- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Almost 12 percent of teams at major regional and local Division I schools failed to meet new NCAA standards for the academic progress of athletes, according to a preliminary report released yesterday.

Twenty-two of 187 men’s and women’s teams at Maryland, Georgetown, George Washington, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Howard, American and Navy failed to meet standards in the first report card issued by the NCAA since the organization introduced major reforms last year. That failure rate is more than 11/2 times the national average.

All of the teams at Georgetown and Navy, however, met the standards.

Howard’s football and men’s and women’s basketball teams and George Mason’s men’s basketball team were among programs failing to achieve the Academic Progress Rate’s minimum 925 of 1,000 score last year. That minimum score equates to 50 percent of athletes remaining eligible.

The NCAA will begin penalizing teams next year and eventually will evaluate programs over rolling four-year periods. Repeated failure could result in the loss of 10 percent of a team’s scholarships or even a postseason ban.

Teams are rewarded for retaining their players and keeping them academically eligible. However, the APR doesn’t factor in graduation rates or nonacademic reasons for leaving school. Still, the new system is considered by local school officials to be a more accurate barometer of ongoing academic progress.

“When you say 925, most people are going to think you’re talking about a car, so the policy itself is going to seem alien at first,” Georgetown athletic director Adam Brick said. “… But the APR does give us another tool, and anything which helps us assist and evaluate our student athletes is a positive.”

Said Kathleen Worthington, the executive senior associate athletic director at Maryland: “It’s a real-time picture of how your students are doing this semester. You can look at your numbers, and if you have an issue you can deal with it right then and there.”

Seven percent of 5,720 teams nationwide didn’t pass, and 51 percent of schools fielded at least one team that didn’t make the cut. Sixty-two football teams failed to achieve the 925 mark, more than any other sport. Baseball (61) ranked second and men’s basketball (58) third.

Men’s basketball teams at Baylor (647) and Fresno State (611) were among the nationally prominent programs that failed to reach the minimum. Several Baylor players transferred following the 2003 shooting death of Patrick Dennehy.

The NCAA can reduce or waive sanctions, especially with so-called “small squad adjustment” that involves teams with few scholarships whose score easily can be skewed by the loss of one person. The NCAA also can factor extraordinary reasons for player loss not involving academic ineligibility.

Several schools quickly disputed their scores, which the NCAA will re-calculate by April. Houston’s women’s cross country team and Eastern Michigan’s men’s indoor track team both scored zero. Both have only one athlete. The men’s indoor track team at Maryland-Baltimore County posted the lowest Division I score at 600, but athletic director Charles Brown said the NCAA rated only three of its 27 athletes.

“It’s very embarrassing and hurts our recruiting,” Brown said. “It’s extremely upsetting that the NCAA released something to the public when they know there are some flaws.”

George Mason basketball’s score fell to 857 after the Patriots lost three players last year. Coach Jim Larranaga said his team graduated every player for five years. Last year, however, Trent Wurtz returned to Wisconsin because of a death in the family, Terry Reynolds married and became a father and Kevin Mickens opted to play professionally in Europe.

“We had unusual circumstances last year,” Larranaga said. “Traditionally, our guys have done a very good job. I don’t expect it to be that way in the future.”

Howard officials could not be reached for comment.

Staff writers Barker Davis and Jon Siegel and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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