Friday, March 03, 2006

Early Results From the Academic Progress Rate

This week, the NCAA relased the results from Year Two of using the "Academic Progress Rate."
This metric, which reaches across all NCAA sanctioned sports, is quite complicated. Very briefly summarized, it is a system of measuring the success of athletes in the classroom and penalizing schools that fall below designated benchmarks by stripping them of scholarships.

This year, 99 different teams were penalized. If you attended a school with a major DI football or basketball program, you probably won't see them on this list. Some of the big time schools did show up, but primarily in baseball and track. So what does this mean?

I had an epihany in the shower while I was thinking about that question this morning, then checked and found that columnist Pat Forde had a similar experience (although I don't know if it was in the shower or not--that's probably irrelevant).

Forde noticed that most of the schools penalized are at the lower rung of the financial totem pole when it comes to dollars spent on sports. This poses quite a condundrum. In order to have any possibility to compete with big time programs, mid and low majors sometimes take in students who are at greater academic risk. It's the big schools, however, who have the resources to establish large, expensive academic support systems to get more of their at-risk students through school.

It seems that the smaller (at least in budget) schools have two choices under this system; tighten their admission requirements or invest more money on academic support.

The first choice will only deepen the pool of talented athletes available to the bigger schools who can affort to hand-hold at-risk students and shrink the pool for smaller schools and widen the gap in the quality of teams that are fielded. The second choice would probably come at the loss of one or more teams at a school. In order to put more resources in academic support, smaller schools may very well need to stop competing in at least one varsity sport.

Both solutions ultimately provide fewer opportunities for students to receive athletic scholarships. The ones who aren't good enough to play in the big time and don't possess the academic skills to succeed with limited support could very well be out of luck, or at least out of school.

As Forde points out, the NCAA is known for developing policies that have "unintended consequences," and the APR appears to be no exception. I like the intent of this system. Like NCAA blogger Josh Pastor, I hate that the term "student-athlete" oftens draws chuckles or causes eyes to roll. (Note to NCAA media reps: please don't constantly shove that term down our throats during press time at the NCAA Tournament--it's just annoying).

I think the APR is a step in the right direction, but these unintended consequences need to be resolved. That is, assuming they were actually unintended. If they weren't, there are much bigger issues to address.


At 11:41 PM, Blogger dolphinfan said...

This rule is going to kill college baseball!


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