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Academic hammer set to fall

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — At least one team at half the nation's Division I schools could lose scholarships next year because of poor academic performance, according to a preliminary report released Monday by the NCAA.

Of the 5,720 teams at 328 Division I schools, about 410 teams risk penalties.

"We hope the behavior changes and the number of teams will actually go down over time," NCAA president Myles Brand said in a conference call.

Most of the scholarship losses, which would be for one year, are expected to come in football, baseball and men's basketball. Those were the only sports with averages below a 925-point cutline at which penalties would be assessed. Baseball teams averaged 922, while football and men's basketball were at 923.

The most prominent programs below 700 were the men's basketball teams at Fresno State and Baylor. Fresno State received a 611, while Baylor scored 647 — a figure affected by the transfer of several players after the 2003 shooting death of Patrick Dennehy.

But there immediately were concerns with the scores.

The Houston women's cross country team and the Eastern Michigan men's indoor track team both scored zero, which NCAA officials said might have been because there was only one athlete represented.

Maryland-Baltimore County athletic director Charles Brown said the NCAA miscalculated the score for its men's track team, which scored 600. Brown said he contacted the NCAA to point out the calculation only included three indoor track athletes — not the 27 that participate in both indoor and outdoor track.

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

The new calculation gives athletes one point each semester for remaining eligible and another point each semester for staying in school. The points for each team then are divided by the highest possible total of points a team could score. That percentage is assessed a point total, with 1,000 being the highest. Schools scoring below 925, or 92.5 percent, could face penalties.

The NCAA will use a statistical adjustment, similar to the margin of error used in presidential polls, to prevent statistical anomalies for teams with few athletes.

Corrections to the scores are expected to be announced in April. The NCAA also will institute a yet-to-be determined waiver process to avoid penalties.

Schools are expected to be notified by December of the final results, which also include figures from the 2004-05 school year. Programs must take the penalties as early as possible and those that are far below the cutline now could take the scholarship loss next fall.

The 2003-04 data only gives schools an indication of how they are doing.

Under the new format, NCAA officials hope to improve both academic eligibility and retention of athletes. Stronger penalties, including postseason bans for consistently poor academic performance, are expected to be enforced by the fall of 2008.

Page updated: 02/23/07 10:42 AM

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