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NCAA adopts changes to academic standards, economic support to athletes and recruiting

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On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors announced the adoption of two different sets of proposals that will affect the following areas:

  • Stricter academic standards for teams as measured by the Academic Progress Rate (APR)
  • Stricter academic standards for incoming high school and transfer students
  • Additional athletics aid to address the "miscellaneous costs of attending college"
  • Contact rules for men's basketball recruiting

The first set of changes has to do with the first three bullet points listed above, while the second impacts recruiting for men's basketball. Visit those two links to see the complete releases, but I am going to do my best to summarize the major changes.

Stricter academic standards for teams as measured by the APR

In a piece of legislation that will take effect starting in the 2012-13 school year, the APR benchmark for all teams moves from 900 to 930. The implementation will be phased, with teams needing to maintain a 900 multi-year APR or a 930 average for the most recent two-year period to maintain eligibility for postseason play. In 2014-15, teams must achieve a 930 benchmark for their four-year APR or a 930 average in the most recent two years to be eligible for the postseason. In 2015-16, the new benchmark of 930 will be fully implemented and the "APR requirement for postseason play will be waived only in extraordinary circumstances."

Along with the new guidelines for maintaining postseason eligibility, a new three-tier penalty structure has been enacted. Level one limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week, with the four hours lost "to be replaced with academic activities." Teams being penalized at the second level will also be subject to reduced competition, "either in the traditional or nontraditional season." The third level allows for a "menu of penalty options", ranging from coaching suspensions to scholarship reduction to restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly, the NCAA is calling on its members to take academics seriously and these new requirements and penalty structure are proof.

Stricter academic standards for incoming high school and transfer students

Students enrolling in Division I schools from either high school or two-year colleges will face higher standards for eligibility beginning in August 2015. The following changes apply to high school applicants:

  • Student-athletes with a minimum core-course GPA of 2.0 will still be eligible to receive athletically related financial aid and practice and will be able to earn a second term of enrollment by passing nine semester or eight quarter hours.
  • The standard for immediate access to competition will be raised to a GPA of 2.3 and an increased sliding scale legislating required test scores.
  • Student-athletes who reach a GPA of 2.0 but fall short of 2.3 would essentially be subject to a so-called "academic redshirt year."

Also, in response to data that show the struggles of transfer students from two-year institutions, the Board increased the mandated minimum grade-point average of incoming students from such schools from 2.0 to 2.5 with additional rules on courses those students must take in order to gain eligibility.

Walter Harrison, the president of the University of Hartford and the Division I Committee on Academic Performance chair explained the new rules.

"We're trying to balance being tough with being fair," Harrison said. "These are noticeably higher standards than in the past, but we recognize we need some time to change behavior."

Additional athletics aid to address the "miscellaneous costs of attending college"

Colleges will now have the option of offering up to $2,000 or the full cost of attendance to student-athletes who receive full athletic scholarships or get other school financial aid. The rule applies to "head-count sports" like basketball and football, as well as equivalency sports who award the value of a full scholarship.

The Board also approved multi-year scholarships for use at the discretion of the member colleges, with one-year scholarships remaining the minimum. Institutions are now also allowed to provide financial aid to former student-athletes who remain at or return to school to complete their degrees.

Contact rules for men's basketball recruiting

Many of the restrictions placed on college basketball coaches regarding where, when, how and how often they contact recruits have been eased. Coaches will now be able to send unlimited text messages and make unlimited phone calls to recruits beginning on June 15 of the player's sophomore year. Social networking restrictions have also been eased. The new structure also provides for two additional recruiting periods in April and cuts the summer period to three four-day periods in July.

The following changes were also instituted along with this ruling:

  • A start date for official visits beginning January 1 of the junior year, with schools able to pay travel expenses for the prospect and a parent/guardian.
  • Permitting some contact at a prospect's educational institution during the junior year in conjunction with an evaluation, with some restrictions and requirements.
  • The July period will be limited to three four-day periods beginning Wednesday at 5 p.m. and ending Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • The April period will be limited to certified events that begin after 6 p.m. on Friday and end before 4 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Permitting staged, on-campus evaluations in conjunction with official visits, though further details will be considered.

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