That's precisely the NCAA's intent, said its president, Myles Brand.
"This is the morning of a new day," Brand said on a teleconference with reporters. "The NCAA and its member universities and colleges will now be held accountable for the academic success of student-athletes. This is a step toward fully integrating into athletics the mission of higher education."
_____Area Report Cards_____
Based on the new Academic Progress Rate, NCAA teams with a score below 925 are at risk of losing one or more scholarships. Current data, from 2003-04, will be folded into data from 2004-05 to determine if a program is in good standing. Area scores:
Men's basketball: 938
Men's basketball: 977
Men's basketball: 929
Men's basketball: 963
Men's basketball: 857
Men's basketball: 981
Men's basketball: 975
Men's basketball: 914
Men's basketball: 984
At Georgetown, that mission is already well integrated, suggested interim athletic director Adam Brick, who characterized the APR data as a different snapshot of something the university examines routinely.
"We obviously look at grade-point averages and progress toward a degree," Brick said. "It's another piece of information we can sit down with our coaches and use as a tool to make sure that our student-athletes are doing what they need to be doing in the classroom."
In other quarters, the measure is sure to generate confusion.
The NCAA has introduced not only a new vocabulary to college sports -- littered with terms such as APR and contemporaneous penalties -- but also a new math.
In interpreting APRs, what's essential to know is that 1,000 is perfect and 925, which translates to about a 50-percent graduate rate, is minimally acceptable.
Though it's a more cumbersome way of evaluating academic progress than graduation rates, NCAA officials insist that this new approach is a more meaningful and accurate barometer of whether athletes are making progress toward a degree. It's also more timely. Graduation rates are computed over six years. The APR, by contrast, is an immediate snapshot of a team's academic performance.
Said Kathleen Worthington, Maryland's executive senior associate athletic director: "With the graduation rates, which have been our previous measurement, those are student-athletes who entered the program six years ago. And usually when you get that rate, they are already gone. This gives you specific people you can see on that list who are, and who are not, making that mark; and who you have to work with; and whether or not your team has issues with retention or eligibility."
The NCAA has taken several steps to buffer the potential blow of the sanctions.
To ensure that teams aren't crippled by the sanctions, no team will lose more than 10 percent of its scholarships at one time. To protect teams with small rosters, such as basketball, the NCAA may waive or defer penalties if the APR is within range of the cutoff.
And that's a comfort to American Athletic Director Joni Comstock. "For some teams the numbers are so small, a loss or gain of any sort can skew it a tremendous amount," Comstock said.
Also, the NCAA will allow teams to appeal the loss of scholarships. Teams with poor APRs may get a reprieve if their scores mirror that of the general student body's or that of other Division I teams in the same sport.
"It's not meant to be a direct hit; it's more like a shot across the bow," said Collins, the George Mason athletic director. "Obviously, we are all concerned with making sure that our student-athletes graduate, but now we're getting a little push from the NCAA."