Last week the NCAA asked you to suspend your beliefs.
It asked you to believe that Auburn football was one of the shining academic beacons less than a year after academic irregularities were uncovered by the New York Times.
It asked you to believe that mid-major schools were the main academic offenders in its annual Academic Progress Rate report, but that only one football program among BCS schools is academically deficient.
|Dave Ridpath wants the NFL and NBA to use minor leagues, not colleges, to develop players.|
"I've screamed it from the hilltops," said Ridpath, an Ohio University assistant professor of sport administration. "The APR is just another layer of the shroud of what's going on on our campuses across America."
And what is happening is not promising, even if you have a shred of skepticism in academic reforms. You can identify if you've ever chased a number -- sales quota, commission, etc. It's less about the process, more about getting to the number. It's easy to agree with Ridpath when he says some schools are more interested in chasing the 925 APR cutoff score than in meaningful degree programs.
The first APR scores were released two years ago to measure a school's ability to keep players eligible term-by-term. It was conceived as a faster measurement than graduation rates that take six years to calculate. The latest APR numbers are from the 2005-06 academic year.
The APR, Ridpath says, encourages players majoring in eligibility and schools enabling them. Schools find themselves chasing a number (925 is the cutoff, roughly equal to a 60 percent graduation rate). The NCAA forces them into that chase.
"In some ways you're right," said Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood. "I would prefer you said that, rather than me."
Livengood's football program was the only one among the 66 BCS teams penalized with the loss of scholarships (four) last week. Eighty-one total programs were penalized. Only three of those were from BCS conferences -- Cincinnati and Iowa State basketball and Arizona football.
Meanwhile, there were 34 non-BCS schools encompassing 49 teams in various sports -- all were issued a public warning by the NCAA. None of them from BCS leagues.
To some that would suggest that Idaho State's football players (whose program was warned) are dumber than Ohio State's (not on the list). The reality is that Ohio State (and its BCS brethren) can better afford to keep its athletes eligible than Idaho State.
There are academic support palaces built on major-college campuses that would make Frank Lloyd Wright jealous. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless those monuments are built so that athletes can be processed instead of educated.