If the NCAA meant to generalize and accuse Monday, it waved a fully loaded AK-47 of shame.
|Best, worst in classroom|
|Top 10 I-A football programs in NCAA Academic Performance Rate:|
|1. Navy, 992|
|2. Duke, 985|
|3. Rutgers, 980|
|4. Rice, 979|
|5. Boston College, 978|
|6. Ole Miss, 976|
|7. Iowa, 974|
|8. Miami (Ohio), 973|
|9. Connecticut, 972|
|9. Virginia, 972|
|1. Middle Tennessee, 802|
|2. San Jose State, 814|
|3. Oregon, 849|
|4. Toledo, 850|
|5. San Diego State, 852|
|6. Buffalo, 854|
|7. Temple, 860|
|8. UCLA, 862|
|8. Arizona, 862|
|10. UNLV, 868|
|Top Division I basketball programs in APR (33 ties at 1,000):|
|Mississippi Valley State|
|Mount St. Mary's (Md.)|
|William & Mary|
|1. Fresno State, 611|
|2. Baylor, 647|
|3. Cal State-Fullerton, 750|
|4. Cal State-Sacramento, 759|
|5. USC, 761|
|6. San Jose State, 783|
|7. South Alabama, 796|
|8. Hampton, 796|
|9. Texas Southern|
|9. Jacksonville, 800|
Thanks to the debut of the new Academic Performance Rate (APR), for now we can make these general assumptions about academics at certain big-time football and basketball powers:
Ohio State football is in worse shape with the NCAA than we think.
Joe Paterno isn't the academic hardliner he is made out to be.
The Pac-10 -- home of Stanford and Cal -- might be one of the most academically underachieving football conferences in the country according to the APR.
John Chaney might be recruiting too many goons in the classroom, too.
Don't be shocked. The NCAA issued the raw numbers without quite enough explanation. It wasn't going to name names on Monday because the numbers are so new. So what are we supposed to assume? Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen didn't seem to be aware Monday morning that his league had arguably the worst APR performance of any major football conference. He was not alone. Immediately after a conference call with NCAA officials Monday afternoon, some APR information could not be accessed on the NCAA website.
"We've been kind of piecemealing it," one conference official said.
But until further notice, those coaches, programs and schools are branded. The numbers were dropped in our laps like scarlet letters to be handed out via airwaves, print and Internet. Don't achieve a 925 APR (approximately 50 percent graduation rate)? You get outed long before you lose scholarships.
Approximately 21 percent of all Division I teams (1,198 out of approximately 5,720) are below 925. Forty-two percent of Division I football programs (113 out of 233) and 47 percent of Division I men's basketball programs (154 of 326) fell below 925.
Never mind that penalties won't be handed out until late 2005 at the earliest. If, and when, that happens, they won't be announced publicly because of privacy concerns. The intent, for now, is embarrassment. By releasing the raw numbers, the NCAA brandished its weapon in the bank lobby and told everyone to hit the floor.
"They need to take this as a serious warning," NCAA president Myles Brand.
We'll see. The NCAA attached more asterisks to this latest announcement than the warning label on a box of Cialis. It works, for the most part, but watch out for the side effects. And if confusion lasts for more than four hours, consult a physician.
We know this: If programs don't hit the magic 925 over time, they will be docked up to 10 percent of their scholarships. Chronic violators could get postseason bans and, further, lose NCAA membership.
"I can't imagine anything more severe," said Hartford president Walter Harrison, chairman of the NCAA's committee on academic performance.
"This is the most far-reaching academic reform in decades ..." Brand said, "distinguished by holding sports teams accountable. ... The message is clear: Recruit student-athletes that can do college work. Help them and keep them enrolled so the opportunity for college education becomes a reality."
It's an edict that is easier spread than done. The NCAA instituted the death penalty for chronic cheaters. It has been applied only once, 18 years ago at SMU. Did its threat curb cheating? Doubtful, if you only consider the SEC in recent years.
The threat of the death penalty did cause a spike in the hiring of lawyers, associate athletic directors and compliance officers at most schools. Either the NCAA doesn't have the stomach to hand out another death penalty, or the lawyers have a blueprint for avoiding it.
The multitude of waivers and appeals associated with the APR might dilute the initial intent. Critics say it will put tremendous pressure on academic advisers to direct players toward laughingly easy majors. In other words, have them major in eligibility, which is already a current problem. A bigger concern: the threat of academic fraud.
Initially, the biggest penalty is that loss of scholarships. As mentioned, any team could lose a maximum of 10 percent, which in basketball (two of 13) essentially means that two more walk-ons get to be practice dummies.
No one is really sure how football will be affected because few programs operate at the 85 max anyway. If a program hands out only 80 scholarships, a 10 percent loss means only four fewer scholarships.
"My initial impression was, there are going to be a lot of grants lost," Hansen said. "In men's basketball and to a degree in football, you have very little control over people once they get done competing."
There are waivers, appeals, adjustments for squad sizes. Schools have another month to tweak their numbers. The current numbers are particularly embarrassing to historically black colleges. More than 40 percent of their 366 teams posted a score less than 925.
So why even release this damning list if the HBCs are going to be given a break based on their academic "mission"?
Since dropping that SMU nuke, the NCAA hasn't had the stomach to obliterate a second program for cheating. The APR threatens to do the same thing for chronic academic underachievement. It's aimed at football, baseball and men's basketball where most of the underachievement occurs.
It's a long way to NCAA jail, but by releasing the data Monday, the association showed us that:
- Six of the 10 Pac-10 football programs are way below 925. Oregon has the worst APR of any BCS program, 849. In addition, Oregon State, Arizona State, Washington, Arizona and UCLA are all at 892 or worse. No other major conference is as bad in football.
- Ohio State football stands out with its 870, fourth worst among BCS schools. Throw in the school's current NCAA problems regarding football and basketball, and this is a further reflection on Tressel and outgoing athletic director Andy Geiger.
- Noted disciplinarians Chaney and Paterno run programs below the cut line. Penn State was not bad at 922, although it was surprising given Paterno's reputation. In essence, during the 2003-04 academic year, not even half his players graduated. Chaney was worse. With an 818, Temple ranks 309th out of 326 Division I basketball programs.
- At least eight schools seem to be in danger if they don't improve significantly in both football and basketball. These Division I programs are no better than 898 in both football and basketball: Arizona State, UNLV, Texas A&M, Temple, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Lafayette and San Jose State.
That might be an early reference list for schools that lose scholarships. It might not. The main intent Monday was embarrassment. There are too many factors to consider before schools and programs actually take a hit.
And the lawyers haven't even gotten involved yet.