Head basketball coach Paul Hewitt represented the Tech and the Black Coaches Association (BCA) at the recent Knight Commission meetings in Washington, D.C. to discuss student-athlete academic performance.
Hewitt participated in the discussion about academic performance and recommendations for improving men’s basketball players’ academic performance. “I think the academic reform package overall has brought some very positive developments…Another part of the academic reform package that I applaud is the emphasis on standardized test scores. This was something that many educators argued for 20 years ago when [the NCAA] implemented [the course distribution plan],” Hewitt said.
Among some of the recommendations made to the Commission was the rejection of efforts to dilute academic performance measures and increase the academic standards so that at least 50 percent of student athletes would be driven to earning their degrees.
“Over time we will see that academic reform and the iteration that we have had in place for the last four years is perhaps going to be one of the most impactful things that has happened to intercollegiate athletics. It’s going to change the way we engage student athletes,” said Wally Renfroe, vice president and senior advisor to the NCAA president.
They also discussed altering the process for waivers for poor academic performance, under the current system the panel argued they were too easy to obtain and wanted a reform.
Among the improvements recommended for men’s basketball are the requirement of summer school attendance, this in turn would also allow them to practice more over the summer and the panel has asked for increased time to interact with their players during this time.
The panel also asked for waiver and APR score adjustments based on different situations, such as coaching changes among other hardships. The most controversial suggestion may have been to reduce the length of the playing season and limit the number of away games, this would help players by allowing players to go to more of their classes towards the end of the fall semester and start the season after finals.
Other points of discussion included other facets of the APR score, “Last year there were 149 teams who received an immediate penalty, these are the teams below 925 [APR],” said Todd Pedder, managing director of NCAA research.
Currently, there are three occasions of penalties a team can receive. If teams are under the 925 APR score required, they will be issued a public warning about further penalties if they continue to stay at a low APR.
Pedder also said that this was the first year any team could acquire an occasion two penalty. This year, 26 teams faced occasion two penalties. The stipulation for occasion two penalties is teams that stay below 900 points and show little or no signs of improvement are subject to the penalties.
“Penalties may be reductions in practice time, further restrictions in scholarships beyond what may be the case in immediate penalties and the practice time has to be replaced with academic time. There’s specific ways they have to deal with the time they lose in terms of practice,” Pedder said.
Occasion three, the most severe of the penalties, happens when a team fails to show improvement for the third straight year. These teams are automatically eliminated from postseason contention including the NCAA and NIT tournaments.
“218 teams from 123 institutions were penalized, most were from football, basketball and baseball. 17 percent of men’s basketball received some sort of penalties, 16 percent of football teams and 12 percent of baseball teams,” Pedder said.