NCAA president addresses academics


Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 10:23 p.m.
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NCAA president Myles Brand sits for a portrait during the NCAA convention in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
The University of Florida's academic programs are "exceptional" and its commitment to student-athletes is sincere, according to the new sheriff in town at the NCAA, former University of Indiana President Myles Brand.
"I think the University of Florida has an exceptional set of academic programs and I know that they take seriously the academic achievements of their student-athletes," said Brand, whose selection as president of the NCAA signaled to many that the organization is more serious than ever about the student half of its student-athletes.
In a Tuesday telephone interview as he made his way home to Indianapolis from his first NCAA conference this weekend in Anaheim, Calif., Brand answered a variety of questions from The Sun about the current and future direction of academics and athletics, both at UF and across the country.

Q:

When it comes to lowered admissions standards for athletes in Division I schools, some say it's a ticket out of the inner city for many who would otherwise have no opportunities. UF President Charles Young said he thinks the practice may do a disservice to students from the inner city, who may see athletics as the only way out. Which side do you come down on?

A:

The NCAA has established minimum standards for participation - initial eligibility standards. Those standards have recently been increased, most especially in terms of the success in the core academic courses in high school. In fact, the core academic courses are the best predictor of success in college. We have now moved that from 13 to 14, and I'm an advocate to move it up to 16 courses. I think under those conditions, students who meet those requirements have a very good opportunity to succeed at our universities.

Q:

What is the argument against quickly raising the academic standards for incoming freshmen to 16 core courses in high school?

A:

I think we're going to have to leave enough time so that entering freshmen in high school have enough time to shape their programs. We don't want to penalize those now in high school, so we have to phase it in. I would like to see it done as quickly as possible, provided that we give the entering high school students enough time to adjust their programs.

Q:

How can the NCAA use the $6 billion it will make over the next 11 years from basketball tournament television revenues to help schools implement some of the academic support programs that not all can afford? For instance, not all institutions can afford to put a failed professional back on financial aid, or to pay the full cost of university attendance?

A:

"I think we need to connect (financial) incentives and disincentives to any academic reform. That will involve some revenue distribution, certainly among those who perform the best and from those who perform the worst. So there may be some opportunities along those lines to assist the schools. Having said that, the single most important item on the agenda for any athletic department should be support of academics. And so, even though money is tight, and I understand that's true for every public university, I would urge that all universities make sure the academic mission of the institution in intercollegiate athletics is first on their list to meet."

Q:

Will you consider a football championship playoff series as a way to raise additional revenue? If so, how soon do you think a championship series could go into effect?

A:

The football playoff series in in discussion right now. I do not see a consensus emerging among the presidents of the leading six conferences at this point. It will take a while, maybe a year or more, for that consensus to emerge. I don't believe that the presidents should be making decisions on the basis of revenue alone. I think they should make the decision on the basis of the integrity of the college game and to assure that there's fair opportunities for all schools to participate.

Q:

Do you think that teams should be banned from post-season play if they aren't meeting academic standards?

A:

That goes back to the incentives-disincentives question. That's an extreme measure. I would hope we don't get to that in very many cases. But as we work through at the NCAA level, what the best sanctions and incentives are, we need to have that as one consideration.
If so, how will those standards be measured?
I think the current system of counting graduation rates is not timely and misleading in many ways. The NCAA is right in the middle right now of trying to determine a better, more timely and fair way to account both for graduation rates and for annual and perhaps even semester academic progress. I think that system of better understanding graduation rates and academic progress is a necessary first step before incentives and disincentives are put in place.

Q:

Some teams complain that the NCAA graduation-rate formula isn't fair because it penalizes schools when student-athletes transfer and then graduate from other institutions, and doesn't count students who transfer in and do graduate. What are your thoughts on this issue?

A:

I think it's a fair complaint and I think the final version of how we should count graduation rates and continuing academic progress must take account of that. I think the current system of doing it is unfortunate in that regard.

Q:

The University of Florida will spend $1.93 million academically supporting its student-athletes this year, including tutors and advisers and computer equipment, but not all schools can afford that kind of program. You've said providing academic support is important, so what do you propose should be done about the divide between the "haves" and "have-nots?"

A:

No school cannot afford to do that. It's one of the most important things an athletic department and a university do to assure student-athletes every opportunity to succeed and graduate. So I think that's an essential step that must be taken.

Q:

How far does the university's moral obligation go into ensuring the future success of college athletes who were recruited despite poor academic performance in high school.

A:

If someone is admitted to a university and has met the academic requirements both for the NCAA and the institution, then the university has an obligation - both moral and practical - to do everything within its power to assure that the student-athlete is successful. It's very important to emphasize that this obligation is not limited to student-athletes. It is true for every single student in every field of study that the university admits.
Carrie Miller can be reached at 338-3103 or millerc@ gvillesun.com.
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