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February 17, 2005

Pitt Awaits NCAA Report Card on Academic Performance

Pitt is awaiting its report card from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).
Under guidelines approved last month, the 325 Division I schools, including Pitt, will need to meet the minimum standard of a two-part formula that measures retention and graduation success rate (GSR) or risk losing scholarships, according to Donna Sanft.
The guidelines only will apply to full-time student-athletes on scholarship, but they will consider athletes equally whether they are on full or partial scholarships, said Sanft, who is associate athletics director for student life and compliance.
She was reporting on the new guidelines at the University Senate athletics committee meeting Feb. 11.
“The NCAA hasn’t provided us the official numbers yet,” Sanft said. “I can tell you it’s a very complicated and statistics-based system.”
She said two kinds of sanctions — contemporaneous and historical — will go into effect at the end of fall term 2005. The NCAA is sending each school an analysis of where it would stand if the sanctions were in effect currently. “We were told we would get that in February, but it hasn’t come yet,” Sanft told the committee.
As the University Times went to press, Sanft reported that Pitt still was awaiting its numbers from the NCAA.
Contemporaneous penalties are based on the NCAA’s newly instituted academic progress rate (APR), which has two components: individual academic performance as it applies to NCAA eligibility standards, and retention rates of student-athletes.
Historical penalties will be directed at schools that show chronic under-performance. The NCAA has not yet finalized the historical penalties or the procedures governing them, Sanft said.
Under the new guidelines, Sanft said each team’s scholarship players are graded, earning a maximum of 2 points per semester per player based on the following four combinations:
• A student maintains athletic eligibility under NCAA guidelines at the completion of a term and returns for the next term or graduates (2 points);
• A student maintains athletic eligibility, but does not return to the same school the following term (1 point);
• A student loses athletic eligibility but does returns to school (1 point);
• A student loses athletic eligibility and does not return to school the following term (0 points).
(If a student holds eligibility after graduating, that student is not counted, even though a student who has used the maximum NCAA eligibility may return to school on scholarship until graduation.)

At the end of each fall and spring term, each team’s overall APR score is computed.
The APR “cut line” is 925, Sanft said. That can be translated to 92.5 percent, she said. So a team with 15 scholarship players would score 60 points if all 15 players met both success criteria at the end of two semesters. However, that team would fall below the APR cut line (92.5 percent of 60) by losing any combination of five points over the two semesters.
“The 925 cut line is a surprise to me, because it seems high,” she said. “But the NCAA said that this is not a permanent number and could be adjusted from year to year.”
The NCAA guidelines also set a maximum limit on the number of scholarships a team could lose in a given year, Sanft said. The limit is 10 percent of the maximum scholarships allowed in the specific sport. The contemporaneous penalty lasts for one year.
An NCAA Division I football team, for example, could lose up to nine scholarships out of 85 (the maximum allowable rounded up to the nearest number evenly divisible by 10) for not meeting the new academic guidelines.
In the longer term, a graduation success rate will be established based on the number of scholarship student-athletes who graduate each year, including transfer student-athletes, Sanft said.
For the GSR, the NCAA is using the current federal methodology for calculating graduation rates over a six-year period. “So the data we submitted to the NCAA are from the class that entered in 1998,” Sanft said.
Student-athletes who transfer to another institution but would have been eligible academically to return will not be counted against the GSR.
Sanft said that there are wild-card factors that could affect a school’s APR, such as a change in coaches, which often prompts scholarship athletes to transfer. Also, schools that counter failure by establishing intervention plans may not see the fruits of those plans right away, she pointed out.
Senate athletics committee members wanted to know if the new guidelines would affect schools’ advising and students’ choice of courses and course loads in order to maintain scholarships. A student could take a minimum number of credits per term and stretch out his or her retention success rate, members pointed out.
“I don’t really know the effect,” Sanft said. “But these guidelines probably will change the way some schools do business.”
—Peter Hart

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