Athlete Advisers Fear New NCAA Eligibility Rules Spur Cheating

On July 9, USA Today published an article questioning the success of the NCAA’s academic reform policies from the context of pressures on admissions policies at member institutions. The article raised questions about the NCAA’s elimination of minimum SAT and ACT scores leading to a de facto open admissions policy with too many under-prepared athletes attending college. Because of the nature of athletic competition, colleges will continue to recruit academically deficient athletes for fear of talented athletes deciding to attend a different institution. Subsequently, some colleges are shepherding under-prepared athletes into easier majors and courses.

“Think about the terror a poorly prepared student-athlete must feel… in the classroom. Imagine how that affects their daily lives,” said Gerald Gurney, president-elect of the more than 1,000-member National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics. “It’s a far more formidable opponent than anything they’ll face on the court or on the field. Is there any doubt we have higher incidents of academic dishonesty?”

Furthermore, penalties for teams that post chronically low NCAA-computed Academic Progress Rates (APRs) compound the stress on athletes and schools, he says. The APR considers how effectively sport teams retain athletes and keep them eligible. According to the NCAA, graduation rates among athletes are improving: up to 78% in all sports in Division I, and improving in the highly visible sports of football and men’s basketball: from 65% to 67% in major-college football in the past three years and from 58% to 62% in basketball.

“I do not believe from the conversations I’ve had that people feel as strongly as Gerry does that reform is not working,” said Kevin Lennon, an NCAA vice president who oversees academic issues. “We have institutions that regularly take people off their recruiting list based on academic performance. Now, do we have some institutions that use our eligibility standards as de facto admissions (guidelines)? We do. That’s their problem. If he’s talking about a national solution to that, I don’t know how one does it. They need to examine themselves and look at whether the kids they’re bringing in are academically successful.”