NCAA approves sweeping changes

10/28/2011 12:08 AM

10/28/2011 12:08 AM

INDIANAPOLIS — The scandal-plagued NCAA is moving swiftly to clean up its image.

On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved a package of sweeping reforms that gives conferences the option of adding more money to scholarship offers, schools the opportunity to award scholarships for multiple years, imposes tougher academic standards on recruits and changes the summer basketball recruiting model.

"It was one of the most aggressive and fullest agendas the board has ever faced," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "They moved with dispatch on it, and I think they're taking positive steps for schools and student-athletes."

For decades, outsiders have debated whether college scholarships should include more than just the cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees. Now they can.

The board approved a measure allowing conferences to vote on providing up to $2,000 in spending money, or what the NCAA calls the full cost-of-attendance. Emmert insists it is not pay-for-play, merely the reintroduction of a stipend that existed for college athletes until 1972. He also compared it to the stipends received by other students who receive non-athletic scholarships.

Some thought the total amount should have been higher. At the Big Ten's basketball media day in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany said studies have shown the average athlete pays roughly $3,000 to $4,000 out of his or her own pocket in college costs.

But many believe the measure is long overdue.

"I think it needs to happen or else I think what's left of the system itself is going to implode," said Ohio University professor David Ridpath, past president of The Drake Group, an NCAA watchdog. "We've always lost the moral high ground by saying the educational model is what makes this thing go. I think we're delivering a model that can exploit kids while they're here."

Extra money won't solve all of the NCAA's problems.

Schools must infer the cost of additional funding and it will have to be doled out equally to men's and women's athletes because of Title IX rules. While BCS schools have the money and are expected to swiftly approve additional funding, it may prove too costly for non-BCS schools.

The NCAA's board also went back to basics and placed a renewed emphasis on academics.

In August, the board approved raising the four-year Academic Progress Rate cutline from 900 to 930 and linking that cutline to eligibility for postseason play. On Thursday, it passed a four-year plan to phase in the new requirements.

During the first two years, 2012-13 and 2013-14, teams scoring below 900 on the four-year average would be ineligible for postseason play unless the averaged 930 on the two most recent years of data. In 2014-15, teams that do not hit the 930 mark would be ineligible unless they averaged 940 in the two most recent years. After that, everyone must hit 930, no exceptions.

Schools that do not make the grade could also face additional penalties such as reductions in practice time and game limits, coaches suspensions, scholarship reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

UConn's men's basketball team could be the first team to feel the impact.

After posting an 826 last year, a UConn official has said this year's mark will be approximately 975. It would give Connecticut a two-year score of 900.5 and a four-year average of 888.5 — both too low to make the basketball tourney.

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