COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Committee agrees schools shouldn't be penalized


Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 11:09 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS - An NCAA committee supports changing how student-athletes who transfer or declare early for the pros would be counted in a school's academic statistics.

The 14-member committee, which held its first face-to-face meeting Thursday and Friday, is debating how to use academic standards to reward sports teams that excel in the classroom and punish those that underperform.

While much of the discussion remains preliminary, the committee already has decided to accept a major change. Under current federal guidelines, students who transfer or leave school early are counted against a university's graduation rate.

New NCAA president Myles Brand supports a formula that would not penalize universities if a student who is academically eligible transfers or turns pro. The committee agrees.

``I think most people have accepted that,'' said Todd Turner, Vanderbilt's athletic director. ``The reality is that in today's sports environment, there may be more transfers for sports reasons and they could be fine academically. That shouldn't count against you.''

Turner's committee is waiting for more data before making any formal proposals for a third tier of academic reform. NCAA presidents already have changed freshman eligibility requirements and tightened academic progress requirements.

Debate recently has focused on requiring athletic programs to put more emphasis on academic success.

One proposal would add new components, such as academic eligibility and retention of student-athletes, to the revised graduation rates that athletic programs must meet to avoid penalties.

Such a step would create a more accurate and more updated picture of which programs are having the greatest successes and failures, Turner said.

Another possibility would be giving a university more credit for student-athletes who leave for another school rather than turn pro, Turner said.

However, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon, who is working with the committee, said it is too early to draw any conclusions.

``It's not necessarily a matter of what happens when they leave,'' Lennon said. ``It's a matter of whether they're leaving in good standing.''

Turner said most of the two-day meeting focused on two areas - defining the mission of the committee and setting a timetable for implementing changes. The committee also met with Brand.

Turner hopes to receive most of the data by late April. He wants a proposal in place by October so the NCAA's Board of Directors can vote on it early next year. That would put the reform package into effect by August 2004.

Turner said no potential penalties, which could involve everything from ineligibility for postseason play to wearing uniform patches that identify academic performance, have been approved or rejected.

``We're still analyzing what seems to work,'' Turner said. ``And what are the most important things we can do that are simple and will affect academic success.''

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