Understanding latest reform not academic


Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 12:33 a.m.

These are the adjectives attached by headline writers to the NCAA's new academic reform legislation that was passed Monday - landmark and sweeping.

They forgot confusing.

And grandstanding.

Because while these reforms make sense in theory, reality brings more questions than answers.

What the NCAA board of directors decided was to come up with penalties if a sports team's Academic Progress Rate (APR) falls below 925.

There's only one problem.

What's 925? Is it a bowling score, a slugging percentage, the cumulative weight of a college gymnastics team? Or better yet, 925 of what? A thousand? Ten thousand? And can you get discounts at movies with an APR card?

These are questions for which we don't have answers because in its hurry to send out a message of academic integrity in a booming voice, the NCAA muckety-mucks forgot to tell the schools exactly what they were doing.

Oops.

Each member institution was required to send in information concerning their student-athletes at the beginning of last fall following a formula set up by the NCAA. In November, each school would get a report on which sports fell below the cut line for the 2003-04 school year so they could work on repairing any problems before the legislation is implemented for the 2005-06 school year.

At least that was the plan.

"We never got it," said Jamie McCloskey, Florida's director of compliance. "We're still waiting for it. I don't know what the 925 means. I can make assumptions, but only they have the numbers. They know what 925 means. We're still waiting."

It will be several weeks before McCloskey and other compliance directors - as well as athletic directors and coaches - around the country find out exactly what is going on with these sweeping, landmark, confusing, grandstanding reforms.

I say grandstanding because it is clear NCAA director Myles Brand was going to get these reforms through at this meeting no matter how far behind his staff was in calculating which teams at which schools fall below the 925 benchmark.

And because while Brand can say that academic integrity is going to be the centerpiece of his tenure at the NCAA, his plan is leaking hypocrisy.

He can talk about academics all he wants, but coaches are still going to be hired and fired based on W's and L's, not A's and B's. Ask Ty Willingham.

And how can you really take a point away from a team's APR score because a player on that team signs a professional contract? Basically, what you are telling college coaches is to not develop a player too much. Don't allow him to be too successful. God forbid he should be set for life.

"I'm going to get penalized because Christian Drejer signed for a million dollars to play in Europe?" Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan said.

And then there is baseball, where the best players almost always sign after their junior years.

"Baseball needs to be examined differently because of the junior signs," UF coach Pat McMahon said. "There are some strong concerns there."

There is also the issue of transfers. A player who leaves a school because he isn't getting enough minutes or innings or downs will count against that school's retention rate.

There are also problems with the penalty of up to 10 percent of a team's scholarships. OK, so football could lose up to nine players. I'm guessing a team can survive with 76 players. But in baseball, 10 percent of 11.7 means six or seven players getting partial aid. All sports are not the same. The NCAA, which has hamstrung sports like baseball, men's golf and men's tennis with its scholarship restrictions, should know this better than anyone.

But this is the new NCAA world order. Schools will be scrambling with extra paperwork. Recruiting will be even more difficult for coaches. And athletes will know this - that as long as they are in good standing academically, there won't be a lot they can do that will get them kicked off a team.

You can't afford to lose the retention point.

You can't fall below 925.

Just think how complicated it will be once the NCAA let's us know what that means.

You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.

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