Sports make the grade

Lora Pabst

Twenty-three of the University’s 25 athletics teams had acceptable National Collegiate Athletic Association academic progress rates for the 2004-2005 academic year.

Eighteen of the University’s 25 teams had a score higher than the Division I average in their sport, according to an NCAA report released Wednesday.

The NCAA’s latest tool for measuring academic progress among student-athletes is the academic progress rate, which scores teams based on individual athletes’ eligibility and enrollment for each semester.

This is the second year the measurement has been used and the first year institutions can be punished for not meeting NCAA standards.

Frank Kara, director of athletics compliance for the University, said only student-athletes who are on scholarship are measured in the academic progress rate.

Their eligibility is determined by NCAA, Big Ten and University policies on grades, credits and degree progress, he said. Their enrollment is the other measurement.

University men’s basketball and football teams were the only teams that did not meet the 925 score at which penalties – such as loss of scholarships – begins. They will not be penalized for their academic progress rates because there is not enough data to compare.

The 925 academic progress-rate threshold is equivalent to graduating 50 percent of a team’s athletes every year, Kara said.

“(The academic progress rate) was built upon the idea they would have four years of data,” he said. “So, they built in this exception.”

The exception will be used for only the next two years, but some teams had such low scores that they still will receive penalties this year.

“Some schools are suffering penalties right now,” Kara said. “In another year and a half, you’re really going to start seeing the impact of (the academic progress rate).”

Penalties could include loss of scholarships, recruiting disadvantages, postseason play ban and even teams getting kicked out of the NCAA.

The women’s teams all achieved scores above the set penalty level.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he is pleased that 23 of the 25 sports were above the threshold.

“I’ll feel real good when we have 25 out of 25,” he said.

Maturi said the lower team scores are based on several factors, including where the athletes come from and the academic support system they have.

“For example, men’s basketball,” he said. “Because we’re a low populous state, we have to take some academic risks in a sense. Some young people are educationally disadvantaged.”

Maturi said students who are closer to home have a built-in support system.

Five of the 15 men’s basketball athletes are from outside Minnesota. Forty-one of the 90 football athletes are from states other than Minnesota and Wisconsin.

While some teams did not measure up according to the academic progress rate, Maturi said he thinks this measurement is better than using graduation rates.

“The APR data is immediate and tells you where you stand,” he said.

Kara said the NCAA is trying to focus more on student-athlete eligibility from semester to semester.

“The research out there shows that grad rates are going to improve and student-athletes are going to succeed more if you focus on the level of success each semester,” he said.