NCAA hopes reforms can refocus college sports

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 28, 2011 - 1:13 PM

Spending money for athletes and team standards on academic progress are in response to the latest scandals.

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The student-athlete stipend could cost the University of Minnesota about $650,000 annually, based on the Gophers’ having the equivalent of 324.4 full scholarships.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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The NCAA on Thursday announced two major reforms in college sports meant to combat the problems of student-athletes getting money from outside sources to help with their expenses and failing to make satisfactory progress toward obtaining their degrees.

As a result, college athletic conferences can authorize their member schools to provide up to $2,000 over the amount of a full scholarship to athletes for spending money. The new rule will apply to "student-athletes who receive full athletics scholarships or get other school financial aid," according to the NCAA.

At the same time, the Division I Board of Directors also announced new penalties that could keep entire teams from competing for championships if too many of their players fail to make adequate progress toward their degrees as measured by an NCAA standard called the Academic Progress Rate. The baseline score required has been raised from 900 to 930, which roughly translates to graduating about half the players on a given roster. Had that standard been in place last school year, eight football teams and seven men's basketball teams -- including the Michigan football squad that went to the Gator Bowl and NCAA men's basketball champs UConn -- would have been affected.

Implementation will start in the 2012-13 school year, and the new system will be fully in place by 2015.

The intent is for it to be waived only under extraordinary circumstances.

'A clear signal'

The new rules are "a clear signal to the world about what we care about and what we stand for," NCAA President Mark Emmert said.

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi called the moves a success.

"It's not perfect in anybody's mind, but we're trying to address the needs of student-athletes academically and from a social and financial standpoint. I think it's a step in the right direction," Maturi said.

It's unclear how many Gophers athletes would be affected by the changes.

Football, men's and women's basketball, women's gymnastics, women's tennis and women's volleyball are all "head-count" sports that require full scholarships, though student-athletes in other sports could also be eligible.

Will the money be enough?

Will the new allowance for spending money be enough? Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany -- who characterized the changes overall as "the strongest, quickest, boldest group of reforms" -- brought up at the conference's basketball media day studies that show the average athlete pays more than $2,000 to cover out-of-pocket expenses. However, the board will not revisit the $2,000 figure for three years, the NCAA said.

It is believed by many, including Maturi, that the Big Ten and other major conferences will act uniformly to give out the additional money -- which must be provided by the schools.

Maturi acknowledged the fear that the money could create a system of haves and have-nots among bigger and smaller schools.

"I can't speak for Commissioner Delany or other Big Ten ADs," Maturi said, "but I'm sitting here saying that if the other BCS conferences go down that path, I don't know how you don't go down that path from a recruiting and competitive standpoint."

The Gophers' most recent marks in two key sports were above 930 -- men's basketball was at 964 and football was at 935. "Some of these numbers are going to be a challenge" going forward, Maturi said.

The plan also raises GPA standards in certain core courses for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers from 2.0 to 2.3. Additionally, it created new recruiting guidelines that some hope will limit how much the power of agents.

The tougher entrance requirements could force some freshmen to become "academic redshirts," under scholarship and practicing with their teams but barred from playing in games.

"I think it's a good day for college athletics," Maturi said. "A lot of people worked extremely hard on this."

This report contains material from Star Tribune wire services.

 

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