NCAA considers delaying some academic changes

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By MICHAEL MAROT, Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA may give certain colleges, future recruits and junior-college transfers more time to comply with its new academic standards.

The board of directors is scheduled to hear a recommendation Thursday that would give low-resource schools, primarily historically black colleges and universities, an additional year to meet new minimum Academic Progress Rate standards that will be tied to postseason eligibility. The NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance is making the proposal, though it is unclear whether a vote will be taken this week.

"When you look at a BCS program and the level of resources they have and the staffing they have, it's a very, very different model," NCAA President Mark Emmert told The Associated Press on Wednesday, explaining the reason for a possible change.

Most schools must meet one of two requirements to be eligible for postseason play during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years: A four-year APR average of 900 or a 930 average on the school's two most recent reports. By 2014-15, schools that fall below 930 would have to hit 940 on their two-year scores to be eligible. In 2015-16, the two-year average disappears and schools must have a 930 average over the four-year period.

If the proposal is adopted, low-resource schools would have more leeway.

Though they must still meet the four-year average of 900 for the next two seasons, their APR score would have to hit only 910 in 2014-15 and 920 in 2015-16. They wouldn't have to hit 930 until 2016-17, and the two-year averages would not count.

The NCAA defines low-resource schools as those ranked in the bottom 15 percentile, based on an overall average of institutional spending per student, athletic expenses per student-athlete and the average Pell Grant per student. Schools that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision are barred from appearing on the list.

Emmert said the NCAA has offered to provide more money to low-resource schools for academic improvements.

There is almost certainly going to be some pushback from prominent programs, though.

School officials at three-time national champion Connecticut have already said that their men's basketball team would be ineligible for the 2013 NCAA tourney based on its current APR scores.

Earlier this month, the NCAA denied the Huskies' request for a waiver next season. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called the rejection "absolutely outrageous" and members of the state's congressional delegation are asking Congress to further examine the NCAA's policy.

"As we have stated in the past, we feel that this year's scores should we taken into account for the 2013 tournament," school spokesman Mike Enright said Wednesday.

University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, who chairs the academic committee, has said the governing body would consider adjusting reporting dates to allow schools to use scores from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic year.

But Emmert didn't sound optimistic about that prospect. In fact, Emmert said, neither he nor the board is worried about schools challenging any moves, including potential litigation through the court system if the new policy is approved.

"If there's concern on the board, they haven't mentioned it to me," Emmert said. "I think the board feels very comfortable with where they are on the 930 mark."

That's not the only potential change.

In October, the board agreed to raise eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers. Starting in the fall of 2015, high school seniors are required to have a 2.3 GPA and complete 10 of their 16 core courses before their senior year. Starting in 2013-14, junior college transfers would need a 2.5 GPA and could only count two physical education credits toward their initial eligibility.

If the board approved the new recommendations, those requirements also would each be delayed one year.

"What we've found is that this is a bigger task than everyone anticipated. It's a shocking world when high school counselors have 200 or 300 students per counselor, and we want to give every student fair notice," Emmert said. "There is no thought anywhere of reducing those standards. The commitment to these standards is rock solid."

There are even bigger discussion items on Thursday's agenda, too.

The board will hear recommendations to re-instate the $2,000 per athlete stipend toward what the NCAA deems the full cost-of-attendance -- money that covers more than tuition, room and board, books and fees. That legislation was passed in October but was suspended two months later after more than 100 schools attempted to override the board's vote.

Emmert expects the new proposal to be voted on in August.

"We remain committed to expanding the miscellaneous expense allowance, so the debate is how to implement it and what does it look like," Emmert said. "I think we're still going to wind up with something that provides that option to the universities."

In addition, the board will hear reports from groups trying to revise the massive rulebook, change the penalty structure and put more representatives on the infractions committee. Those three areas could dramatically overhaul how the NCAA polices member schools.

The proposed three-tier penalty structure would help investigators act on the most egregious accusations, and expanding the number of committee members could speed up the enforcement process.

Those proposals also are not expected to be voted on until August.

"All of us -- me, the membership, the public at large, coaches and athletes -- want swifter action," Emmert said. "If the committee on infractions functions more like a federal court of appeals you have more members, but they don't have to hear every case. You have more people working on a case at a time and you can resolve cases a lot more quickly."

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Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this story.

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