Student Well-Being

NCAA Approves Higher Academic Standards for Athletes

By Bryan Toporek — August 12, 2011 2 min read
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Higher academic standards for student-athletes: coming soon to an NCAA Division I school near you.

A day after concluding its two-day presidents retreat, the NCAA Division I board of directors unanimously approved higher academic requirements for student-athletes, with postseason bans on the line for teams who fall below a certain standard.

For high school student-athletes expecting an academic cakewalk in college: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your world just got flipped upside down yesterday.

The NCAA will rely on the Academic Progress Rate calculation, which takes into account the number of student-athletes who graduate, transfer, and drop out from each team.

Before yesterday, teams needed to fall below an APR of 900 (which represented a 40 percent graduation rate) to risk a postseason ban. Teams below a 925 APR could be punished by loss of athletic scholarships.

With the new rules, teams now must exceed an APR of 930, averaged over four years—which represents a roughly 50 percent graduation rate—to participate in the postseason.

“This is about the academic performance of all of our students in all of our sports,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “This is about the academic expectations we have for all of our student-athletes.”

Because I know you’re wondering: 12 of the 68 men’s basketball teams in this past year’s NCAA tournament would not have been eligible, including Ohio State and Syracuse, according to

The presidents intend to finalize details of their APR plan in October, but will almost certainly provide schools with a grace period to straighten out their academics. Emmert said in a press conference this week that it’d be unrealistic to expect teams to turn around their student-athletes’ academics on a dime.

You know who’s going to love this move? None other than Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Back in March, Duncan made the suggestion that teams on track to graduate less than half of their players should be “banned from postseason glory.”

Duncan cited a Knight Commission report that found teams below an APR of 925 earned $179 million from the past five NCAA men’s basketball tournaments and questioned the logic in rewarding low-performing academic teams with that much money. Consider yourself heard, Mr. Secretary.

The NCAA also decided that no high school programming (more than just athletic contests) will be appearing on university TV networks any time soon, until the association has proper time to analyze how its rules apply (particularly in regard to recruiting advantages). The issue flared up recently when the University of Texas reportedly planned on airing high school sports footage on its soon-to-be-born Longhorn Network.

In October, the NCAA will also be looking at the possibility of boosting the academic requirements for incoming freshmen student-athletes (here’s looking at you, high schoolers) and for junior-college transfers.

Long story short: Looks like all of Emmert’s talk this week about substantive, yet rapid change wasn’t just lip service.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.