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NCAA's new nine-credit rule faces opposition in legislative process
The pressure to win in college football can cause schools to cut corners academically so they can play before packed houses on Saturdays.
Counting NCAA votes ranks alongside watching paint dry. But there’s an intriguing tally to follow over the next couple of days that could impact whether college football players are benched due to new academic standards starting in 2012.
The debate touches on college athletics’ never-ending balancing act: winning on the field vs. winning in the classroom. Better yet, it cuts to the heart of defining what classroom success really means.
In April, the Division I Board of Directors adopted a rule requiring football players to pass nine credits (eight for quarter schools) in the fall term, up from six credits now. The new rule, set to start in August, makes a player who fails to pass nine fall credits ineligible for the first four games of the following season.
There are built-in loopholes. If the player earns 27 credits (40 at quarter schools) by the start of the following fall, he only sits for the first two games. There’s also a one-time mulligan for a player to use the new 27-credit exception to regain his entire eligibility.
The goal is to improve football Academic Progress Rate scores and put players on a faster track toward graduating. But the rules are meeting some resistance in the NCAA’s legislative process.
As of Friday afternoon, 17 Football Bowl Subdivision schools and 12 Football Championship Subdivision schools have made override requests, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said. Requests from 30 FBS schools and 15 FCS schools are needed by Monday to potentially abolish the rule.
If enough requests are received, the issue would be reviewed again by the Legislative Council and placed on the Board of Directors’ agenda in August. The board could act on the proposal again, or send it to an override vote of all Division I members in which a five-eighths majority would defeat the legislation.
Increasing academic standards seems like a no-brainer. The more the bar gets raised, the theory goes, the higher the player will soar academically.
That sounds good in Indianapolis. But there are legitimate concerns among some on the ground that extend beyond sitting a key player.
Would the nine-credit rule lead to more clustering of football players to certain majors and professors and increase the pressure on academic support staffs? Instead of players studying more to pass nine hours, would they cut more corners to stay eligible?
Ask North Carolina how fun it is to be charged by the NCAA with academic fraud.
At the SEC spring meetings, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he opposed the new nine-hour rule. However, he acknowledged it’s “not really” too much to ask players to pass nine fall credits.
“Most of our guys are pretty good academically,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, we’ll find a way to make sure they pass the nine hours. That’s what you have to do.”
Find a way.
Spurrier didn’t say or suggest South Carolina will cheat. But those words should send chills to true educators because they reflect how the eligibility game gets played.
For pockets of football players – some, but certainly not all – academic requirements mean playing a shell game. Go to this major, go to that professor; go to this class, go to that tutor.
Find a way to keep playing on Saturdays.
The player may progress toward a degree. But it’s debatable whether he progresses toward a real education that gives him skills to be a productive member of society when his career ends.
NCAA research found that incoming freshmen in football have lower high school academic profiles than any other Division I sport besides men’s basketball. Yet football’s first-year college academic performance is worse than every sport, including basketball.
The NCAA says football players with nine fall credits are much more likely to be academically eligible at the end of the spring term. Football players, especially freshmen, lose APR eligibility points more during their season. A player who’s ineligible in the fall increases his chances of losing eligibility again in later semesters or leaving school.
The nine-credit rule badly wants to raise the academic bar again. But APR supposedly makes that claim, too, and it’s still not clear exactly what APR measures.
Progress toward a degree, perhaps. But by what means?
By Jon Solomon, The Birmingham News