Publish date: Oct 25, 2011

DI Board could change academic standards, financial aid opportunities

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

Key Points

The Board will vote on:

  • A framework for access to championships at a 930 Academic Progress Rate benchmark
  • Increased academic standards for transfers from two-year colleges
  • Allowing schools to provide student-athletes additional aid, up to $2,000 additional or full cost-of-attendance.
  • Permitting multi-year scholarships.


Division I leaders call for sweeping changes to college athletics

Division I Board approves increased academic performance concept

Emmert, university presidents discuss reform

The Division I Board of Directors will consider this week major changes designed to transform intercollegiate athletics and improve the student-athlete experience. 

Less than three months after NCAA President Mark Emmert called a presidential meeting to refocus the Division I agenda on the student-athlete, the Board is expected to discuss – and vote on – the first round of recommendations focused on improving student-athlete success.

The presidents will receive a package of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of life for Division I athletes and increasing the chances for them to succeed in the classroom and graduate. 

“I believe the presidents are committed to creating rapid change to benefit the student-athletes on their campuses. We need to take serious action now to improve the student-athlete experience and make sure our conduct aligns with our values,” Emmert said. “All of these changes will happen in short order and will have a positive impact on the enterprise.”

The recommendations include:

  • Increased emphasis on academic performance, including a minimum academic standard to qualify for postseason competition. 
  • More rigorous initial-eligibility standards, including tougher core-course requirements coming out of high school.
  • Increased standards for two-year college transfers.
  • Increased assistance to student-athletes, including up to an additional $2,000 miscellaneous-expense allowance toward incidental educational costs above tuition and fees, room and board, and books.
  • Allowing institutions to award multi-year grants in aid.

The package to be considered Thursday will include a framework and timeline for implementation of the 930 Academic Progress Rate benchmark for access to the postseason. The Board passed the new benchmark in August, and the Committee on Academic Performance is expected to finalize a recommendation for implementation this week, before the presidential meeting. 

As early as the 2012-13 academic year, teams could be required to meet specific academic requirements to be eligible for the postseason. 

The Board is expected to vote on enhanced transfer standards for two-year college student-athletes, with increased grade-point average and core-course requirements to affect transfers enrolling in Division I schools in August 2012 or later.

While a final decision isn’t expected on initial-eligibility standards, the presidents will examine possible models for more stringent requirements and will ask the Committee on Academic Performance to request feedback from the membership.

“Academic success is the area where the NCAA has made the most progress in the last decade,” said Hartford President Walter Harrison, chair of the Committee on Academic Performance. “We’ve got real momentum toward improving student achievement and embedding it into our culture. We need to continue this.”

Presidents also will consider enhanced financial aid opportunities for student-athletes, including new rules allowing schools to both enhance full scholarships with additional funding to cover expenses not covered by traditional aid packages and to award scholarships for longer than a single year. 

Both of these recommendations are intended to enhance the student-athlete experience. Allowing schools to offer full-cost-of-attendance up to a certain amount will allow student-athletes to have enough pocket money left over for entertainment, travel or other extra expenses. A multi-year scholarship would show student-athletes a school is committed to him or her for the long term.

Several athletics directors, including Ohio State’s Gene Smith and Duke’s Kevin White have indicated publicly that the athletics director community supports the recommendations that will be made later this week.

“These have been issues we’ve been discussing for a long time, and leadership is responding to it,” Smith said. “I support the reform movement; it comes at a critical time where we need to make monumental shifts in what we do.”

White, who attended the August retreat that kicked off the conversations, said it is vital that action is quick and decisive.

“To be sure, we’re talking about significant change in Division I athletics. This kind of creative thinking will help us support the success of the student-athletes and improve their experience on our campuses,” White said. 

The package set for a vote this week is the next step in what is anticipated to be a year of groundbreaking in change in Division I. By next October, a number of other changes aimed at changing the culture are anticipated to be in place. Future actions will focus on the following: 

  • Streamlining and simplifying the rulebook to eliminate insignificant and unenforceable rules.
  • Developing a new process to ensure that any new rules align with and promote NCAA values.
  • Creating an enforcement approach and penalty structure that focuses on the most important issues impacting fairness and integrity, with meaningful penalties that correlate with the severity of the violations.

Recommendations to address these issues will be forthcoming over the next year.