- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2011

Academic requirements so stringent they would have left national champion Connecticut and six other schools ineligible for the last spring’s NCAA tournament were among a slew of reform proposals outlined by NCAA President Mark Emmert on Monday.

In a sprawling Ritz-Carlton hotel conference room in downtown Washington, Emmert preached a message of radical reform to the like-minded Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

“We need to act with some dispatch,” Emmert said.

Emmert’s ideas drew fawning approval from Knight Commission members, at least until he exited into the lobby filled with chest-high plants and glass sculptures.

“We don’t feel that goes far enough,” co-chairman and University of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan said of Emmert’s reform agenda.

The most visible academic proposal requires a minimum academic progress rate (APR) of 900 to be eligble for postseason play. It would rise to 930 two years after adoption, equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate. Connecticut, which won the NCAA tournament in March, had an APR of 893 and wouldn’t have been eligible under the plan.

If passed, the new APR requirement could start with the 2012-13 school year.

Emmert also supports allowing conferences - at their discretion - to boost athletic scholarships by $2,000 annually to come closer to matching the true cost of attendance. As part of that, schools could offer multiyear scholarships instead of the current year-to-year model.

Emmert bristled at suggestions that any of this resembled paying athletes.

The NCAA’s Division I board of directors will vote on both measures during its Friday meeting in Indianapolis.

Louisiana State University Chancellor Michael Martin and other participants expressed ambivalence about the extra $2,000 for athletes.

Data from the Knight Commission showed the median spending by Football Bowl Subdivision schools in 2009 was $91,053 per athlete - the group was unsure if that figure included athletic scholarship cost - versus $13,471 for nonathlete students.

But Emmert’s to-do list is longer than a rush-hour wait on the Beltway.

After a scandal-filled summer, he wants to revamp the NCAA’s enforcement structure by having four levels of violations - instead of the current primary and secondary - and have “sentencing guidelines.” Emmert called the scandals “annoying in the extreme” and “eroding to everything we cared about.”

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