NCAA Releases New Plan to Improve Student-Athlete Graduation Rates

Feb. 28, 2005

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

As part of its academic reform movement, the NCAA has released results of a new plan to improve graduation rates for student-athletes.

Using a formula referred to as the Academic Progress Rate (APR), the NCAA awarded a score for each sport at every Division I institution. Under the new system, 15 of the University of Wyoming's 17 sports scored above the established standard. Two sports, football and men's basketball, would have fallen below the mark and might have been subject to penalties had the program been in place this year.

The NCAA will not begin applying penalties for substandard academic performance until 2005-2006. Penalties could include loss of scholarships in individual sports.

"NCAA academic reform is good for intercollegiate athletics," says Gary Barta, UW director of intercollegiate athletics. "We have to ensure that the word `student' has credibility when we use the phrase `student-athlete.' Like any new piece of legislation, I'm sure there will be bumps along the way. We have always been committed to graduating student-athletes. Now we'll add to that a commitment to follow these new rules."

Under the system, the NCAA awards two points per semester for each student-athlete, one for remaining academically eligible to compete in his or her sport, one for remaining at the school in which he or she is enrolled. Teams lose points for each student who leaves the program or is academically ineligible. Teams with very small rosters, get a statistical break under the system.

The NCAA standard for avoiding penalties is 925 in a system where 1000 is the maximum. Calculated for 2003-04, UW was below the NCAA standard in football (921) and men's basketball (919). For smaller rosters, such as basketball, a school's performance against the NCAA standard could be significantly affected by as few as one or two students.

During the past several years, graduation rates for student-athletes and all students at UW have been on the rise. In 2003-04, the six-year graduation rate for student-athletes was 62.1 percent. The rate for all UW students was 56 percent.

"The University of Wyoming is committed to continually increasing the graduation rates of our students and also for our student-athletes, as a group and by sport," says UW President Philip L. Dubois. "We respect the new NCAA APR, and will do our level best to achieve its goals. However, we recognize that the persistence of students - or of student-athletes - can be affected by a whole host of personal issues, many of which are completely out of the student's hands. These might include personal relationships, family finances, health, a change in academic interest, or simply recognizing that another school might be a better personal fit. But all universities face these challenges; on balance, we need to keep our attention focused on academic persistence and graduation."