July 25, 2002
The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has backed a set of academic enhancements that are being considered by the Division I membership.
In a letter to Division I presidents, the Commission indicated its support for changes in initial- and continuing-eligibility standards, saying "the proposals are consistent with the Commission's goals and recommendations in that their enactment would give athletes stronger academic experiences more often culminating in graduation."
The proposals currently are in the comment phase in the Division I legislative process and are scheduled to be voted on at the Division I Management Council's October meeting.
The initial-eligibility component of the package includes three alternatives regarding the NCAA's current sliding scale. One proposal maintains the current 2.000 high-school core grade-point average requirement and moves the test-score cut from the current 820 SAT to 620. A second proposal eliminates the test-score cut, while a third eliminates both cuts by establishing a full sliding scale. All three initial-eligibility proposals increase the number of core courses from 13 to 14, and they also eliminate all references to partial qualifiers.
In April, the Division I Board of Directors endorsed the proposal eliminating the test-score cut.
Key among the continuing-eligibility proposals is one requiring student-athletes to complete 40-60-80 percent of the course requirements in the student's degree program by the start of their third, fourth and fifth year, respectively.
The proposals, developed by the NCAA Academic Consultants, are designed to maximize graduation rates while minimizing disparate impact on various constituent groups.
The Knight Commission in its letter to the presidents commended the consultants for "devising workable means to improve athletes' academic performance."
The Commission noted, however, that as much as it welcomes stronger continuing-eligibility standards, it is cautious about eliminating a test-score cut for initial eligibility.
"We suggest," the Commission said, "that in addition to the proposed increase in the number of required core courses, other means by which to raise initial-eligibility standards be considered as well."
The Commission also said it anticipates upcoming efforts to reduce time demands on student-athletes, and proposals to impose penalties on teams and institutions whose athletes do not make satisfactory academic progress toward their degrees.