieve at the top level of sports, of course nurture their talent and their desire. But, society and their families owe it to these kids to be honest about their chances and the fact that they need to prepare for a variety of outcomes.

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