Division I Sports Programs Could Lose Scholarships

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas assistant athletic director Paul Kirkpatrick, who is in charge of academic support for student-athletes, doesn't know the exact guidelines the Razorbacks must follow to abide by the NCAA's academic rules.

But Kirkpatrick said there's no denying the Arkansas athletic department will be paying close attention after the first piece of its landmark academic reform package was adopted in Grapevine, Texas, on Monday.

"You're going to have to be careful in some sports," Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick responded Tuesday to the Division I Board of Directors decision to approve the Academic Progress Rate (APR), a standard men's and women's teams must reach beginning in the 2005-06 school year to avoid losing scholarships.

Details aren't set in stone and the APR is just part of a lengthy reform process, but the NCAA announced it will roughly be based on a 50-percent graduation rate. Kirkpatrick said factors like the number of student athletes who achieve eligibility and return to campus full-time each term also will factor into a point system that determines an institution's APR.

"There will be a departmental standard that you're supposed to try and achieve for everybody, plus, each sport will be looked at as well," Kirkpatrick said. "That's so you don't penalize the whole department if one sport isn't doing their job. At least in my understanding, that's the way it's going to be set up.

"Sanctions can either be imposed across the board institutionally or they can only be applied to specific sports."

Arkansas -- and the rest of Division I athletic departments -- will receive warnings and reports in the next few weeks to inform it of which teams fall below the APR set by a committee. Beginning next fall, teams that fall under a minimum APR would be subject to "contemporaneous penalties" and could lose scholarships when players who are academically ineligible leave the school. The scholarships can't be re-awarded for a year and a 10-percent cap will be placed on the number a team loses.

That means football programs could lose no more than nine scholarships in any one year if they have 85 available. Both men's and women's basketball could only lose up to two scholarships with the penalties.

"We knew, this is all part of the package," said Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, who attended the Arkansas-Alabama basketball game Tuesday night. "It's really just the implementation of the package.

"We've been in favor of the (academic) reform package. We want to make sure we can graduate as many of our kids as we can. We'll just have to see what the impact is and how we can best deal with what it is."

There are also "historical penalties," which will be more severe and directed at schools with repeated problems.

Consecutive years of falling below certain academic standards would lead to recruiting and further scholarship restrictions. A third straight year could lead to preseason or postseason bans. A fourth could affect Division I membership status.

"If it's fair and it will help student athletes get their degree, finish their school, then that would be good," said Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles. "If it's good for us, we think the presidents should put it in for all students.

"We have a quality staff academically that will be on top of all the students along with the coaches. The key will be the coaches. How much emphasis the coaches put on it as to whether it's going to get done."

But Broyles said "there are some things in there that scare" the coaches.

"There is some difference between the athletes that have to practice six days a week and work out on weights," Broyles said. "It's kind of like having a job. But that's not going to be a relief of that. That's just going to be some of the pressures that the coaches are going to have to apply to themselves, to see what they're doing and see if, by cutting back practice time, cutting back offseason time ...

"I don't know. I hope it's fair. If it's fair, it's fine."

Walter Harrison, who is the University of Hartford president and chairman of the Division I Committee on Academic Performance, told The Associated Press that the biggest problems were in football, baseball and men's basketball. Thirty percent of Division I football teams, 25 percent of baseball teams and 20 percent of men's basketball teams would have lost scholarships had the policy been in place now.

It is unknown which Arkansas sports, if any, will be mentioned on warning reports as programs that need to improve their academic performance.

Kirkpatrick admitted Tuesday that, if the policies were in place today, Arkansas' basketball program might fall below the required standard. But he emphasized the Razorbacks have taken tremendous strides academically since coach Stan Heath was hired to replace fired coach Nolan Richardson after the 2001-02 season.

"Once we see the cut point and see how it goes this first year, it will be pretty clear after that," Kirkpatrick said. "Right now we're all sitting here wondering, where's the cut point? What percent in each sport?

"It puts a lot of pressure on coaches. It's going to put pressure on them to make good decisions in terms not only of the quality of athlete they recruit and sign, but of the quality of person that he is."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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