Midnight Madness to start earlier

Midnight Madness will begin earlier than usual this fall after the NCAA's Legislative Council approved a new rule.

Teams can now hold their first practice two weeks earlier than before, following an April rule change that allows teams to have 30 days of practice in the six weeks before the first regular-season game.

Another adopted change eliminates the starting time for the first permissible workouts. Previously, teams are not allowed to begin until 5 p.m. on the Friday closest to Oct. 15. The new rule allows schools to make their own judgment about the starting time when practice begins.

The board also made two significant changes -- voting to keep the sliding scale between test scores and GPA in the 16 core high school courses indefinitely and changing how that GPA is calculated.

The new rule, set to take effect in the fall of 2016, requires incoming freshmen to have a 2.3 GPA in those core courses to be eligible. To help phase in the new policies, board members agreed to use a sliding scale temporarily. And those GPAs will now be based on the 16 best grades in math, science, English and other courses, rather than including every score if the student completes more than 16 core courses.

Walter Harrison, president at the University of Hartford and chairman of the committee on academic performance, explained the changes were needed to limit the impact on student-athletes coming from low-resource high schools or those who would scare off coaches because they were too close to the borderline.

"I'm concerned about minority students who would be affected by the dramatic change to the sliding scale," Harrison said. "The new 930 APR (Academic Progress Rate) benchmark required for postseason competition is impacting coaches' recruiting decisions. These changes and the action the board took today to strengthen the high school core GPA calculation will make the positive effects even more dramatic."

The board didn't just talk about rules, either.

It formally approved the application of the reformed Big East to become a multisport league, acknowledged the name change of the old Big East to the American Athletic Conference and promised to keep both actively engaged in the governance structure.

In addition, the board approved a measure to allow any Football Bowl Subdivision team that goes into a conference championship game with a 6-6 mark to be eligible for postseason play -- regardless of whether it wins or loses the title game. UCLA and Georgia Tech both had to apply for waivers after losing in the title game to fall to 6-7. The new rule eliminates the need for those teams to seek a waiver.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.