Tutoring one focus of sports reforms

MU’s Faculty Council wants the scholastic aid given to athletes to be available to all.
Friday, June 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:19 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Academic reform could hit MU’s athletics department hard this fall.

Both the MU Faculty Council and the National Collegiate Athletic Association are working on measures to increase graduation rates among student athletes.

MU Faculty Council member Rex Campbell, a leader in the council’s efforts to reform athletics, wants to see less separation between academic services reserved for athletes and those offered to the rest of the student body. Campbell is lobbying for the Total Person Program, which offers tutoring and other services to athletes. He said all academic programs on campus should be available to all students.

Bryan Maggard, assistant director of athletics and academic services, said the Total Person Program enjoys widespread support on campus. But, he added, “we are evaluating our current tutorial programs. We just want to get some commonalities with other campus programs.”

Maggard said the tutoring program is trying to develop consistencies and collaboration with other campus academic programs regarding the hiring and training of tutors.

It is not clear whether the athletics tutoring program will meet these goals by the beginning of MU’s fall semester, which begins Aug. 25. But Campbell, who will propose reforming the program at the next council meeting, scheduled for July 29, is optimistic.

“I think it’s going to take time,” Campbell said, speculating that the goals could be met by the fall semester.

Campbell’s proposal comes in the midst of an NCAA investigation into MU’s men’s basketball team that originally included allegations that former player Ricky Clemons received improper academic assistance from tutors. Those allegations weren’t substantiated, and the NCAA did not include them in its formal notice of allegations received by MU last month.

The NCAA inquiry did yield allegations that several members of the program had impermissible contact with recruits, including buying them meals and providing them with transportation contact. MU must respond to the allegations by July 1.

To gain support for its reform efforts, the faculty council voted last week to join the Coalition On Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of 36 faculty senates from schools around the country advocating for athletics reform. The coalition shares many of the same reform proposals as the council.

Meanwhile, several NCAA academic reform measures, approved in April, will press Division One schools, such as MU, to graduate their athletes or risk losing scholarships and opportunities to compete in postseason tournaments. Each team must fulfill an academic progress rate and a graduation rate.

The academic progress rate is measured by points, with each athlete representing two points: one for the athlete’s continued eligibility and one for staying in school or graduating. Points are calculated at the end of the academic year, and those teams that do not met the minimum point total will receive a public warning from the NCAA and will not be able to fill the scholarships of ineligible athletes for one year. The NCAA has not yet determined the minimum point total.

For each year that the team fails to meet the standard, additional penalties will be imposed. A second failure would result in recruiting restrictions, followed by bans on preseason and postseason competition for a third. Failure to meet the NCAA guideline for a fourth year would result in a ban on postseason competition for all teams at the school.

The academic progress rate is expected to take effect Aug. 1. The NCAA also has agreed to stop penalizing schools for athletes who leave school early as long as they are in good academic standing. The Division 1 Board of Directors also passed a reform measure prohibiting men’s basketball teams from competing against non-collegiate teams, though schools may honor contracts with non-collegiate teams signed before Oct. 21, 2003.

The NCAA also is considering reducing the length of sports seasons, as well as changing the terms of athletic scholarships. Currently, scholarships are awarded for one year and are renewed annually based on athletic performance. The change would extend the scholarship term to four or five years.

“These are topics that have been discussed,” said Kay Hawes, associate director of media relations for the NCAA. “But there is no formal proposal to do that.”

MU athletic director Mike Alden has expressed support for the new rules, saying they will help improve graduation rates at MU.

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