In the NCAA’s first attempt at nationwide academic policing for college athletics, TCU received mixed grades for its men’s and women’s sports programs.While the TCU men’s basketball team received a perfect grade and scored in the top-10 percent of college basketball teams nationwide, men’s golf ranked in the 10-20 percentile. However, these scores are based only on the 2004-2005 academic year and are not representative of a program’s long-term record.
The Academic Progress Rate report, which was released in August 2005, grades each sport for every college across the nation. Grades are based on each team’s retention rate and student academic eligibility, with the highest possible score being 1,000.
Because these scores are derived only from the 2004-2005 academic year and are not necessarily representative of a program’s long-term record, teams that receive a score lower than the required 925 will not be penalized during the 2005-2006 season, but the numbers can serve as a warning. Teams scoring lower than 925 on next year’s progress report will be disciplined by the NCAA.
Because retention rates count for roughly half a team’s score, those that received low scores were often hit hard by players transferring or turning pro.
Marc Evans, TCU director of compliance, said the men’s golf team was one sport victimized by such circumstances because it had one student transfer and another turn pro last year, dropping the team’s score to 929.
At the end of the 2005-2006 academic year, all teams will be re-evaluated, and the new numbers will be averaged with the 2004-2005 scores. Subsequent annual scores will also be averaged in until a four-year rolling rate can be established.
Evans said the Academic Progress Report will become more reliable as time passes.
“It will be a lot more helpful in the long run,” Evans said. “It will be a more accurate picture than just the one-year one we have now.”
Men’s basketball head coach Neil Dougherty said that even though the scores are inherently flawed, the basketball program’s perfect score reflects the organization’s commitment to academics.
“What we’ve tried to do is create a high demand from the coaching staff,” Dougherty said. “We plan everything around classes. We want to do whatever we can to make the team understand that class is important.”
Junior center Art Pierce said that while basketball may be important, school still comes first.
“We’re very focused on (academics),” Pierce said. “It’s a big part of our program … it takes priority over basketball. They make sure you’re getting your stuff done.”
Evans said TCU administrators have always paid careful attention to teams that have struggled academically.
“We have individual meetings with coaches to review the year,” Evans said. “We look at eligibility or to see if their retention rate is a concern. We’re looking for patterns of concern.”
One pattern of concern could be the entire women’s sports program.
Even though none of the nine varsity women’s teams was ranked in the top half of its sport, only three of those actually recorded a score lower than the required 925. Women’s swimming scored a 980, but still ranked in the bottom half of its sport.
Evans said women’s sports are handled no differently than men’s, and while this year’s low scores may be consistent, they are still not accurate. He said that administration sits down with both athletes and coaches on a case-by-case basis – not by gender lines.
“It all goes back to how those scores are derived, some of the circumstances that aren’t accounted for,” Evans said. “We’re not doing anything different with the women.