There are several days throughout the year that are near and dear to the hearts of college sports fans. Basketball has Selection Sunday, football has the back-asswards BCS Selection Show, and even baseball fans have the NCAA tournament selection to look forward to.
Being fans of affirmative action, the NCAA gives its detractors, or “haters” as today’s youth calls them, something to look forward to as well. Yes, the NCAA’s Academic Progress Reports are out, and 29 of the NCAA’s failing-est teams have taken a swift kick of righteous academic justice straight to the proverbial junk.
The NCAA Academic Progress Rate (or APR) is designed to ensure that all, or at least a reasonable percentage of, college athletes are actually fulfilling the “scholar” part of the scholar-athlete euphemism that the NCAA loves to throw around. If a team collectively falls below a projected 60% graduation rate, the NCAA boot of academic justice is applied.
Usually, the penalties involve scholarship losses and/or loss of practice time. This year, however, the NCAA has raised the stakes, slapping three
sacrificial lambs teams with postseason bans: Centenary basketball (The Gents!), and Jacksonville State (The Gamecocks!) & Tennessee-Chattanooga (The Mocs!) football. Hardly the same as keeping Kansas out of the NCAA basketball tournament or Oklahoma out of the BCS, but it’s a start, sort of.
If you weren’t aware these schools had sports teams in trouble, or that these schools even existed, you’re probably not alone. According to USA TODAY (which also has a full list of offending teams):
Centenary, Chattanooga and Jacksonville State are typical, as critics point out, of the schools and programs that draw the bulk of APR penalties: low-profile and less moneyed.
Fewer than one in five schools (14 of 73) in the marquee Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern conferences had a team draw sanctions. Well more than one in three schools (93 of 257) in the rest of Division I were hit.
Large schools from major conferences employ literally dozens of people whose sole jobs are to keep their student-athletes eligible. They offer intensive tutoring and state-of-the-art academic facilites for athletes. Additionally, they offer a larger range of liberal arts majors like sociology, American studies, and communications that are, shall we say, less challenging than other disciplines.
Smaller schools struggling to win in Division I athletics lack these resources, even though they often recruit athletes who were borderline eligible in the first place in an attempt to compete with the superior athletes of the major schools.
Yes, plenty of other schools were warned, and the list of other teams losing scholarships is longer and contains some names you may have even heard of (San Jose State football, New Mexico State basketball). But more than anything, this list just proves the competitive imbalance and hypocrisy that the NCAA is known for.