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HBCUs, limited-resource schools to benefit from initiatives

Focus groups, upcoming survey to aid administrators in defining help they need

The NCAA national office staff has begun developing extensive educational initiatives intended to help limited-resource schools and historically black colleges and universities support their students academically.

Athletics administrators at schools in those categories will help design the education programs through survey responses and focus group interaction.

The enhanced education effort was approved by the Division I Committee on Academics last fall, at the same time that the committee approved a new plan to help teams at HBCUs and schools with limited resources meet academic benchmarks such as the Academic Progress Rate. The concept of enhanced educational initiatives was first raised by an advisory group comprised of representatives from limited-resource schools and HBCUs.

Greg Burke, athletics director at Northwestern State University and a member of the Committee on Academics, chaired that group.

“Since the inception of the Academic Progress Rate, it became apparent that limited-resource schools have had to overcome more obstacles in order to satisfy APR requirements. As a committee, we have collaborated to develop ways to help those schools meet NCAA academic standards,” Burke said.  “By identifying shortfalls and pitfalls, which have inhibited academic success for these schools, the committee has been able to focus on steps that better solidify the academic platform for these athletic programs.”

In order to build that platform, the national office staff has contracted with an outside company to help staff better understand member needs and develop specific initiatives to address those needs. As a first step, the company will survey all limited-resource schools in Division I to help determine what needs exist. The survey will seek to identify the critical issues impacting student-athlete academic performance, with the hope that people will be more candid with a neutral third party.

After the surveys are compiled and analyzed, the outside company will identify thematic issues to discuss during about five smaller focus groups that will go into more depth with a smaller sample of people.

“Staff doesn’t have all the answers. We want to figure out where educational programming will be most effective to close the gaps,” said Katy Yurk, NCAA associate director of academic and membership affairs. “Our broadest goal is to move more limited-resource schools into meeting the benchmarks. We hope this effort will allow us to be more individualized, look for themes and build educational programming off those. We want to focus our resources in ways that will effect change.”

The surveys will be sent to member schools later this spring, with focus groups to take place after initial survey results are assessed. That feedback will be analyzed and used to provide the basis for programming to be available during the 2016-17 academic year.

Burke said the educational programs are intended to help a diverse group of schools meet a goal required of every team that competes in Division I.

“Every team starts the season striving to win the national championship. Ultimately, only one school is going to do it, and a lot of schools won’t get close. That’s just the way it is,” he said. “In terms of the APR, however, everybody has to hit the mark. Everybody has to win the ‘APR national championship.’”