A National Collegiate Athletic Association committee has recommended easing the group's new way of holding colleges' accountable for their athletes' academic progress, in response to coaches' concerns that the rules unfairly penalize institutions when athletes turn professional.
Last year, the association announced that it was creating a new measure, called the Academic Progress Rate, to become the central way the NCAA monitors athletes' academic performance. It is aimed at providing a real-time look at how individual teams are faring at keeping players on track to a degree.
Under the system, each player on a given team’s roster at the start of an academic year can receive a maximum of two points per term: one for finishing that term having met the NCAA’s newly toughened academic progress standards and the institution’s own academic rules, and another for staying enrolled at the institution. Each term, the rate for each team is calculated, and teams that fall below a certain threshold can be penalized.
In February, the NCAA unveiled  a first glimpse at how the system would play out, and many sports officials didn't like what they saw: Although no penalties were attached to this year's numbers, they showed that 7.2 percent of the 5,720 teams in Division I, or more than 400, fell below the threshold the association has set for subjecting programs to potential penalties, with the vast majority of those teams coming in baseball, football, and men’s basketball.
In response to those complaints, the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance, meeting last week in San Francisco, recommended that the association's Division I Board of Directors make certain "adjustments" that would exclude from the calculation athletes who leave college in good academic standing to turn professional in their sport.
The NCAA also said Friday  that exceptions would be made for athletes whose teams or academic majors have been discontinued, and for those who are unable to compete in sports because they suffer "incapacitating physical or mental circumstances."
The committee also recommended that the NCAA amend the progress rate calculation to award bonus points to institutions if former athletes who left college without a degree return later to graduate.
The Dallas Morning News also reported  that the committee had recommended that an individual team that failed to hit the proposed threshold for three consecutive years be barred from postseason competition beginning in the 2006-7 academic year. And to balance out the penalties, the NCAA said that the committee had suggested a series of financial incentives that institutions would receive when they perform well academically.
The Division I Board of Directors will meet this week in Indianapolis to consider the committee's recommendations.