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November 15, 2004

New NCAA Academic Standards

UConn officials have filed their first report using new National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) guidelines. The new guidelines require universities to show that their scholarship student-athletes are meeting academic standards, continuously enrolling at the University, and making progress toward their degree.

“The NCAA has developed a better process for measuring the academic success of student-athletes, one that will give the NCAA and the public a more complete and accurate view of the progress being made by our student-athletes,” says Jeffrey Hathaway, director of athletics at UConn.

Based on the new NCAA regulations, 95.4 percent of the student-athletes who receive scholarships from or were recruited by UConn are meeting the requirements, Hathaway says. The results for all Division I schools are expected to be announced in January.

NCAA leaders approved the new regulations in April. They have yet to announce what level schools must surpass to avoid penalties.

The new rules measure student-athletes’ academic performance in two areas – their Academic Progress Rate (APR), which rewards academic performance and retention, and their Graduation Success Rate (GSR). Each student-athlete can earn a maximum of four points a year toward their APR, two each semester. One point is assigned for performing well enough in the classroom to maintain eligibility to participate in varsity athletics the subsequent semester, and another is awarded for enrolling for the following semester.

Eligibility rules include attaining a minimum grade point average, tied to graduation standards for the school or college in which the student-athlete is enrolled, and that they earn a specific number of credits each year, keeping them on track to graduate within six years. Federal reporting guidelines also use the six-year standard for non-athletes.

Hathaway and Bruce Cohen, director of the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics, hail the new requirements, which replace a system that required schools to report only the six-year graduation rate of their student-athletes. Under that formula, universities lost all credit for athletes who transferred to another university – even if they went on to graduate – yet received no credit for athletes who transferred into the university and graduated. Top programs like UConn also were penalized for student-athletes who left school to pursue professional contracts.

“The proactive nature of the new process reflects a dramatic change,” says Cohen. “The six-year rule measured schools after the fact. By the time the measurements were taken, those student-athletes had already graduated or left school. Using the year-by-year standards, we can be sure everyone is making appropriate progress, and our graduation rates should improve,” because student-athletes who transfer or go to the professional leagues will not be counted as non-graduates, and athletes who transfer to UConn and graduate will count.

Currently, of UConn’s about 650 student-athletes, 408 meet the criteria for this reporting period – they receive some athletic scholarship assistance or were recruited.

“The 95 percent success rate in the most recent academic year is a reflection of the commitment by our coaches and student-athletes to our primary mission of attaining academic success,” Hathaway says. “If the trend continues, we will see increases in our overall graduation rate as well.”