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Emmert stresses academics to open Final Four weekend

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

Making sure a prospective student-athlete is academically prepared for college is a significant undertaking that requires as much attention from parents, teachers, guidance counselors and coaches as athletics preparation, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday during his press conference at the Final Four in New Orleans.

“When a young person is growing up, everybody knows exactly what they have to do to be prepared to play college ball,” Emmert said. “People are constantly saying you have to work on this part of your game, you have to work on that part of your game.

“Academics are vitally important and demand just as much attention as athletics, especially in college.”

Emmert said he wants more people talking to prospects about academic preparation in the next year as the enhanced eligibility standards adopted by the Board of Directors in October 2011 are broadly communicated.

To make sure prospective student-athletes have the best opportunity to succeed in college, the Committee on Academic Performance will ask the Division I Board of Directors to consider delaying the implementation of new initial-eligibility standards until August 2016.

Currently, the effective date for the new eligibility requirements would be August 2015.

Last October, the Board adopted the increase in initial-eligibility expectations to help prospects become more academically prepared for college work. Since then, some people in the membership, coaches associations and secondary school administrations have expressed concern about the implementation schedule.

The Committee on Academic Performance asked the membership for additional feedback on the issue earlier this month.

“We want to be sure people have the opportunity to be focused on the new standards and that young people understand the importance of taking core academic courses early in their high school education,” said Walter Harrison, chair of the committee and president at Hartford. “We’ve heard some concerns expressed about the current ninth-grade class.”

The new initial-eligibility requirements create a higher academic standard for incoming freshman to compete than to receive aid and practice, creating an academic redshirt year.

Student-athletes who achieve the current minimum initial-eligibility standard on the test score-grade-point average sliding scale with at least a minimum 2.0 core-course GPA will continue to be eligible for athletically related financial aid during the first year of enrollment and practice during the first regular academic term of enrollment. Student-athletes could earn practice during the second term of enrollment by passing nine semester or eight quarter hours.

For immediate access to competition, prospective student-athletes must present at least a 2.3 GPA and an increased sliding scale. For example, an SAT score of 1,000 requires a 2.5 high school core-course GPA for competition and a 2.0 high school core-course GPA for aid and practice.

Prospects also must successfully complete 10 of the 16 total required core courses before the start of their senior year in high school. Seven of the 10 courses must be successfully completed in English, math and science.

“The key we’ve found to achieving success in the classroom (in college) is making sure prospects show up at our institutions prepared and ready to go,” Emmert said. “We need them to have the skills, discipline, study habits and all of the things that are needed for them to be successful academically.

“What the Committee on Academic Performance and the leadership of the Association is saying to young men and women right now is you must be prepared. You must have these kinds of academic skills in place when you arrive at our campuses if we are going to have you perform at a level that also allows you to perform on the floor. We’re going to challenge kids to do more than they’ve ever done in the classroom.”

The changes are intended to create better-prepared student-athletes, and give those who are not as well prepared the time and assistance to succeed academically in college.

NCAA research indicates student-athletes in football and men’s basketball will feel the most significant impact from the higher academic standards. Those sports regularly post the lowest Academic Progress Rates and Graduation Success Rates.

The impact is expected to decrease over time as prospective student-athletes adjust to the changes and improve their preparation.

The Board of Directors is scheduled to discuss the issue at its April 26 meeting.