PULLMAN – The NCAA’s Board of Directors passed five major reform initiatives last week in Indianapolis, including allowing schools to supply some athletes with up to $2,000 per year in living expenses.
The far-reaching changes will affect each of the NCAA’s member schools, including those in the Inland Northwest.
What are the modifications and how will they affect Washington State and other local schools?
Each conference has the option of adding up to $2,000 per scholarship toward the full cost of attendance, or money beyond that supplied to cover tuition, room and board, books and fees.
“I’m confident the (Pac-12) conference will pass that, because we don’t want to put ourselves in a position of a recruiting disadvantage,” Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said. “And I think there is a genuine feeling amongst the group that it’s good legislation.”
At WSU, that cost of attendance number is $1,710, covering such items as travel and other miscellaneous items, according to Steve Robertello, the Cougars’ assistant athletic director who oversees the NCAA compliance department.
“With some of the disparity among schools, they didn’t want to have a Washington State, which is at $1,710, and another institution is at $4,000 and that difference becomes a significant recruiting advantage” Robertello said.
The money is only available to full-scholarship athletes, of which WSU has some 160 spread around football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s rowing, volleyball and other sports. Students with partial scholarships, which are common in such sports as baseball and track, are not eligible.
Moos believes the Pac-12 will adopt the financial aid supplement soon, possibly as early as next week. He also sees the lower cost of attendance number as an advantage.
“Take for example the cost of attendance in L.A. may be $4,000 and yet they can only go to $2,000,” he said. “We’ll sell it that, hey, we’re covering the full cost of attendance in Pullman, Washington.
“And you’ll see that $1,710 number inch up toward the $2,000 with time.”
Moos also sees this rule create a greater divide between BCS and non-BCS schools.
“You’re going to see the BCS conferences, in my opinion, all adopt this,” he said. “Then you’ll have the other conferences feel if they’re going to compete … they’ll have to have the same benefit. It’s going to tougher on them because their budgets, in many cases, bare minimum as it is.”
His counterpart 8 miles down the road, Idaho’s Rob Spear, declined to comment, wanting to wait until the non-BCS Western Athletic Conference takes action, according to an Idaho spokesperson.
The money issue won’t hit Gonzaga’s budget with the same effect it will have on football schools, but athletic director Mike Roth still sees problems.
“Here’s the thing,” Roth said, “they passed it, but they haven’t defined it enough, and we have NLIs (national letter of intents) going out for the fall signing period (beginning Wednesday). Do you put it in the NLIs? It’s an interesting place we’re in right now to find out how that all works.”
Still, Gonzaga will join in, despite basketball coach Mark Few’s reservations.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to pay every scholarship athlete $2,000 when they’re not making any money for the university,” Few said. “I get scholarships being even and all that, but it’s going to really be a burden on a lot of schools.”
“To be competitive, you’re going to have to participate,” Roth said. “It becomes the new full ride. Instead of room, board, tuition, books and fees, which it’s always been, it’s room, board, tuition, books and fees and $2,000.”
Schools will now have the choice of awarding scholarships on a multiyear basis instead of annually.
If there is anything that might level the playing field, it is this provision. All athletic scholarships are currently for one year, with the schools having the final say on whether they are renewed.
Now a school will be able to offer an incoming athlete a scholarship for any number of years, based on their remaining eligibility – and the scholarship cannot be revoked by the school for athletic reasons.
If WSU and Idaho are recruiting the same football player, he may have to weigh the relative merits of a four-year ride in Moscow against two years guaranteed in Pullman. The player would have some leverage in a negotiation.
“Personally, I took issue with that one,” Moos said. “Only because I think we’re going to start getting into bidding contests in recruiting.”
His football coach agrees.
“Now we will be getting into bargaining. It’s like drafting,” Paul Wulff said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
For Gonzaga, which relies on basketball for a majority of its national reputation, it’s imperative not to make a mistake with a scholarship. Even more so if it is four years long.
“Recruiting is an inexact science,” Roth said. “The kids sometimes will say, ‘Well, I made a bad choice,’ and sometimes coaches will say, ‘We made a bad choice, it’s not the right fit,’ or whatever might be the case.
“So now, how tied are the school’s hands? The kids always have the flexibility to leave, but how tied are the school’s hands? Everyone is as careful as they can be. Men’s basketball only has 13 scholarships. We’re not going to waste them, but it’s not an exact science.”
Postseason play is now tied to academic performance. Beginning in 2012-13, teams must reach 900 on the Academic Progress Rate over four years or have average 930 over the two most recent years to be eligible for the postseason.
In 2014-15, the four-year score rises to 930, the two-year to 940. In 2015-16, everybody has to reach 930. The board also agreed to include the APR cutline in bowl-licensing agreements, making it enforceable in football.
A few years ago this would have been a problem at WSU. No longer.
“Right now we’re fine,” Robertello said of WSU, noting that the 930 number is so far down the road only the current APR score will be involved. “It’s kind of hard to project out at this point.”
There are tougher academic standards for freshmen and junior college transfers. Beginning in August 2012, high school seniors will need a 2.3 GPA in 16 core courses, instead of current 2.0. Also, 10 of the core courses must be finished before their senior year. Junior college transfers will need a 2.5 GPA with only two physical education credits included.
Students that meet the current standards, but not the new ones, will be considered partial qualifiers and can be on scholarship and practice with the team but won’t be able to travel or participate in games.
“A significant number of this year’s freshman class would have met that standard,” Robertello said. “But we would have had a handful of kids that, under these new rules, would have been partial qualifiers.”
Summer basketball recruiting
A new summer basketball recruiting schedule is in place. Instead of 20 evaluation days in July and none in April, coaches will have four evaluation days in April and 12 in July, starting in 2012.
Coaches can also make unlimited calls or send unlimited text messages to prep recruits starting after June 15 following their sophomore year.
The rule breaks ups the summer tournament schedule, giving the high school players breaks between tournaments, eliminating the practice of some players participating daily for 20 consecutive days.
“I like that for two reasons,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “One, you can gauge them against better competition in April. And No. 2, in the summer I think you’ll see better quality basketball broken up that way. The last three-four days of each period is almost worthless.”
The new texting rules will allow coaches to build a better relationship with recruits, Bone said.
“That’s definitely a way the kids like to communicate,” Bone said. “It does allow us an opportunity, I believe, to get to know kids better. And that’s critical. And for them to get to know us better.”
But it also may have unintended consequences.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” California coach Mike Montgomery said last week at the Pac-12 media day. “Coaching staffs are hiring people to do just that. That’s all they do is text, tweet, whatever.
“That’s not my idea of what a coach is, but if you have to do that, ultimately you’ve got to recruit players.”
Rulebook, infraction revisions
The board also endorsed a proposed update to the NCAA’s rulebook and examine infractions, but did not take any final actions toward changes in those areas. Moos feels more changes are coming under new president Mark Emmert, the former University of Washington president.
“This is all a very strong illustration of his reform intentions,” Moos said. “And there could be more of it down the road.”
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