U to start NCAA recertification process

The process will examine the graduation rates of student athletes relative to the rest of the student body.

Jake Grovum

With the release of student-athlete graduation success rates earlier this month, public attention has been drawn to the University’s athletics department and its academic standing.

On Wednesday, the University announced it has begun a yearlong recertification process with the NCAA, its first since February 2001.

The purpose of recertification is “to ensure the integrity” of University athletic programs by opening them to the University community and the public, according to the news release.

The NCAA investigates a number of areas through the recertification process, among them graduation rates of scholarship student-athletes. It also requires universities to explain any deficiencies in graduation rates when compared to the general student population, according to NCAA guidelines.

The University’s overall federal graduation rate for student-athletes is currently 1 percent greater than that of the general student body, athletics communications director Garry Bowman said.

The NCAA also investigates differences between individual sports’ graduation rates and rates for the general student population.

The Gopher men’s basketball, men’s hockey and football teams all currently have lower federal graduation rates than the general student body.

To look at portions of the athletics department and compare them against the general student body is unfair, Regina Sullivan, senior associate athletics director, said.

“If you segmented out other populations in the general student body there’d probably be similar numbers depending on what segment you look at,” she said.

There is no mention of comparing individual sports with selected segments of the student body, according to recertification guidelines.

The men’s basketball and football teams both also have below-standard Academic Progress Rates, according to the most recent NCAA report, but due to a squad-size adjustment they have not been subject to penalties.

The NCAA will remove the statistics-based adjustment from its 2007-2008 report, which might subject the programs to NCAA penalties, according to NCAA rules.

If the men’s basketball team’s APR – currently at 887 -remains below 900 after the adjustment is removed, the program might face “historic penalties” that begin with a warning and move to practice and financial aid restrictions, postseason bans and restricted membership status, according to NCAA rules.

NCAA rules state an APR of 900 equals a 45 percent graduation rate.

The NCAA does not comment on individual schools, Jennifer Kearns, associate director of public and media relations, said.

Graduation rates and APR play “heavily” into the recertification process, but would not “make or break” a school’s certification, Jerry Bovee, campus liaison to NCAA for recertification and director of administrative support services Weber State University in Utah, said.

Graduation rates and APR would be “up high” on a scale of one to 10, Bovee added.

Weber State, another Division I school, is currently completing its recertification process.

With the removal of the squad-size adjustment, athletics programs come under more scrutiny, Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said.

“It’s the first true year to really assess how schools are doing in relationship to the academic benchmarks,” she said. “If that score does not show any improvement, those teams are going to be penalized.”

The Knight Commission works for reforms to address the gap between educational ideals and collegiate athletics.

This coming year will be “the moment of truth” for athletics programs, Perko added.

With recertification under way, the University is “well aware” of the challenges it faces and has begun to implement recommendations from a report last year, Dan Wolter, University spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Ultimately, the recertification process is an attempt by the NCAA to make sure institutions have a plan to deal with academic problems, Sullivan said.

“The NCAA’s concern is more, if you do have areas of improvement that you have a plan on how to address them,” she said. “It’s basically a self study.”