Cash for Athletes' Classroom Success

October 28, 2005

The National Collegiate Athletic Association plans to provide up to $7 million a year to member colleges whose athletes perform well in the classroom and another $3 million annually to help institutions improve the academic success of their athletes, association officials said Thursday.

The plan approved by the association's Division I Board of Directors is part of the NCAA's larger effort to alter its academic policies to ensure that more athletes succeed academically.

The effort focuses most of its attention on two sets of penalties, some that focus on short-term performance and some on historical outcomes, that punish teams and colleges if their athletes consistently fail to make progress toward a degree; the first set of "contemporaneous" penalties, which will be based on colleges' performance on a new "academic progress rate" to measure how well individual teams and colleges are doing at keeping athletes on track to graduate, could be put in place as early as February. 

But association officials also want to provide at least some positive reinforcement. On Thursday, Division I board, which is made up of presidents, endorsed a plan outlined by the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance that has three components, according to Walt Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and the head of both the academic committee and the NCAA's executive committee. 

The first pot of money, worth about $2 million a year, would be divvied up among colleges based on their "absolute performance" -- institutions that "do extremely well" in keeping athletes on track to a degree. Harrison said the association envisioned using different measures for different kinds of institutions, so that public institutions with open or low admissions standards would not necessarily be going head to head with an Ivy League college whose athletes average 1300 on the SAT.

The second pool of funds, worth about $5 million a year, would reward institutions that show significant and sustained improvement in their academic progress rates over time. "You'll see that we're putting the lion's share" of the money for improving colleges, "because we're trying to reward behavioral change," Harrison said.

Another $3 million a year would come in the form of "improvement grants" to institutions that have been penalized for having low rates but can "demonstrate that one of the reasons for their poor academic performance might have to do with a lack of ability to fund" programs that help athletes perform academically.

Harrison said NCAA officials recognized that the group's members include wealthy colleges that can pour millions into academic advising units for athletes and others that can't. This last category of money is aimed at aiding the latter -- "urban institutions, historically black colleges and universities, and other universities that serve

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