U teams in danger of NCAA penalties

Megan Kadrmas

Minnesota’s two highest-grossing athletics teams didn’t meet their National Collegiate Athletic Association academic goals last year, and are in jeopardy of penalties if their scores do not improve.

The entire athletics department could suffer if the two teams, men’s basketball and football, don’t get their academic acts together.

The teams have two more years to improve their Academic Progress Rates to the 925-point minimum (out of 1,000 possible points) to avoid NCAA penalties. Potential penalties include losing scholarships, recruiting disadvantages, bans on postseason play and even removal from the NCAA.

Mark Nelson, director of academic counseling and student services for intercollegiate athletics, received letters Wednesday from the NCAA concerning academic improvement plans for the two teams.

NCAA Committee on Academic Progress Chairman Walter Harrison of the University of Hartford signed the letters.

“The letters were generally asking each institution that incurred penalties to assess how they got into this trouble and how to best fix any problems they find,” Harrison said.

Any adjustments made to student-athlete academic support programs this year have not been in response to the Academic Progress Rate, he said.

“There will be plans for academic improvement in place for both football and men’s basketball by next fall, at the latest,” Nelson said.

The NCAA is allowing individual universities to create their own academic plans.

University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said an important thing the athletics department can do to help students is pay attention to their needs.

“We need to be conscious of who we are admitting to the ‘U’ and what kind of help they need,” he said.

Cindy Pavlowski, an academic counselor for men’s basketball, described the academic program for student-athletes as “intensive.”

“Student-athletes have required study hours, meet with a learning specialist once or twice a week. We counselors meet with coaches weekly to discuss each student’s progress,” Pavlowski said.

Another big distraction is the busy schedule of student-athletes.

“The travel schedule is frustrating when (men’s) basketball is in the Big Ten season. They have Wednesday night games, meaning that they leave Tuesday and aren’t home again until late Wednesday night or Thursday morning,” Pavlowski said.

Besides hectic game and practice schedules, critiques distract some student-athletes from their studies.

Taking these factors into consideration, student-athletes must still be responsible for their grades, Maturi said.

“We need to hold students accountable for their academic progress just as they are responsible for their athletic success and social conduct,” he said.

In the end, Pavlowski said, the student-athlete’s motivation will determine the success of attempts to improve Academic Progress Rate scores.

“It really comes down to the students themselves and whether or not they want to be successful academically,” she said.