The Chronicle’s View: Better athletic programs punished? Think again NCAA

An NCAA progress reporting process may have the potential to misrepresent the decisions of student athletes and punish academic institutions based on inappropriate criterion.

The Academic Progress Reports issued by the NCAA scores individual sports out of a possible 1,000 based on student-athlete retention and graduation. The points earned by a school are then used by NCAA officials to determine the distribution of scholarships amongst colleges. Individual athletes earn points based on the semesters they attend a respective institution and whether or not they will graduate on time.

If a school does not amass enough points, the NCAA can dock scholarships.

A troubling caveat of this system is the fact that excellent student athletes who opt to turn professional in their disciplines prior to receiving an accredited certificate of graduation can hurt their school based on the report’s myopic point standards.

That is to say, were an athlete like the U’s Andrew Bogut to take up an NBA team on one of the myriad opportunities presented to him before graduating-and therefore securing a job that pays more and offers greater benefits than the majority of post-collegiate professional positions-he could damage the U’s hopes of maximizing scholarship chances because he won’t graduate when he is expected to, if at all.

This retention point is a little troubling and more than a little arbitrary. It’s understandable if the NCAA wants to measure academic success amongst its constituent schools. Clearly, stellar sporting schools that also maintain exemplary academic excellence are more deserving of merit-based scholarships than less impressive schools.

However, player retention is a mute academic point when it’s understood that academic progress is meant to indicate future success and professional-world aptitude, and that athletes who choose to go professional early are making decisions with their best future interests in mind-an interest in which academia is rooted.

Essentially, it’s the idea that students who leave college to go on to bigger, better things are doing so for an understandable, intelligent reason-they are presented with a future they want and they act with their best interests in mind.

To punish an institution for producing players of such high caliber as to be courted by professional sporting leagues is counterintuitive for the NCAA. In fact, it’s in the NCAA’s best interest to support schools that produce superior athletes because it adds depth and legitimacy to the college sporting system.

It’s important to understand that athletes who are truly ready to go to the pros are not just skillful enough in a technical sense, but also possess the mental stability and maturity to handle the move as it ought to be handled.

Especially when considering that scholarships are intended to be given to the most deserving and talented of student athletes, how does it make any sense to withhold scholarships from the schools that produce the best athletes?

It doesn’t. While the NCAA is legitimate in its desire to chart the academic progress of colleges, its current practice of factoring retention into the system is arbitrary and counterintuitive.

Thus, the practice must go.