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NCAA awards ND student-athletes

Katie Perry | Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Boston College is no longer just a rival on the football field.

In a report released last Thursday, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) presented the Irish and Eagles with the most public recognition awards as based on a two-year aggregate of Academic Performance Rate (APR) scores.

The awards were given to the top 10 percent of teams by school as well as the top 10 percent of teams by sport. No other Division I-A institution had more programs honored in the by-institution category than both Notre Dame and Boston College, each with 14.

All University programs exceeded the NCAA’s APR standards, with 14 Irish teams earning perfect scores of 1,000 points. The average APR score for all Notre Dame teams was approximately 992.

Notre Dame was also included in a select list of schools that consistently exceed APR standards. Other institutions recognized by the NCAA included Brown, Harvard, Yale, the three U.S. military academies and The College of William and Mary.

The NCAA introduced the new set of guidelines last March for major Division I sports programs to keep student-athletes scholastically on track for a degree. The APR point system requires a school to score 925 or higher out of a possible 1,000 to avoid penalty from the NCAA.

Each player begins with two points. If the student-athlete stays in school and maintains an adequate GPA, he or she will lose no points. If a player’s GPA drops below a certain level or if he or she departs school early, one point is lost. Two points are deducted if both scenarios occur. Points for each athlete are tallied and added for a team total, which is then divided by the total number of points possible and multiplied by 1,000.

Last March, Notre Dame’s overall APR score was 979 – 35 points higher than the national average for Division I sports programs – and 13 Irish teams earned perfect scores.

The first rankings served as a dry run for institutions to learn how the APR works and find out which penalties would have been necessary had the program been in full effect. The most recent scores are a compilation of the rankings from the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 academic years.

Fernand Dutile, Notre Dame Faculty Board of Athletics chair and NCAA Faculty Athletics representative, said he was “delighted – though not surprised – by Notre Dame’s superb APR results.”

“Our results are especially noteworthy when one considers that many other institutions deploy lower eligibility requirements than Notre Dame’s in calculating their APRs,” he said. “NCAA rules require that the institution’s own eligibility thresholds be used, and these vary from institution to institution.”

Notre Dame football scored lowest within men’s teams as well as all teams at the University. But with an APR of 946, the team is in the 60-70th percentile by sport, according to the NCAA. The average APR for all Division I football programs is 929.

Women’s basketball ranked lowest among women’s teams at the University – with an APR of 977 – yet still lies in the 60-70th percentile by sport and surpasses the 958 point average among all Division I women’s basketball teams.

Programs that failed to score 925 or higher will be unable to replace a scholarship athlete who leaves the institution while academically ineligible. Universities with teams that continually demonstrate poor academic showing will ultimately be prevented from participating in postseason contests and will also lose scholarships.

With the release of the latest APR rankings last week, 99 teams from 65 institutions incurred scholarship penalties – amounting to less than 2 percent of all collegiate athletic teams. The NCAA said such programs could begin losing scholarships in the fall, however it has limited penalties to a maximum of 10 percent of the scholarships.

Football programs were generally hit the hardest – since that sport had the lowest overall APR average out of all programs. Ten schools could each lose more than 17 athletes in football alone.

The NCAA sanctions will likely have little effect on Notre Dame’s opponents in all sports. Just seven teams in the six main conferences – Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern and Pac-10 – were penalized for sub-par APR scores. The West Virginia men’s wrestling team and the DePaul football and men’s basketball teams were the only Big East programs to incur punishment.

Dutile said the APR program is a crucial part of academic reform in the NCAA.

“The APR will go a long way toward improving the academic environment of intercollegiate athletics, especially in high-profile sports,” Dutile said. “Problems will remain, of course, but these developments, driven by committed institutional CEOs, constitute a tremendous step in the right direction.”

Notre Dame men’s teams that received perfect scores in APR rankings include: cross country, fencing, golf, hockey, swimming, indoor track and outdoor track. Irish women’s teams were also flawless in cross country, fencing, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball and tennis.

Nationwide, as well as at the University, women’s teams had higher APR scores than men’s teams. The national average for women’s teams was 969, compared to 943 for men’s teams. At Notre Dame, women’s teams averaged approximately 995, and men’s teams averaged approximately 989.