Colleges and universities that do an exceptional job graduating their student-athletes will soon start receiving cash awards from the NCAA, the body that to date has concerned itself primarily with policing college sports and punishing wrongdoers.

Under a proposal that won tentative approval yesterday, the NCAA will begin disbursing roughly $10 million a year in rewards and incentives for academic performance.

Of that amount, roughly $2 million will be used to reward athletic departments whose student-athletes do exceptionally well in the classroom. Approximately $5 million will be used to reward programs whose athletes show sustained improvement in academics.

The remaining $3 million will be disbursed in the form of "improvement grants" to schools whose athletes are struggling academically to the point of drawing NCAA sanctions but are able to demonstrate that those struggles are due, at least in part, to the school's inability to fund academic-assistance programs.

Details have yet to be fleshed out but will follow quickly, according to Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA's executive committee, now that the concept has been approved by the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors. The money is expected to come from the NCAA's $6 billion contract with CBS to broadcast the men's basketball tournament, which increases roughly $40 million each year.

-- Liz Clarke