Friday, May 9, 2008

STUDENT- athlete...In That Order

RT Staff Note: Since we started this blog, we have stressed the importance of the Student in student/athlete. The NCAA does not take it lightly and is now handing down penalties. College programs are losing scholarships if they don't meat their APR (Academic Progress Rates)) standards. As it has been for the past few years, baseball programs will continue to seek out athletes with good GPA's, so they have a better shot of meeting the NCAA standards and keep their programs healthy and competitive. A loss of just one scholarship in baseball is devastating and since Baseball doesn't give full rides, that loss can affect the signing of two - three players.

If future prospects have any aspirations of playing at the next level, they need to level with themselves about their attitude towards school. Many of the top Travel programs out there are specifically interested in the well rounded athlete. Norcal, out of Northern California is recognized as one of the top competitive travel teams in the country. Yet they aren't just recruiting great athletes...they are looking for great STUDENT/Athletes. Twenty Two players from the Norcal class of 2008 are going to college to play ball. Their average GPA on last summers team was an astounding 3.55. Players from that team are going to MIT, Cal, Stanford (2), UC Davis (2), University of Michigan, University of Arizona, University of the Pacific, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and many more. All of the other players are going to highly rated academic schools as well. That's what colleges are looking for, so hit the books prospects..It's a whole new ballgame out there. Enjoy the article below.

By Steve Wieberg, USA TODAY
The NCAA on Tuesday hit more than 200 college sports teams with scholarship reductions and other sanctions because of academic shortcomings.
Among them: Sweet 16 qualifier Tennessee and five other teams that were in the NCAA men's basketball tournament and two Bowl Championship Series entrants, Kansas and Hawaii, in football.

The programs posted subpar academic progress rates (APRs), which have been computed by the NCAA for the last four years and hinge on retaining players, keeping them academically eligible and ultimately graduating them. Twenty-six teams — including 20 in the longtime problem sports of men's basketball, football and baseball — were flagged as chronic underperformers and handed stiffer penalties, including reductions in practice time.

Failure to show improvement in the next year means they will face postseason bans under a program that's the first to tie such penalties to academic performance. Another 79 teams deemed headed in the wrong direction were issued warnings and could face the threat of such bans in two years.

"Academic reform is here to stay. ... It's been in place now for four years," NCAA President Myles Brand said. "Everyone — coaches, ADs, presidents and student-athletes — should understand that's the order of the day."

The total of 218 affected teams, spread among 123 Division I schools, was lower than anticipated as recently as late last year, when the NCAA projected hundreds more after a scheduled tightening of standards. No longer does the NCAA build in a margin for error that initially allowed many lower-scoring teams to avoid sanctions.

Still, more than a third of the 329 Division I schools had at least one team penalized. San Jose State was among the hardest hit, seeing 12.17 scholarships cut in five sports and an NCAA warning issued to a sixth. Sacramento State saw seven of its 20 sports sanctioned.

Two major-college football programs, Alabama at Birmingham and San Jose State, were docked nine scholarships each. Washington State and Idaho each lost eight.

Ultimately, said Walt Harrison, president of Hartford and chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance, "These penalties will be equal to or greater than the most serious penalties you can get for infractions problems. We are taking action when it's needed."

The stakes have been rising for four years. Tuesday's latest round of APRs and penalties took particular aim at men's basketball, which Brand said "remains a serious problem." Fifty-three programs — about one in every six in Division I — were sanctioned, including 39 that drew scholarship cuts or practice restrictions.

Tennessee, playing in the NCAA tournament's regional semifinals a little more than a month ago, was among those getting a "warning-shot" cut of scholarships. The Vols were docked one scholarship. Also penalized were '08 NCAA tournament participants Purdue (one scholarship), Kansas State (one), Southern California (two) and South Alabama (one).

They were hit with the NCAA's first phase of penalties, assessed annually to teams with APRs beneath 925 (on a scale to 1000) and prohibiting them from replacing scholarship athletes who've left while academically ineligible. Football teams can forfeit as many as nine scholarships.

The second phase targets teams that score below 900 and have a record of chronic underperformance. Those sanctions first entail a warning, then further scholarship restrictions, practice-time reduction and finally postseason bans.

The NCAA compiles APRs for every one of the 6,272 men's and women's sports teams in Division I. Points are awarded, player by player, and the association has determined that teams should hit 92.5% of their possible total — an APR of 925. That roughly projects a 60% graduation rate.

In a statement on its athletics website, San Jose State said it was led to the no-postseason precipice by more than four dozen football players recruited before the arrival of current coach Dick Tomey in late 2004. They became academically ineligible and left the program in the past four years, pulling down the APR.

Tomey "honored their scholarships and now, as a result, we face the penalty," the school said. An appeal to the NCAA was unsuccessful, it said.

"We cannot undo what has been done, but we can shape the future," the San Jose statement went on, noting the school has upgraded its academic support system for athletes — a common refrain from schools hardest hit Tuesday.

Football programs at Washington State and Alabama at Birmingham drew the less-serious first-phase penalties, but they were stiff: the loss of eight scholarships for the Cougars (who had a four-year APR of 916) and nine for UAB (with an 869). While athletics directors at both schools called their situations unacceptable, they defended their overall academic commitment. UAB's Brian Macklin pointed to an expanded academic center, beefed-up support staff and new math and writing labs.

The NCAA acknowledges that schools with more financial resources are in a better position to address academic needs. But, "it isn't so much the resources that an institution has to put into athletics as what priorities they have," the NCAA's Brand said. "It makes more sense to put the money into academic support for student-athletes than it does in the development of new (luxury stadium) suites."

Alan Hauser, a professor of biblical studies at Appalachian State and the school's faculty athletics representative since 1986, endorsed the message.

"There are a few individuals I bump into — I'm not going to name anybody — who kind of grouse about the academic progress rate and feel it's making it more difficult for them as institutions to be athletically competitive," said Hauser, who heads the national Faculty Athletics Representative Association. "But ... the institutions that I have an opportunity to talk with are very supportive of what's happening here. ... I hardly suspect a groundswell against it."

Though men's basketball remains a concern (enough to prompt the NCAA to form a special panel to study its academics) Brand said APRs in the other problem sports of football and baseball showed, "Measurable progress."

Atop the latest listings were 418 teams that posted perfect 1000s, including NCAA tournament darling Davidson and Columbia in men's basketball and Creighton and seven other teams in women's basketball.

Still, in addition to Fresno State and East Carolina, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Hampton and Centenary were flagged with sub-900 APRs and poor longer-term track records in men's basketball and drew stiffer chronic-offender penalties.

There were 507 teams that posted APRs beneath 925 but didn't draw sanctions because they had no athletes who left school while academically ineligible or their schools sought and received waivers — granted by the NCAA when there are mitigating circumstances and the institution has an acceptable academic improvement plan.

Among the sub-925 programs not hit: six in men's basketball that have made the Final Four since 2002 (Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma and Florida); 16 in major college football, including Arizona, Purdue, Oregon and South Carolina; and 54 in baseball, including No. 8-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 18 Coastal Carolina and five-time College World Series champion Arizona State.

"That raises the question: How can so many schools avoid sanctions?" said Nathan Tublitz, a neuroscience professor at Oregon who co-chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of faculty senates at Division I universities. "One can understand a few exceptions. One can understand that some schools have good reasons. But for so many schools to have so many good reasons raises the question of whether there's really any bite to this academic performance package and the sanctions that are supposed to be issued."

Tublitz is a "very strong supporter" of the overall package, he said. "It's just that if you're going to set up a program that has a cutoff score, you have to stick to that cutoff score and not continue to give schools a free ride. If they don't make it after four years, what's going to happen after five? What's going to happen after six? How many times does a school get an exception?"

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