The Crackdown

NCAA’s New Academic Progress Rate Expected to Pose Threat to Division 1 Teams

The crackdown has come and NCAA Division 1 teams may suffer the most. In fact, it is believed that at least one third of the 117 major college football programs could be affected by the new rules that will be phased in this coming fall.

The crackdown: according to the new NCAA “academic progress rate,” schools that fail to meet scholastic criteria will have athlete scholarships taken away. The guidelines ultimately mean that schools must graduate at least 50 percent of their student-athletes in order to comply. The result means that some of the country’s top football, basketball and baseball programs could be gravely affected.

Sometimes, though, it is not just about sports. In December, half of all college bowl teams fell below the 50 percent standard graduation rate. According to the recommendations made by the Miami-based Knight Commission on intercollegiate sports, 27 of the 56 bowl-bound teams would not have been eligible to play this bowl-season if the new guidelines were followed. That included five of the eight teams slotted into the bowl championship series as well.

If the guidelines had been in place, January 3 would have seen the USC Trojans take on the seventh-ranked Georgia Bulldogs for the National Championship instead of the Oklahoma Sooners. The fallout would have been staggering and in the future, finding foes to match-up with one another may become a further headache for the already controversial Bowl Championship Series (BCS).

However, the guidelines of the new reform are not hard and fast. Offenders would be docked scholarships from their programs if they do not meet the criteria and subsequent offenders would be barred from post-season play and may eventually lose NCAA membership rights. This fall, Division 1 schools will all be placed on notice. In fact, they will receive a letter from the NCAA stating where they stand if the guidelines were already in place and how many scholarships they would lose. The letters should be heeded as a warning.

Somehow, though, graduating 50 percent of a program’s athletes seems almost minimal. In addition, the NCAA has an obligation to athletes and universities to ensure high graduation rates and integrity standards.

The move by the NCAA, although it applies across the board to all athletes, will have its biggest impact on the Division 1 football circuit. Traditionally, college football has been the springboard for athletic stardom but the doldrums of academic success. Increasingly, top-tier players leave university early and chase NFL dreams, lucrative contracts and a career in a hard-nosed professional sport that averages three and a half years. Talented athletes who leave early for the NFL before they graduate also hamper their university’s graduation rate. No wonder the NCAA has decided to put the focus back in the classroom.