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Column: NCAA can’t forget athletes are students, too

Nov. 1, 2011

After facing scrutiny for years about student athlete academics, the NCAA has decided to push for change in college athletics. This past Thursday the NCAA passed major reform, deciding to give college players more money in scholarships by increasing the total amount per student by $2,000. The NCAA also passed new rules to increase the requirements of a school’s Academic Progress Rate to be eligible for postseason play.

This change is positive for the NCAA because it expects more from the students and the university itself. The NCAA Board of Directors implemented this change in order to improve the academic performance of the college students.

The new rule measures the academics of a given program using the Academic Progress Rate of each school. The APR is a system that measures how well college athletic teams move student athletes toward graduation from the institution. The new rule indicates that a school must have an average APR of 930 out of 1,000 over the past two seasons or a four-year average of 900 in order to participate in the 2012-2013 postseason. The increase pushes the students to perform better in the classroom and punishes those who don’t try to graduate.

Sometimes college coaches have been said to not push their players in the classroom enough to the point that student athletes essentially don’t need to go to class. With all the “one and done”s and players leaving early for the draft, it’s easy to see how players could be apathetic in their studies. What this rule hopes to do is push the athletes to succeed in the classroom no matter what their future plans may be.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Pushing students in the classroom is one of the best ways for them to succeed. As a college student, I know how easy it is to get behind in my schoolwork. But when professors set rules of attendance and mandatory work outside of class, it helps students learn more and stay caught up in class.

Some athletes know they’re going to leave school early and go to a pro sports league. But the NCAA doesn’t want them to simply coast through their time in college until that day arrives. Players like this make the NCAA look weak. Athletes who don’t take class work seriously are essentially disrespecting the NCAA and its standards. The new regulation forces the student athlete to keep up with their studies in order to get any post-season play. Some schools are already feeling the pressure of the recently passed rule.

The Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team scored an 826 on the APR for the 2009-2010 school year. This is incredibly below the new standard placed on college teams. They have a two-year average of 900.5 and a four-year average of 888.5. These new standards would ban the team from competing in postseason play for the 2012-2013 school year. With averages that low, the team deserves to be banned from postseason play.

Some might believe this pushes players and programs too much to succeed while giving them difficult standards to meet. But I think it’s important to push the student athletes to do well in the classroom and make sure they’re moving towards a college degree. It’s on the coaches as well to make sure their players are not only attending class and making good grades but also taking the right classes toward their degree.

The main point of going to college is to get an education. We often forget the players are student-athletes and need to keep up in the classroom. Some athletes treat it as a place where they go simply to play a sport or as a rest stop as they go on to make millions of dollars in pro leagues. The new regulation essentially prevents them from slacking off in the classroom without repercussions.

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