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Publish date: Jul 16, 2010

Women’s basketball group seeks
feedback on summer school concept

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
NCAA.org

Women’s basketball student-athletes could perform better academically and make a stronger connection to their institution under a summer-school concept the Women’s Basketball Issues Committee is proposing.

To improve Academic Progress Rates and graduation rates in the sport, the committee wants to require all incoming freshmen and transfer student-athletes in women’s basketball to attend summer school and in turn allow one hour a week of interaction between coaches and the student-athletes (up to 10 hours for the term). The concept also would require institutions to offer summer financial aid to such student-athletes.

The group hopes to receive feedback and take action over the next few months.

The idea is based on research that found summer-school attendance and credit accumulation is a strong predictor of progress toward degree. Data also show that women’s basketball student-athletes report a stronger connection with their coaches than any other sport group.

“Student-athletes in all sports who come to summer school get ahead, stay ahead and are performing better in the classroom,” said Janet Cone, chair of the Women’s Basketball Issues Committee. “The research indicated that it’s very important for young folks transitioning to college to build a connection with a coach and other people on campus. That helps with retention.”

Cone, athletics director at UNC Asheville, said student-athletes on her campus reach out to her in the summer to establish a connection with the university.

“They are looking for that connection. They want to know who on this campus really cares about them academically and as a person,” she said. “We recruited them to come play basketball, but they need that little extra time to say, ‘Yeah, I’m glad you’re here, we value you as a student on this campus.’ ”

Research shows that nearly 60 percent of incoming women’s basketball freshmen attend summer school before full-time enrollment. Also, about 50 percent of two-year and four-year transfer student-athletes enroll in summer school before full-time enrollment.

Women’s basketball APRs are relatively high (the sport’s most recent four-year rate was 966, well above penalty range), but Cone and others noticed a disturbing flattening of the rate over the last several years. Where other sports are improving (including most men’s sports), women’s basketball APRs are steady and among the lowest for all women’s sports.

“That’s a concern,” Cone said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, maybe it will just flatten out, but it’s not increasing. We are promoting this sport and institutions are investing in it as a premier sport for women. We want to improve attendance and the level of play, and we want to improve academic performance, too.”

The concept is similar to a model proposed by the Men’s Basketball Academic Enhancement Group, though the concept has not been embraced by those stakeholders on the men’s side.

Both the men’s and women’s proposals require student-athletes to enroll in six hours of summer school credit and pass three in exchange for a set amount of coach interaction during the summer session.

The two proposals have some key differences. The men’s proposal would require summer school only for incoming student-athletes classified as “at-risk” by a research-based assessment program and would allow eight hours per week of athletically related activities during the summer term.

Cone acknowledged that the required financial aid portion could be a sticking point with the membership, particularly in tough economic times. The plan before the membership now offers several scenarios for waivers of the requirement. Cone said if membership feedback indicated a strong desire to move away from the required aid element, the committee would continue its work.