NCAA Adopts Academic Threshold for Postseason Eligibility

Several news outlets have reported on the NCAA’s recent action in support of the Knight Commission’s recommendation to require teams to be on track to graduate a 50-percent of their players to be eligible for post-season play. The Knight Commission recommendation was initially proposed in its 2001 report and reiterated in its 2010 report, Restoring the Balance. In response, the Knight Commission issued a press release applauding the NCAA’s decision.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who in March publicly endorsed the Knight Commission’s decade-long call to better align academic performance within athletics, said: “Many experts were skeptical that the NCAA would ever move to deal with the problem of low graduation rates among a small minority of tournament teams. But they were wrong. College presidents have acted courageously and are leading the way.”.

As reported in STLtoday, Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said: “Obviously we’re pleased that 10 years after the initial recommendation that action is moving. There needs to be an academic minimum because tournament play is a privilege that comes with significant financial rewards. So, tournament slots and financial rewards should be reserved for teams that meet those standards.”

To measure progress towards graduation, the NCAA implemented the Academic Progress Rate (APR) in 2004 to track academic eligibility of every athlete, and every team, on a term-by-term basis based on retention and eligibility. According to the NCAA, in 2011, a 930 score equated to about a 50 percent graduation rate; a 1000 score was perfect.

Stewart Mandel, of, noted the Knight Commission’s work in his commentary on the action: “Many of us have been writing and saying this for years (and groups like the Knight Commission have been proposing some of these very things for a decade), but for whatever reason, common sense never seemed to be a driving factor in the NCAA legislative process — until this week.”

USA Today noted that a 930 APR cutoff last year would have affected six of last season’s 70 bowl participants and 17 of 120 major-college teams overall.