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Men's basketball expects to hit NCAA scholarship benchmark

The NCAA has released little news this year about changes to its bylaws, but the Bobcats are expecting to hear some good news next month.

Ohio’s men’s basketball team lost an academic scholarship last spring after its four-year Academic Progress Rate report fell below NCAA minimum standards for academic eligibility and player retention. But a year without major changes to the team’s roster should yield the Bobcats a high score that easily could hoist the four-year average back into the acceptable range.

“We don’t expect another scholarship reduction,” said Tricia Turley Brandenburg, Ohio’s senior associate athletic director for Compliance.

The APR score dips when student-athletes struggle academically or leave the program while in poor academic standing. Because NCAA sanctions are calculated from a team’s four-year score, a drastically low year can harm the team for more than one season.

The scholarship reduction came after the figures for the 2009–10 season entered the composite score. The 2010–11 statistics were submitted to the NCAA in October, and the new APR reports will be released in June after the end of the College World Series. The team’s performance during the 2011–12 academic year will be submitted to the NCAA next October but will not be released until spring 2013.

Besides the annual task of compiling APR scores, Turley Brandenburg said the 2011–12 academic year has been a slow one for NCAA bylaw changes. She cited the NCAA Board of Directors report from April, which was three pages long instead of the typical 10 to 15.

The relatively few changes in policies come from NCAA president Mark Emmert’s decision to pursue deregulation, a process through which the organization might eliminate some rules that do more to befuddle coaches than to protect student-athletes and recruits. Exploring that option meant halting the legislative process and forming committees to see how feasible those changes could be.

“The (NCAA Board of Directors) made a decision to basically table almost every piece of legislation at the time unless it came from the presidential or board of directors’ agenda,” Turley Brandenburg said.

One change the NCAA will implement next academic year is raising the high school grade-point average requirement to play college sports as a freshman. Students will still qualify for scholarships and practice with a 2.0 GPA in their 16 best core classes from high school, but they will need a 2.3 GPA in those classes to play in their first season on campus. Those who fall in between will be an “academic redshirt” for a season before they are allowed to compete.

The rule will go into effect for students entering high school next fall, so it will not affect college teams until fall 2016.

“The academic rules have been listed higher and higher,” Ohio baseball coach Joe Carbone said. “Those are good because they prepare kids for college. When you raise your academic standards, kids who don’t have that support lose out. Those kids don’t get a chance. You can look at that two ways.”

Another change the NCAA has adopted is allowing men’s basketball players who are enrolled in summer classes to have two hours of instruction per week with their coaches. The change stems from research that shows student-athletes post better grades during the structured schedule of basketball season. It also voids a strict regulation that prohibited players and coaches from talking about anything besides academics during the offseason.

“Now in the summer, when you’ve had no on-court time with guys, they give you the same two-hour weeks that you have in the fall,” Ohio men’s basketball coach Jim Christian said. “In the past, it was almost hands-off almost the entire summer.”

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