NCAA also repeals hoops' '5-8 rule'

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA approved a sweeping package of
academic reforms Thursday that will penalize schools starting in
2006 if athletes perform too poorly in the classroom.

"This is the beginning of a sea change in college sports,"
NCAA president Myles Brand said. "Landmark legislation was passed
to ensure each and every student-athlete has a genuine opportunity
to receive a high quality education and graduate."

To avoid punishment, schools will have to stay above a
still-undetermined "cut line" that includes graduation rates as
one of the factors showing academic progress.

Brand said graduation targets for each school are being
calculated. This fall, he said, each school will be notified "how
much at risk it would have been" had the new standards already
been in place.

The Division I Management Council originally proposed waiting an
extra year before putting the reforms in place, but the NCAA Board
of Directors decided to push it up to 2006 because it felt data
wouldn't change much by waiting.

The board previously voted to increase the number of core
courses needed for freshman eligibility and to increase the number
of hours required toward graduation to remain eligible.

Another piece of the package, approved last fall, required
athletes to complete 20 percent of their degree requirements each
year to remain eligible. The latest measure was designed to make
the colleges themselves more accountable for keeping athletes on
track to graduate.

"We're starting immediately to make these reforms real," said
Robert Hemenway, chancellor of the University of Kansas and
chairman of the Division I board.

The "cut line" will be the same in all sports.

"There are going to be many different factors," NCAA spokesman
Jeff Howard said. "That is to be determined. They'll take into
account all the different things they choose to bring in."

Schools that fall below that line will receive warning letters
beginning in 2006-07. Consistently poor performing teams could
begin losing scholarships in 2007-08 and postseason eligibility and
money from NCAA tournaments starting in 2008-09.

Also, if a scholarship athlete leaves school while not
academically eligible, that scholarship may not be replaced for one
year under a "contemporaneous" penalty that goes into effect this

"This is a critically important set of legislative measures,
the strongest ever passed by the NCAA, and different in kind
because it holds teams as well as institutions accountable," Brand

The board also rescinded the so-called "5-8" rule, which
allowed a school to award five basketball scholarships in one year
or eight scholarships in a two-year period.

"With so much progress having been made, combined with the
pieces already in place, the 5-8 rule probably was unnecessary,"
Hemenway said.

He said the reforms, with penalties to back up the tougher
standards, send a message to athletes "that if you come to our
institutions, we're going to do everything in our power to make
sure you graduate.

"I think what we did today will result in enhanced standards,
in improved measurements of how successfully those standards are
being met, and a significant increase in accountability on the part
of the institutions, athletic departments, individual teams and
individual student-athletes," Hemenway said.

The board also discussed, but took no action, on recommendations
by a task force on recruiting.

Brand formed the committee in February following allegations by
two women who said Colorado football players or recruits raped them
at a party in 2001. A third woman said she was assaulted in a dorm
room shortly afterward, and since 1997, at least eight women have
accused Colorado football players of rape.

The recommendations will be considered in July and are expected
to be sent to the Board of Directors in time to enact new rules
before the 2004-05 recruiting season.

"The board looked at it briefly. ... There was some interest in
strengthening that package,'' said David Berst, NCAA vice president
for Division I.

The task force recommendations include a requirement that each
NCAA school adopt a written policy on recruiting and accountability
for compliance. They also include a requirement that hosts for
athletes either be members of the teams for which the prospects are
being recruited or others chosen the same way the college provides
hosts to prospective students in general.

The group also urged requiring recruits and hosts to sign a form
agreeing not to engage in inappropriate conduct as defined by the