Dan Tudor

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NCAA Thinking About Increasing Penalties for Academic FailureMonday, August 7th, 2006

Is your team struggling with meeting NCAA academic standards?  Better get your student-athletes straightened out quickly…more penalities are coming for programs who continue to fail in the classroom.  Here are the details, courtesy of the Associated Press: 

The NCAA is considering further punishment for teams that consistently fail to make the grade, including postseason bans and withholding tournament cash.

New penalty guidelines for schools with long-term academic problems was the biggest issue before the NCAA board at its meetings Wednesday and Thursday. Under the latest proposal, the worst offenders face a ban from postseason play and could lose their conference’s share of NCAA tournament money.

Other penalties on the table include restrictions on recruiting, scholarships and reduced playing seasons.

"We’re hoping the board acts on it," vice president Kevin Lennon told The Associated Press. Members were anticipating a vote Wednesday night, but results were not expected until Thursday.

Lennon’s group spent months debating the sanctions before finally settling on a system that increases the penalty for repeat offenders.

The NCAA is already implementing a system that will strip scholarships from teams that don’t do well in the classroom. It has collected data on each team’s graduation rate and academic eligibility for the past two years to determine a score, with 1,000 as the highest possible and penalties for anything below 925.

Those rules apply only to the short-term, however; the new penalties are based on a team’s average over several years. Under them, any team with an average score lower than 900 over a rolling four-year period would face the harshest sanctions.

Lennon said a score of 900 correlates with about a 50 percent graduation rate, a measure that’s intended to get teams’ attention and find "the worst of the worst."

If the recommendations are approved, teams with three-year averages of less than 900 will receive warning letters this fall; if they don’t improve next year, they face potential scholarship, recruiting and playing season reductions in 2007-08. One more year of bad marks brings a postseason ban, and another infraction would cost schools their conference’s share of NCAA tournament money.

"I think after three years, you’re starting to get a pretty good glimpse and you can start to see trends," Lennon said.

Myles Brand has consistently supported the formula since becoming NCAA president in 2003.

The proposal also allows reduced penalties for some schools that drop below guidelines in special cases. For instance, a team could be granted a waiver if its graduation rate is higher than the overall student body’s; or if resources on campus aren’t up to par.

Even in those cases, the teams would have to show improvement to escape penalty.

"I think people realize we’ve made reasonable adjustments, and I think some folks have a certain level of confidence in the committee," Lennon said. "We’ll see how the whole board reacts."