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NCAA serious about academics


May 14, 2008

The message was loud and clear. The NCAA came out with a list of schools that has not done the job in the classroom.

If an institution cannot walk the walk and not just talk the talk, the NCAA is serious about wanting to see progress in the academic arena. I applaud the NCAA for what it is doing, and coaches have to research and do their homework when they recruit student-athletes. It has to be about an individual succeeding in the classroom and not just on the hardwood.

Athletes have to survive and advance in the classroom. Isn't that what this is supposed to be all about? Come on, it is about time that schools with embarrassing graduation rates get punished. The threat of sanctions such as scholarship reductions, and even postseason tournament bans, make a lot of sense.

Nothing is perfect, but the academic progress reports with all sorts of requirements are sending a message loud and clear to Division I programs. These schools better make progress or they could face the embarrassment of missing out on the postseason, where the money is made.

Think about how much publicity and exposure schools get by making the NCAA. Then imagine the negativity of a headline saying a school is ineligible for the postseason because it did not do a good enough job with students-athletes. Now these schools will be called out. If a school can't reach the required levels, it deserves to be punished. I don't think these requirements are that difficult to obtain.

Yes, the player has to handle some responsibility. Schools do everything possible to graduate players, including tutoring and guidance. The athlete needs to have the same drive academically as he does athletically. In many cases, they only think about the grandeur of being a pro athlete. Everything will change when they get the $$$! It is not that easy and reality often sets in; they don't make it beyond the collegiate level, being forced to vagabond status in the real world.

All they have to do is look at the transactions and see some of the players that end up getting waived. There is plenty of outstanding collegiate talent without enough ability to make it at the next level.

It is up to the coaches to make sure in every possible way, be it motivational talks or inspiration, that the kids are not one-dimensional. They have to prepare for the biggest game of them all, the game of life. They need to give themselves options, and knowledge is power. You need to have options available in your career, once the uniform comes off.

Let's follow and track what happens. The NCAA has sent a message that it is serious about making certain that academics are stressed.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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