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NCAA poised to make sweeping changes

Thu., Oct. 27, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA is putting reform on the fast track.

Money to address complaints that scholarships don’t cover the full cost of attendance? Check. Multiyear scholarships? Check. Changes in summer basketball recruiting and postseason bans for poor classroom performance? Check.

All four issues are on the agenda of the NCAA’s Division I board of directors, which is meeting today and is expected to act quickly.

“I fully expect that when you’re making as big of changes as we are, that you’ll need some fine-tuning and adjustments,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told The Associated Press. “But in the past, not getting the fine-tuning right has slowed down the process, and I and the board are committed to moving things along aggressively.”

Since taking office a little more than a year ago, Emmert has presided over one of the most tumultuous years in NCAA history.

Scandals have rocked programs from Boise State to Miami. The reigning national champions in football (Auburn) and men’s basketball (Connecticut) were both investigated by the NCAA, and there have been questions about agents, parents, academic misconduct, improper benefits and even prostitution. The revolving door of conference realignment is still spinning wildly, and the Justice Department is even asking about scholarship rules.

School presidents have had enough, and there is momentum to take drastic action.

“I think the presidents have reached a point where they’re saying too many things are not working well, and the board needs to take stronger actions from the top down rather than from the bottom up,” Penn State’s Graham Spanier said at an August retreat. “We’ve reached a point where we must pay more attention to these academic issues, these integrity issues. Some of these things our coaches and our boosters might not like, but I think we need to do what you’re going to see us do in the next year.”

Within 24 hours of those comments, the train started rolling. The board toughened the Academic Progress Rate by raising the cutline from 900 to 930, and passed a measure to ban teams from postseason tournaments every time they miss the cutline. Emmert also wants to put that measuring stick in bowl-licensing agreements, thereby making it effective for football, too.

The second part of that equation, how and when to impose the new rule, will be determined today.

Changes to the long-held scholarship rules have generated the biggest buzz.

Emmert said he supports adding $2,000 per year in scholarship money to cover the full cost of attendance – money that covers more than tuition, room and board, books and fees. Many outsiders consider that a major change to the governing body’s long-held policy on amateurism, a policy Emmert has repeatedly said he will uphold. Until 1972, athletes were receiving $15 per month in “laundry” money.

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