Major rule changes by NCAA

The NCAA passes several reforms that could have a great impact on the University of Arizona and specifically the men's basketball program. Described as a "landmark academic reform package", the NCAA will now closely monitor academic progress and assess penalties for schools that do poorly. They also changed the 5/8 rule and altered what teams can compete in exhibition games.

The changes were put in place to improve the academic progress, retention and graduation rates of student-athletes.

"This landmark legislation marks the beginning of a sea change in college sports," NCAA president Myles Brand said. "These are strong and well-thought-out reforms that are critically necessary to ensuring that student-athletes are academically successful. For the first time ever, the NCAA will have the ability to hold institutions and teams accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes."

The new rules will instill penalties on schools that fail to meet a yet-to-be determined academic "cut line" that will include graduation rates, among other factors for showing academic progress. The "cut line" will be the same in all sports.

The new standards go in effect in 2006, with the first penalties being levied the next year. Schools that fall below the "cut-line" will first receive warning letters in 2006-07. Further poor performances will cost teams scholarships in 2007-08. Post season eligibility and money from NCAA tournaments are on the line starting in 2008-09.

Next season schools will receive letter letting them know how they would have fared had the new standards been in place.

A final penalty will be levied against schools that have academically ineligible players. If the player leaves school in poor academic standing, the school will be unable to fill that scholarship will. That would have been the case this season with Chris Dunn, the basketball player who was ruled academically ineligible in August.

"This is a critically important set of legislative measures, the strongest ever passed by the NCAA, and different in kind because it holds teams as well as institutions accountable," Brand said.

This legislation, coupled with new academic progress standards that were previously approved, makes the academic landscape of college athletics much different. The board already passed laws to increase the number of core courses needed for freshman eligibility and to increase the number of hours required toward graduation to remain eligible. Now a player must complete 20% of their degree requirements each year to remain eligible.

With these new rules in place the 5-8 rule was discontinued. The thought was with these new academic standards in place the limit on scholarships that could be awarded in a given time period were no longer needed. The old rule meant that no more than five players could be awarded new scholarships in one season and no more than a total of eight could be handed out in a two-year span.

The board also changed the rules on playing exhibition basketball games. Division I men's basketball teams will be prohibited from playing against non-collegiate teams. The measure approved by the Board allows teams to honor contracts with non-collegiate teams signed before October 21, 2003. This will mean that the Wildcats will no longer be playing foreign teams or traveling teams of professionals.

This rule really hurts the Wildcats because there are no Division II basketball programs in the area. Many teams play exhibition games against D-II teams that do not count against their record. The Cats could try to schedule exhibition games against other Division I-A teams that are in a close proximity. In the past Lute Olson mentioned maybe playing New Mexico State in an exhibition.

This past season the Wildcats played the Sydney Comets and Team Nike in exhibition games. Any games that were scheduled before October 21, 2003 will be allowed to continue until the end of that contract.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories